Why Do You Run?

why What is your motivation? Is it for the glory of attaining something that seems impossible, like completing a marathon? Is it to become a ‘runner,’ to have your identity be partially formed as that of a ‘runner?’ Is it something deeper?

I run for two simple reasons:

  1. Health/fitness. I engage in a lot of exercise and view running as the foundation to my health. I want to ensure I am around as long as possible to not only enjoy life but be in the life of my children.
  2. Because I can.

The second reason sounds too obvious or silly as stated. But it connects to something deeper for me. My father had Multiple Sclerosis. He was diagnosed before I was even born. So it was always part of my life with him. I never saw him run. That sounds a bit melodramatic, because no one really laments not seeing a parent exercise. My point is that he couldn’t. I can. Therefore, I run for him. In memorial if you will.

runninginthedark Why do I get up at 5:30 AM, in February to run? Why do I log a 30 mile training run in preparation for an ultra? Why do it in the cold, in the dark, in the heat, in the wind? Because I can do it for both of us. The running keeps him present in my mind. It also helps connects two worlds that never met – my father and his grandchildren. I stay healthy and engage my children in ways that he would’ve. In ways that he couldn’t with me.

What gets you up and running? Find your reason, your anchor, your motivation and make it central to running. It will propel you forward, it will make you achieve new goals and personal records.

Good luck, keep running and get those feet on the road.


Pace – not the salsa, nor the college

If I had to pick one item that is most difficult to master, most ruinous for new long distance runners and the easiest way to cause self-defeat it would be your pace. If you are doing a half marathon or a marathon you will have an individual, unique pace. This is the minutes/mile calculation that you either targeted for or worked out over the course of training. I’m fairly consistent at a 9:10/mile pace for race day. Everyone is unique, but typically your pace ends up reflecting what your average speed should be in order to complete the race in X amount of time. There are many, many pacing charts on-line to help with this calculation.

The ‘I feel great’ syndrome – this is the classic way to self-destruct on race day. The starting horn goes off. You get out of the gate, past the initial wave of people and in a mile or so ‘find’ your pace. But wait, you feel great. This feels too slow. You feel like you could drop from 9:00/mile to 8:40/mile. You’ve never felt this good, this alive, during a long training run. With good reason. It’s called adrenaline. That coupled with your ambition speaks up loud in your head saying ‘go for it, you got this, at this pace you will rock out your goal.’

It is all an illusion. Your mind can’t add endurance. Adrenaline can’t add endurance. It can add a temporary boost, a feeling of euphoria that anything is possible. For a few miles, maybe even 10 or 12 that might very well be the case. But think about the endurance you built-up during training. Think of it as your ‘fuel’ for the race. You only have so much. Sure,  you might get a runner’s high later, you might dig deep and find a new level unknown to you . . . but most likely you won’t. Instead you’ll get about 85% of the way through the race and your mind will start saying ‘sitting down would be great right about now.’ Or ‘I’ve got nothing left, and not only can you not drop down to your normal pace but you will need to settle for something 2 minutes/mile less than that!’

Here’s the thing – the training is easy. Write-up a schedule, get up, run, done. On race day the environment takes over. You can easily get hyper-excited and therefore unrealistic about your ability. You’ve heard the saying that it is 90% mental. This is exactly where that comes into play – don’t let your emotion get the best of you, keep your thinking cap on and be smart. Work smart, not hard.

For the most part I run solo during a race. A couple of times I’ve run with someone else. Two of those times were with first-timers.

  • Person A got sucked into the euphoria and refused to listen to my pacing advise during the race.
  • Person B listened, even though they felt great and felt like they could do more, they kept the pace I set (in-line with what they trained at). Guess who finished strong?

Guess who barely finished (seriously, we crossed the finish and he had to go to the medical tent and lay under ice for 20 minutes)? Oh yeah, the guy who ended up in the medical tent, he didn’t crush his time goal. Just the opposite he barely finished and finished significantly later than his goal. Lost all ambition to run anymore long distance events. The other guy? Rocked it out and came in under his goal. We just talked about which marathon we will tackle in 2011.

You be the judge.

Good luck, keep running and get those feet on the road.

Get Your Run ‘On the Rails’

There seems to be this paradoxical perception by non-runners (even by some established runners) – it takes a lot of discipline AND most runners are just naturals at running (link provides evidence that maybe we are, just thought was interesting addendum).

Reality check – Those two do not go hand-in-hand, instead they conflict. I would say it takes discipline. Period. Consider the following:

  • What time slot in your day is dedicated to running? This is as literal as it sounds and probably the most important thing to establish. You need to identify, carve out and establish a ‘time’ that you run. Specificity will (and should) flex to the reality of your life. But you need to put a flag in a specific timeframe. When do I run? I can always tell you, without fail, that I run in the morning before work. This usually means starting at maybe 5:30 AM or so. Depends on the day, the miles needed, etc. The point is I don’t have to constantly figure it out. More importantly if something comes up for consideration in that time slot (good thing it is early, not much does!) my default is to consider if it is more important than my run, not the other way around. Turns into discipline (appears that way) but really just starts as a committed plan.
  • What about the seasons? The answer to ‘what time’ will only work if you consider variations in your environment. I’m prepared to run in 73 degree weather at 5 AM or in 15 degree weather at 5 AM. If you need the sun to always be ‘up‘ be sure to consider this (with the changes in the seasons).
  • What are your motivators? This is varied and personal. For those who struggle with morning runs, or the thought of getting out of bed, let me say this – unequivocally, I have never regretted getting up for a run. I’ve always regretted not getting up though.

Establish Rails.

Yeah, just like a train. Discipline doesn’t come over night in anything, and running is no exception. For some reason many of us seem to be really good at establishing all sorts of deadlines, project plans, milestones, etc, at work yet in our personal life that approach seems like overkill.

Why? I think it has something to do with our fervent debate over work/life balance. Rubbish. Take the best from either world and cross it over baby.  When I paint a room I write up a project plan with dates, timeframes and checkmark boxes for completion. You should do the same. This isn’t just my crazy notion. Check out this great podcast at the site the Accidental Creative. It’s about application of these ideas to creative projects outside of work, but the premise applies just the same to your running plan. [AC Podcast # 143 – scroll down a bit, can play right on the site or download from iTunes.]

Think about it – don’t confuse discipline with desire and endurance. Discipline is the child of planning and persistent application of those plans until they become second nature.

Good luck, keep running and get those feet on the road.

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