Most of us are weekend warriors. We may love our sport and train hard, but it’s not paying the bills. So where do we derive our motivation to compete? What pushes us to hit the roads at 5 a.m? Beat the ponytail in front of us? The other night I procrastinated my run until after 9 p.m. Once I finally laced up my shoes and hit the roads, I let my mind mull over where I get my running mojo from. I came up with this list:
Internal—Most of the time, my motivation to run a certain time or hit a specific weekly mileage comes from a desire to beat only myself. I know that the Olympics or a shoe sponsorship aren’t in the cards for me; I just want to become faster purely for my own satisfaction. Will my life change if I run a sub-1:30 half marathon? No, not at all. In fact, besides my parents, no one will probably notice. But I will know. And that sense of post-race accomplishment, and satisfied exhaustion is one of the best feelings there is.
External—Sometimes the crowd support is so amazingly awesome that you just can’t help feeling pumped up. The best running moments of my life have involved huge cheering sections. Back in college, I ran my 5k PR at a track meet at Middlebury College. I had trained hard and was having a much better day than I ever expected. I was on target to run a huge PR and seeing my coach and teammates on the sidelines cheering me on pushed me to run a time I never thought I was capable of (18:52). I could see them smiling, and cheering, and just knowing how much they believed in me gave me a runner’s high like I never had before. Even though I ran the race of my life, I didn’t even feel winded at the finish. Evidence of external motivation, right there.
Rivalry—The very premise of racing is about competing, either against yourself and others. And the fact is, we all want to win. Even if this is just a sport we do for fun, sometimes you need to make your rivalry personal. E.g. I want to beat this lady/that guy/this team because x, y, or z. It might be because of what team they run for, what they’re wearing, or how many times they’ve beaten you before.
My running club will be competing in the NYRR Club Championships this weekend and you better believe I’ll be running my hardest to beat everyone who’s not on my team. But, I think it’s important to remember . . . unless you’re an elite, running is something we do for FUN. And it’s a great community. I would never want to become too competitive that I make enemies or lose sight of why I love this sport.
There are probably a thousand other reasons why people run and compete—to lose weight, for fame and fortune, because it quiets their mind, because it gives them time to their self . . . whatever it is that makes you run fast and love this sport more, keep on doin’ it. I promise not to be too offended if you set your sights on the girl in the crazy sports bra (me!).