Jealously, anger, and pride don't motivate me beyond the emotional moment. However, I still am a highly motivated person. It is an internal drive that persists on its own accord.
Yesterday, I considered writing a finish time and name on a sticky note and placing it on my bathroom mirror. I wanted to keep my focus on a certain goal to be better than a particular person's best race. She doesn't know that I placed a target on her back. And I am sure she does not care one little bit whether I will ever beat her PR. She probably doesn't even remember me at all. But I have a grudge and wish I could show that I am just as valuable and accomplished. Moments later, I snapped back into reality and acknowledged that trying to fuel my motivation with jealousy wasn't going to last more than one workout, or perhaps not even a half of a workout. Jealously just doesn't motivate me through a season. Plus, all the bad feelings certainly don't build my character or make me happy. You can safely assume I don't have any sticky notes on my bathroom mirror.
At a running party, an unnamed older male once made a comment about me looking pregnant (I WAS NOT PREGNANT, but just had eaten a big meal.) and that if I was not pregnant then how could I not be super skinny and still fast. He showed up the next Monday to run with the local running group. I, still offended, kept my mouth shut and let's say ran a bit faster than usual. And the group stuck with the faster pace and the unnamed man may have been quite sore the next day. My anger toward him could only last so long and I would have to forgive him so that it did not eat me up on the inside. I could have used that comment to become obsessed with training hard and turning into the runner body that he expected. However, my motivation for running would have stemmed from anger, not joy. Who wants to run with someone that is angry and bitter?
"What are you training for?" I get this question posed to me over and over. Usually, after they hear of my last long run distance or when I add in a few miles after they finished running. I respond with, "Nothing, just running." I am not training for an accomplishment to announce to the world. Some people don't fall into the trap of pride, but it looms closely over my head. I need to keep from boasting and my head swelling up with pride. So I don't often articulate all my future wishes and declare all my victories. I know that there are so many many many runners better than me and that my victory is really just for me to enjoy.
Alrighty then where in the world does my motivation come from? I have been dwelling on this thought throughout the last month as I have hit some new highs in my recent training. I think how did I accomplish that? How come I didn't give up and end the run early or even when planned? How did I run for so long by myself for no race-specific reason? Why am I the only one out here on Lollipop Lane sprinting 160 meters every Tuesday?
Explaining motivation is like the struggle to bottle up a child's excessive energy. It is abstract, individual, and ever-changing. All I can do is share some of the bubbles above my head as I have covered the miles throughout my town this spring/summer.
"Just run for 10 minutes, I can always walk home if I hate the run."
"Run for 40 minutes then this run can be used as a restorative run for my body. Thirty minutes is only a recovery, but ten more minutes will get me into the restorative area."
"Perhaps I will find a new friend while out running. Might as well try."
"One-second faster. Can I run this next sprint just one second faster?"
"This conversation with my running friend is so interesting that I don't want to stop running and lose out on the friendship time."
"I have to keep up with her because I can't admit how hard it is to run this pace."
"Get as far from home as possible and then I get to run home without the using up motivation currency because I have to get home somehow and running will get me to a cold drink of water faster than walking."
"If I get too far away from home and I get too tired, I will just call my husband or son to come and pick me up in a car." I did have to get picked up last month because I couldn't make it home in time to leave for my son's soccer tournament.
"1:25:00 is way too close to 1:30:00, which is the Lydiard claimed boundary for a long run. I can always run 5 more minutes."
"If I have run for 12 miles, why not just go to 16 miles. It is like only running a 4-mile run, forgetting the past 12. And 16 will give me new longest run record for this year."
"I will be proud of myself when I am done. I can tell my kids how far or fast I ran today."
See my motivation has turned from outward circumstances to internal ways to positively challenge myself. I don't need to chase a race finish time or an opponent to become more fit or faster than last year. I use knowledge and grit to take my body to the next level. And if I don't race much this year or do race but the finish times don't reflect my fitness, it won't matter. Because I trained for myself and challenged myself and grew stronger in my body, mind, and heart. I am happy running: short, long, slow, or fast.
Develop your running character to lead a rich running life.
"We know that suffering produces perseverance; perseverance, character; and character, hope." Bible Romans 5:3-4