Wednesday, October 17, 2012

Where does the motivation come from?

These past two weeks since my marathon, I've had a few conversations that have made me question why it is that I love to run. It started with a phone conversation with my mom. After I told her about the race she said something like, "I don't know why you and your dad like to do these crazy running adventures. There's nothing wrong with a little walk or a run, but I don't think I would ever want to do something that painful. What kind of enjoyment do you get out of it?" This was a very valid point and I didn't have a good answer for her.

Throughout the week customers at the store would notice me hobbling around and I would tell them not to mind my slowness because I had just run a trail marathon. Every time I offer information about my running to a customer I secretly hope that they will exclaim, "I'm a long-distance trail runner as well! Let's be running buddies and bff's and we'll conquer the mountains together. Girl power! Do you like dogs? And beer? And do you promise to never talk about politics?" But alas, that never happens. All I got was, "You ran a marathon? Did you do the Rock N' Roll Marathon?" And then I realized what it must feel like for ultra-runners who tell people they are going to Europe for a race and that race isn't UTMB. That's what you get for loving obscure sports.

Then, last Sunday, my husband and I went for a long run at Golden Gate Canyon State Park (we both want to do a 50k race there in June). We got back, showered, rushed off to church, rushed off to a friend's place to watch the Packer game and came home late. Cory brought up the very valid argument that now that we are done with our racing seasons we should actually rest. He said that we shouldn't just keep going off for all-day running adventures every weekend. Though I now see the wisdom in his point, I reacted defensively. But then I had to take a moment to examine why I am so possessive over my "right to run."

Obviously people all run for different reasons, but I think long-distance trail runners tend to run for similar reasons. If you are reading this and you are a runner (long, short, trail, road, treadmill) and you understand your own running motivations, I would love to see your comments. I don't think there is a right or a wrong reason to run and I don't want it to come across that my motivations are better than others'.

Whatever my motivation is to run, I know that it has pushed me to abandon road-racing and that I now hate running on pavement at all. I know that if I were to ever do a 5k or 10k again it would have to be pretty cheap (why pay $35 for a 5k when a trail marathon costs around $80?). I know that I would be reluctant to do a race with a big field where you have to wait for all-eternity to use a port-a-potty and where you are stampeded as you try to grab a cup of water from a race volunteer. I know that I have no interest in doing a color run, zombie run, warrior dash, etc. though I think that those races are great because they attract people who are motivated by other things. Cory loves orienteering races where you use a map to navigate a wilderness area and find the greatest number of checkpoints within a time limit. I have no desire to do those events.

So now that I know these things, what is there to deduce about my running motivations? Sometimes it's easier to realize what doesn't motivate you. I am not a social runner (though I am a social person) and large races with an overwhelming sense of camaraderie just make me anxious (read: I will never run Boston). I'm not motivated by a need to pursue a PR otherwise I would be more attracted to flatter road races. I do not need distractions like paint, costumes, or mud pits to take my mind off of the pain because I like the pain. I am not motivated by a need to "master" something because after I complete a distance I usually want to take on something more challenging.

Alright so I guess it's time to figure out what I am motivated by. I have a few ideas that don't totally mesh together, but here we go. The greatest thing that motivates me is a need to feel connected to creation. Your not going to get preached at here, but I think that I was designed by a creator and when I'm out in creation I feel content. Confession: When I'm running back to my house I have to head east and sometimes I run backwards so that I can look at the mountains. Something stirs in my heart when I am surrounded by natural beauty and I feel overwhelmed by a peace that transcends understanding.

But it's not all butterflies and cute,fuzzy marmots. I'm also motivated by a desire to feel pain. I don't really know how to explore this. There are a lot of psychologists that have theories on these types of things but I don't want to over-analyze what happened in my childhood or what's going on in my brain. One thing I do know is that mastering your pain gives you an overwhelming sense of control. And when there's not a lot you can control in your life, it's nice to know that physical pain doesn't have a hold on you. The idea of constant, unending pain sounds like hell, but in a race situation your pain has parameters. You know roughly what kind of pain it will be, when it will end, and how to manage it.

And the motivation that I struggle with the most is the need to better myself. I hate to admit, but my running is a selfish activity. I don't help make the world a better place through my running. I'm never going to be a running icon and I'm never going to inspire people with my physical feats. I'm pretty average. But when it comes down to it, we all want to be special.  When I'm out running miles of trail I'm doing something that most people cannot do. The average person could complete a 5k. Therefore, 5ks do not interest me. To take this thought a little further, when I completed my first half-marathon I was doing something that I could not previously do. Maybe it wasn't super-human, but it was super-self. Someday when I finish my first 100 miler I will have accomplished something that I cannot currently do now.

So that's all I got. If you are still reading, I guess I'm wondering what motivated you to make it to the end. I would love to know more about others so please comment. Dad, I know you have something to say. My marathon report got 79 views not including my own so I guess I'm wondering if Blogger is lying to me.

Me leaving my other love (my road bike) to go for a run in Cherry Creek SP

The view from the top of the Coyote trail in Golden Gate Canyon SP


  1. 1. I miss you.
    2. Your post made me think of the movie, Chariots of Fire. Here are some Eric Liddell quotes:
    - You came to see a race today. To see someone win. It happened to be me. But I want you to do more than just watch a race. I want you to take part in it. I want to compare faith to running in a race. It's hard. It requires concentration of will, energy of soul. You experience elation when the winner breaks the tape - especially if you've got a bet on it. But how long does that last? You go home. Maybe you're dinner's burnt. Maybe you haven't got a job. So who am I to say, "Believe, have faith," in the face of life's realities? I would like to give you something more permanent, but I can only point the way. I have no formula for winning the race. Everyone runs in her own way, or his own way. And where does the power come from, to see the race to its end? From within. Jesus said, "Behold, the Kingdom of God is within you. If with all your hearts, you truly seek me, you shall ever surely find me." If you commit yourself to the love of Christ, then that is how you run a straight race.

    - I believe God made me for a purpose, but he also made me fast. And when I run I feel His pleasure.

    I've had the "why running?" conversations with people... one of my brothers sees it as needless beating of the knee joints and would rather get his physical activity through cross country skiing, biking, or swimming :o)
    a lady from my church told me she does it so she can eat dessert.
    I do it because I can. I work with people each day who physically cannot, and I feel blessed and compelled to move the body that Christ has given me. Sometimes I run simply because I can see more sights than if I walk. Or, I've had too much coffee...

    And many of those 5k-ers out there? For many, I imagine it's not about the distance or the cost of the race, but for the cause that it supports.

    1. I always enjoy a good Eric Liddell quote. Thanks:) Can't wait for you to visit!