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Wise Running

Train smart, eat well, and enjoy the run.

Wise Running: Models of Motivation

Note:   This is an excerpt from my second book on running, Wise Running: Thoughts on Running and Life.  (to be published some time in August 2013)

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“A setback is an opportunity for a glorious comeback.”

I rarely meet my ideal goal for a race.  I almost always have some ideas about how I could have run the race a little faster.  I rarely satisfied with my performance.  In an effort to be supportive, my friends will try to cheer me up.  They say things like, “That’s a lot faster than me.”  or “I would love to have a time like that.”  I greatly appreciate their hearts as they are trying to care for me.  The thing is that being not okayunsatisfied on a regular basis does not mean that I am unhappy.  I may not be smiling.  I may be very frustrated.  That does not mean that I am not enjoying the process.  I have a different model for motivation.

This frustration cycle is a part of what makes me successful in running.  Let me explain…

Typical Motivation Model for Runners

With most runners, the key to motivation is a series of small successes.  “Celebrate every victory,” is the mantra that keeps them going.

For beginning runners:

  • each time they run a little farther is a victory to be celebrated
  • each time they complete a race without quitting is a victory to be celebrated

For the most runners:

  • each time they get a personal record for a distance or race, it is a victory to be celebrated
  • each time they have a particularly strong run during training, it is a victory to be celebrated
  • each time they enjoy running with friends, it is a moment to be celebrated  🙂

For aging veteran runners:

  • each time they get a personal record for the year or for the decade, it is a victory to be celebrated
  • each time they can run with and mentor younger runners and contribute to their success, it is a big victory to celebrate
  • each time they celebrate another birthday with a training run or race is a huge victory to be celebrated.

Deficit Model of Motivation

While I have some of that type of motivation going on, I tend to be more motivated by the moments when I do not succeed.  How does this makes sense?  Despite how I look and act after a not meeting my goal in a race, I am not disappointed and I am not discouraged.  In the initial moments after the race, I am frustrated.  My frustration develops into anger.  Within a short amount of time, usually less than 30 minutes, my anger morphs into determination.  That determination fuels my training.  It is not like throwing a log on the fire.  If I fall short of one of my big goals, that frustration turns into fuel that is more like the equivalent of refueling a nuclear plant.  I train as hard as I do because I am that motivated.  I get that level of motivation not by meeting my goals, but by falling short of meeting them.

I set high goals for two reasons:

  1. So I can accomplish big things.
  2. So I can experience failures, which sets myself up for motivation of nuclear proportions.  The determination created by not meeting my goals eventually leads me to meeting those huge goals.

It is not my little successes that fuel my fire the most; it is my deficiencies, my failures.

Next time you see me getting frustrated after a race, smile and realize that my frustration will morph into the determination that leads to huge success.  Be happy for me.  It means that I am one step closer to achieving great things.

Everyone is different.  Figure out what drives you to succeed and operate within that framework.  Let your friends know, so they know how to contribute to your success.  Life is a team sport.

Train smart, eat well, and enjoy the run!

P. Mark Taylor

wise running logo 7_25_12

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