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How to Make an Effective New Year’s Resolution (Goal)

wise running logo 7_25_122017 is a new year;
don’t make the same old resolutions. 

Change your mind.
Change your life.

The most common New Year’s resolutions are to lose weight and exercise more.  Unfortunately, those two resolutions usually fade off into the land of broken promises by the time February rolls around.  These two resolutions are well-intended but doomed to failure for several reasons.

A resolution must be a goal.  To be an effective goal, it must be specific, measurable, and have a timeline.

Remember This

If you aim for nothing, you will surely achieve your goal!

Bad Resolution 1 – “This year I will lose weight.”


    • What will you do to lose weight?
    • How much weight?
    • When?

Improved Resolution 1 “This year I will lose 3 pounds each month by drinking water instead of my usual soda.”

Bad Resolution 2  – “This year I will get exercise more.”


    • What kind of exercise?
    • How much?
    • When?
    • Will you do it all at once or gradually add more time/distance/reps/classes?

Improved Resolution 2  – “This year I will do at least 1 hour sessions of cardio exercise three times each week.  I will start in January with 1 group fitness course and gradually add courses, reaching 3 courses per week by July.”

Remember This

If you can’t say why a change is important to accomplish,
then your efforts are wasted and may even be dangerous!

Bad Resolution 3 –  “This year I will increase my weekly mileage.”


  • Why? How will it help?
  • How much mileage is helpful and beneficial for your fitness and goals?
  • Will you make gradually increases or big jumps?
  • When?

Improved Resolution 3 – “This year I will increase my weekly mileage from 20 miles each week to abut 35 in preparation for marathons.  I will track this during my spring and fall marathon training schedules, which will gradually increase weekly mileage by ten percent or less.  My mileage will be lower in the weeks between training schedules.”

Yes, this last one got pretty specific, but there is a reason.  It gives enough specifics to know what to do, when to do it, and how to know if you are accomplishing the goal.  It also allows for time to rest the legs a bit and rekindle the love for running.

Remember This

A resolution that is a burden physically or emotionally is unlikely to be kept.
A resolution kept should improve your quality of life.


As for me, here is my very specific resolution for 2017:

I resolve to decrease my running mileage down to under 30 miles per week while increasing my weekly time spent on strength, power, and flexibility training.

  • My running time has traditionally gone up in marathon training, but this year I am going to streamline my training to only include the absolutely necessary miles and very specific sessions that lead to maximum benefit. 
  • I will include at least three strength training sessions each week, a minimum of 30 minutes each.  Leg day will be one of them, focusing on squats, leg presses, and deadlifts. 
  • I will continue to cross train with swimming (at least one hour) and biking (at least 2 hours), including intense sessions and easy distance too. 

I could make a resolution about eating more veggies, but this is my constant battle.  Every year.  Every week. Every day.  ūüôā

Final Thoughts…

Make resolutions you are willing to stick with for at least 3 years.
If you are not willing to go 3 years, then you will not last 3 months.

Will power and motivation, as most people understand them,
are emotions that do not stay constant.
Resolve and determination are there no matter how you feel.
Base your fitness decisions on them and you will march on to your goals.

2017 is a new year; 
don’t make the same old resolutions. 
Change your mind.
Change your life.


“Train smart, eat well, & enjoy the run!”  — P. Mark Taylor


Check out these books by P. Mark Taylor for more advice on running:

The Gift of Running: A Book for Runners & Future Runners  Wise Running Book COVER mockup


Wise Running: Thoughts on Running and Life

What Runners Do: Courage and Encourage

wise running logo 7_25_12Running takes courage.

  • It takes a lot of courage to look in the mirror and decide you need to change.
  • It takes a lot of courage to take the first step.
  • It takes a lot of courage to run out where everyone can see you struggle.
  • It takes a lot of courage to step out of your comfort zone and set a high goal.
  • It takes a lot of courage to face tough speedwork.
  • It takes a lot of courage to choose to run up a steep hill on purpose.
  • It takes a lot of courage to run that extra mile to run a distance you never imagined you could run.
  • It takes courage to register for a race.
  • It takes courage to pin that numbered bib on your shirt and step up to the start line.
  • It takes courage to finish when you do not believe you have the strength.
  • It takes a lot of courage to decide to walk when your pride says to run.
  • It takes a lot of courage to choose a DNF because you do not want to make your injury worse.

Courage is what we runners do.  It is who we are.  Courage defines us.  Courage makes us stronger.  Courage molds us into a new and better person.

Runners know this about courage.  Hence, when we see a racing 1potential runner or a fellow runner that is having doubts, we encourage.

  • We encourage our friends to run because we know what it will do for them.
  • We encourage our friends to run a little farther, a little faster.
  • We encourage our friends when they are injured and let them know that resting is smart and that they will run again soon.
  • We encourage those that are struggling, on the run or in life.
  • We encourage newer and/or younger runners & become their mentors for a while.
  • We encourage others with our presence.
  • We encourage others by sharing our struggles and our successes.

Encouragement is what we runners do.  It is who we are.  Encouragement defines us.

Remember This:

Courage without encouragement will fade. 
Inspire and encourage future and fellow runners. 
I promise that the running community will
pay back what you gave and much more.


Train wisely, eat well, & enjoy the run!


The Gift of Running,by P. Mark Taylor, is available in both paperback & e-book

Paperback Version ‚Äď Amazon.com $9.00

Ebook Version ‚Äď Kindle Store $2.99

Ebook Version for Nook $2.99

Chasing a Seventeen-Year-Old Me (updated 11/30/2016)

“Goals are not only absolutely necessary to motivate us.¬† They are essential to really keep us alive.”¬† — — Robert Schuller

‚Äé”You can’t wait for inspiration. You have to go after it with a club.” ~Jack London
Call it a mid-life crisis.¬† Call it dreaming.¬† Call it whatever you want.¬† I am chasing the shadow of a 17 year-old me.¬† I was 17 when I consistently ran 4:45 for 1600 meters.¬† I was 17 when I ran a half-marathon in 1:20:48.¬† I was 17 when I got tendinitis.¬† After a couple of years of doctors,¬†specialists, & physical therapy, nobody could figure out why I had this tendinitis.¬† I would run once in a while, but my competitive days were done… or so I thought.
My tendinitis issues started in 1984.¬† Now fast forward to 2003.¬† I decided that I was getting out of shape and I started jogging.¬† This time, my tendinitis did not show up but I had knee issues.¬† Another specialist and another round of, “There is nothing we can do.”¬† I was told to stay off hills and run 3 miles or less.¬† So for a few years I jogged 3 to 7 miles on a feel-like-it basis, every so often.
When my life was turned inside out back in 2009, I needed stress relief badly, so I turned to fitness.¬† I joined a gym and started training for a marathon.¬† Well, I should say that I started running a lot and hoping that would help me finish a marathon.¬† I can’t really say that I had a plan.¬† In the 2010 Knoxville Marathon, I totally bonked at mile 17 and walked the rest of the way…mostly in the cold rain…shivering..muscles locked up… but I finished.¬† 5 hours and 35 minutes.¬† It was hell.¬† I was hooked!
I put the weights down and focused on training for the 2011 Knoxville Marathon.¬† This time, I followed one of Hal Higdon’s plans.¬† I modified the advanced I plan.¬† I also learned about electrolytes and Yasso 800s.¬† I felt fast enough to run 3:40 or so, but alas I had still not learned enough about electrolytes and nutrition.¬† I had to settle for 3 hours and 55 minutes.¬† Much better than the first try!
After this one, I followed Hal’s advice and used the momentum from this marathon to earn some personal records (PRs) in shorter distances.¬† He was SO right.¬† I had done very little speed training.¬† Most of my track work was about pacing more than speed.¬† Still, my training had made me much faster.¬† I found myself running a 5k in less than a 7 minute pace for the first time in over a quarter of a century!¬† A month later, I averaged a 7 minute pace for a 10k!
“What else can I accomplish?” This was the question That I asked myself.¬† Moreover, “What do I WANT to accomplish while I am still young enough to get fast?”
I set my sights on a 6 minute mile.¬† In the next 5k, I ran the first mile in 5:47.¬† I obviously couldn’t maintain that speed, but it was my first sub-6 mile in a very long time.¬† I ended up finishing the 5k in 20:46.¬† I kept¬†pondering…”How fast can I get?”
. As of 11/30/2016, my best times (not including high school) are:



Half Marathon






 1 Mile


800 meter


Full Triathlon (Ironman 140.6)


Half Triathlon

I am now 49 years old and I have qualified for the Boston Marathon on the courses at:
  • 7 Bridges Marathon, TN
  • Shamrock Marathon, VA
  • Indianapolis Marathon, IN
  • Savannah Marathon, GA
  • Boston Marathon, MA
  • The Seqouyah at Pinson Mounds, TN
At this point I am still wanting to achieve a sub-3-hour marathon.¬† It is not about the final destination, however.¬† It is about loving the journey. ¬†¬† ūüôā

Qualifying for Boston was just bucket list item #1.  Also on my bucket list:

  • Run 1 mile under 4:45.
  • Run a 5k under 17:40.
  • Run a half marathon in less than 1 hour and 20 minutes¬† ( I can probably make it faster, but this specific time¬†would be enough to defeat the 17 year old me)
What I am not doing is setting time limits.¬† I obviously can’t wait forever, but injuries/mishaps will occur along the way.¬†¬†I have to give myself that latitude or I will go crazy.¬†¬†I set goals and display them publicly to push myself, but I want to enjoy the ride.
I am chasing the shadow of a 17 year-old me…
I am finally getting close enough to see him…
and I think I can pass him before this race is over!
Happy Running!


2014 Progress Report on My Own Training & Performance

In the midst of watching my run coaching clients make progress and set personal records, I have forgotten to reflect on my own progress as a runner.

A lot has happened in the last year or so.

  • I injured my knees in late November of 2013 and did not run for 4 weeks in December.
  • I was clipped by a car while riding my bike in February 2014, suffering a concussion.
  • I ran my first Boston Marathon in April, which turned out to be my second slowest marathon time.
  • I focused my summer training on the 800 meters and 1 mile distances.
  • I competed in¬†my first “USA Track and Field” sanctioned track meet.
  • I became a RRCA certified running coach.
  • I ran two mile races on the road and 5 track meets in the summer.
  • In between track and mile events I also completed my very first triathlon, the “Storm the Fort” Half-Iron Distance.
  • I did a total of three triathlons in 2014, two half-iron distance triathlons and one sprint triathlon.

Townsend 15KSetbacks

Due to the time off from the knee injury and concussion, my fitness level suffered.  I lost a lot of progress.  I have been pushing hard all year just to get back to level of fitness that I had a year ago.  I have loved the training.  I enjoy pushing myself.  On the other hand, it has been extremely frustrating to work that hard and not achieve any personal records.  Very discouraging.


Yesterday was a big victory.  No, I did not win a race.  I was even a full minute behind the winner in my age group.  Still, it was a big victory.  I set a personal record (PR) in the 15K distance (about 9.3 miles).  That feels pretty good.

I still have a ways to go.  I am still a bit behind where I was in February of last year.  That is when my fitness last fully peaked.  I ran a 1:27:42 on a hilly half marathon course.  This is 9 seconds per mile faster than the 15K I ran yesterday.  Hence, I am close, but not quite all the way there.

When will I get there?  Well, I have 2.5 weeks left before I taper (ease up and heal) for the Savannah Marathon, which is on November 8.  I will have 5 key workouts in that 2.5 weeks.  I may not reach a PR at Savannah, but I should be very close at that point.


Whether I peak at Savannah or not, I know the time is very soon when I will be able to earn a few more personal records.

  • My training is balanced, pushing just the right amount.
  • I am eating healthier than ever.
  • And, most importantly, I am enjoying my training.

When I am not enjoying it, I change it up.

Remember This:

Enjoying the run comes first!
It is more important than progress and personal records.


“Train smart, eat well, & enjoy the run!”

¬† ¬† — P. Mark Taylor


Check out these books by P. Mark Taylor for more advice on running:

The Gift of Running: A Book for Runners & Future Runners  Wise Running Book COVER mockup


Wise Running: Thoughts on Running and Life


Wise Running Shirts & More

Find yours HERE:

I love running shirt

The Toughest Days on the Schedule [a rest day]

Is it just me?¬† Am I the only one that feels this way?¬† I think rest days are the toughest ones on the schedule.¬† I mean… well… think about it.¬† If you think God made us to run, then our bodies should be clamoring to run.¬† And today, mine is.¬† It is screaming out with every fiber of its being.¬† The message is loud and clear:¬† “Go, Run, Play!”

Maybe the first and last words of that command would be okay, but my schedule says no running today.  My mind says no running today.  I have qualified for Boston three times now with schedules that included at least 1 rest day per week, so I know it works!  We need this day to recuperate before the big Saturday pace run and the long Sunday run.  With no rest, these runs could go flat, or much worse things like injuries and overtraining could sideline me for a while.  So, I faithfully take the day off.

Still, my body cries out: “Go, Run, Play!”

Is it just me?

Happy Running!

Looking Back and Moving Forward: A Reflection on My Training

 Howdy, Friends!

It has been another interesting year in my training. I say training, because this year I added more cross-training.  Don’t worry, running is my first love and will remain my focus.

Looking Back

To put 2013 in context, it helps to remember where I have come from.  In late 2009, I started to run consistently for the first time since 1985.  I ran a half marathon that fall and a marathon the spring of 2010.  I was not competitive.  I was just happy to finish my races at that point.

I gradually learned the basics of how to train for running, gradually became more disciplined, and gradually moved towards being competitive.   By the fall of 2011, I just missed the qualifying time for Boston (for my age) by 2 minutes and 27 seconds.

I had glorious goals set for 2012 that made sense based on my recent progress, but I began to feel weakly just weeks before the Knoxville Marathon.  I started reasonably well, but could not finish that race.  That was April.  I remained sickly while the doctors guessed at what might be wrong.  I completed races and some training, but I did not find the answer until September.  After half of a year of guesswork, I changed to a gluten-free diet.  Problem solved.  I qualified for Boston with a time of 3:22:44 just 6 weeks after eliminating gluten from my diet.  I had expected be sub-3 in 2012, but after the illness I was just happy to finish a tiny bit faster and get the BQ.  (Boston Qualifier)

At the beginning of 2013, I decided not to write down a long set of specific goals.  2012 had taught me that I should be satisfied doing the best that I can in any given circumstance.  Here is what I said:

“I will continue my quest to run a sub-6:00 mile pace at every distance up to and including the marathon. I cannot possibly achieve that pace in the marathon in 2013, but I would like to run under 2:50:00 in a marathon by the end of this year.

I believe that I can achieve the sub-6 pace in the 10K for sure and possibly for the half marathon. I also think I have an excellent shot at running a sub-5:00 mile this year, but I need to find a few more 1 mile races.‚ÄĚ

Progress in 2013

I started 2013 with a bang.  On New Year’s Day I ran a 5K in 18:35, just slightly faster than a 6 minute pace.

In February, I managed to whittle my half-marathon time down to 1:27:42.  [6:41 pace]

In March, I ran the Shamrock Marathon in 3:13:22.  I would have liked to have gone under 3:10, but I have no regrets.  I gave it all and enjoyed the run.

dash (2)

There were several races that I did not consider to be goal races.  I ran them to score points for our racing team.  I aimed for age group awards and did fairly well despite not training specifically for them.  This was the first year I had been on a running team beyond high school.  I enjoyed being a part of the Tennessee Spine Racing Team.  Good people.  Running with teammates during races helped my motivation greatly.

Although nowhere near my goal of a sub-6 pace, I did well in my age group in the Expo 10K.  I had been doing a lot of speed work and it showed up in the last mile.  Zoom!

My next goal race was the Fireball 5K on July 3rd.  Although my time of 18:48 was 13 seconds slower than my race on New Year’s Day, I still considered it to be great progress.  It was 70 degrees and rainy, so it was probably the equivalent of 18:20 in perfect weather. Context matters.  Weather affects your running ability.  I did well.

I had a lot of fun at the three summer track meets.  I ran 800m, 1 mile and 2 miles, as well as doing some relays with my friends.  In the heat of the summer, I ran 800 meters in 2:22.9, 1 mile in 5:20.7, and 2 miles in 11:56.  I loved it. 

I continued to play with speed throughout the summer and into early fall.  I added just enough distance to be ready to run the Indianapolis Marathon.  I did not plan my training schedule around this marathon, but I still managed a slight improvement at 3:12:45.

A few weeks later, I ran the Savannah Marathon with my new wife, Muna.  We eloped on the way to the race. I paced her and she earned a huge PR at 3:52:25.   Win-Win!

My last goal race of the year was the Secret City Half Marathon.  Unfortunately, I injured my knees slightly in a weightlifting session a week or so before the race.  I held back a little, but still managed to defend my Masters title, finishing in 1:28:18.

I have spent the month of December crosstraining and building my leg muscles while my knees recuperate.  I have run less than 10 miles in December of 2013. I have kept up my fitness by swimming several miles each week and began to bike some as well.

In addition to training and racing, I also managed to publish my second book, Wise Running: Thoughts on Running and Life.  As with my first book, I don’t make much money on each copy; the goal is to help people.

As a running coach, I developed training plans for several people and continue to see good results.  I love to be a part of it as runners move towards their goals!

On to 2014

In 2014, I will continue my quest towards running a sub-6 minute pace at distances up to a marathon.  Whatever progress I make will make me happy.  2013 saw me run sub-6 pace at 1 mile, 2 miles, and 5K.  I hope to add 10K to that and will once again try to get closer to 6:00 pace in the half-marathon.

2014 will also be the beginning of my triathlon career.  I have found a love for swimming and I need to bike to strengthen my knees.  Hence, training for a few triathlons this year will help my running.

Finally, all of my training will go to support my newest goal.  I want to run 800 meters in 1:58:00 or better.  I do not believe that I can get there this year.  2:10 or better would be a reasonable goal, but I will take what I can get.

Above all, my main goals are what I wish for you this year:

‚ÄúTrain Smart, Eat Well, & Enjoy the Run!‚Ä̬†

Thanks for your support this year. Let me know if you have questions about running!

Your friend,

P. Mark Taylor

My Unreasonable Running Goals for the Next 5 Years (don’t judge me)

These are running goals I would like to accomplish within 5 years.

No, they are not reasonable for my current level of fitness.

This is my dream.

Encourage me or keep it to yourself.


P. Mark Taylor


Goal Time


400 meters


   Training for the 800

800 meters


   US record for 50-54 age group



¬†¬† Because it is faster than 4:30¬† ūüėČ



   Training for 1/2



   Training for 1/2

¬Ĺ Marathon¬†¬†¬†


   This is my main goal.


Sub 3

¬†¬† At Boston.¬† Pride mostly.¬† ūüôā

Slaying the Specter of a Bad Run

I had a horrible run yesterday and it was killing me.¬† Not during the run, mind you, but after the run.¬† During the run I was merely overtired and dehydrated.¬† That was bad enough, but this bad run was hanging over my head… calling me names…taunting…telling me that I was not good enough.¬† The hills were huge.¬† As I remembered the contours of each hill, they seemed to come alive, grimacing and laughing at me.

cross country shoesHow can one run haunt me so much so quickly?¬† Probably because I have chosen some lofty goals and a short timeline.¬† With all of that pressure, I had no time for a bad run.¬† Bad runs, however, are inevitable.¬† We can’t control all of the things that life throws at us and we are certainly prone to making mistakes.¬†¬† Logically, this was not the end of the world, but it felt like it.

How did I slay the specter of the bad run?¬† I rested up for a day, I was well-fueled and hydrated, I set a realistic goal for today’s run, AND… most importantly, I set the course for today’s run in the toughest part of yesterday’s run.

I looked¬†those grimacing hills¬†straight in the eyes and shouted, “NO!¬† You will not win. I may not be as fast as I want to be, but I am on my way.¬† You will not win. ”

I did not set any new records today, but I did run a reasonably good time for course and conditions.¬† I faced the specter of doubt cast upon me by yesterday’s fiasco.

Tomorrow looks pretty darn good.

“Train smart, eat well, & enjoy the run!”¬† — P. Mark Taylor


Check out these books by P. Mark Taylor for more advice on running:


The Gift of Running: A Book for Runners & Future Runners  Wise Running Book COVER mockup


Wise Running: Thoughts on Running and Life

Wise Running: Fighting the Complacency Monster



I am 46 years old and I just ran a 5:25 mile on slight rolling hills.

That’s pretty good, right?

How did I feel after the race?

Like somebody just shot my dog.  I felt horrible.

What is wrong with my perspective? 

The short answer is that I am fighting the complacency monster.  I would like to blame my performance today on my gluten intolerance issues, but that was not it.  Physically, I was capable of running a 5:15 mile today.  The problem was mental.  The problem was the complacency monster.  The problem was me.

dash (2)

What started me down this path to complacency?¬† I set high goals and didn’t come anywhere near them.¬† I have been frustrated for months by little nagging issues with gluten, aches, and pains.¬† None of them were of a factor at all today, but they did feed the complacency monster in the months leading up to¬†today’s race.¬† When I planned this year’s training and racing goals, I set my sites on a 5 minute mile.¬† I have managed to do some pretty good training towards that goal, but not as much as I had planned.¬† Minor gluten issues periodically kept holding me back from getting as much training as I needed to accomplish that goal.¬† Gluten was not a factor at all today.¬† It does not excuse today’s complacency.¬† It just set me up for it.

I did the smart thing and restructured my goals for today’s race.¬† I originally wanted a 5 minute mile.¬† After everything that happened this summer, I decided that finishing between 5:10 and 5:15 would be very good for the circumstances.¬† With that mindset, I started today’s race exactly the way I should have.¬† I settled in behind the leaders that were aiming around 5:00.¬† As I crossed the halfway point, I was still in good enough shape to finish at 5:15 if I had just kicked it up a notch.¬† But I didn’t.¬† I kept a comfortable pace and managed to average a 5:25 mile pace and the 3/4 mile mark.¬† I rationalized that I was saving up for a strong last 1/4 mile.¬† This would have been practical.¬† My training and racing this summer told me that I am fully capable of shaving 10 seconds off in the last 1/4 mile.¬† I can do that.¬† I could have done it today.¬† I didn’t.¬† I was complacent.

What happened?  I could have met my restructured goal of 5:15 by pushing hard in the 1/4 mile.  I was not too tired/fatigued.  Why did I not follow through?  I was complacent.  I looked ahead and decided who I could catch if I kicked it into high gear.  I did not do it.  Why did I not follow through?  I was complacent.  Why?

I smiled and congratulated my fellow runners.  I cheered for Muna as she beat her goal by ten seconds.  I talked to friends.  In the back of my mind, however, I was busy beating myself up for not following through, for not sprinting the last 1/4 mile.  Why did I not do it?  Why did I settle for less than my best effort?  Why was I complacent?  I was tortured.

I volunteered to clean up after the race, so I stayed around and helped out.¬† I kept smiling when I could, but… I was tortured.¬† Why was I complacent?¬† Why did I settle for less than my best?

The Underlying Problem

It took me a while to sort it out.¬† I drove home, got some food, took a shower… Finally it hit me; it hit me hard.¬† It did not feel like it was worth an all-out effort to run a 5:15 mile because it was 15 seconds slower than what I had originally planned.¬† I didn’t want a 5:15.¬† I wanted a 5:00.¬† I know it sounds crazy to most people, but a 5:15 mile would not have felt like an accomplishment.¬† It would have felt like a failure.¬† Why would I put that much effort into a failing cause?

This is what happened:  I had mentally chosen a 5:15 goal, but emotionally I was holding on to the 5:00 dream.  My heart was not willing to push incredibly hard just to get  5:15 and feel inadequate anyway.

This explains the why, but it is definitely not a healthy mindset.¬† Giving less than your best in a goal race is not acceptable, even if you will fall short of your original goal.¬† If I had understood what was going on, perhaps I could have given myself the “”Suck it up, Buttercup!” speech and pushed through to that 5:15.¬† Hindsight is 20/20.¬† I did not have access to that info during the race.¬† I had to analyze for a while to understand the source.

Remember This:

Complacency is often rooted in fear of failure. 
As with all fears, the only way to get over it is to face your fear head-on.
Feel the fear and do it anyway.

I was not afraid of failing to achieve 5:15.  I was afraid to work that hard and still be 15 seconds shy of the goal that my heart was set on.

At least I now understand what happened.¬† Now I can deal with it.¬† I can learn from it and become a wiser runner.¬† ūüôā

I will fight complacency:

  • by recognizing it,
  • by acknowledging the underlying problem, and
  • by running with passion regardless of the expected outcome.


On the Bright Side

The good news is this:  I can have a flat, unmotivated race and still run a 5:25 mile.

I am still fast.  Not as fast as I wanted to be, but faster than I was last year.

I am still making progress.

There is reason to celebrate.

Ice cream for everyone!


Train smart, eat well, and enjoy the run!

P. Mark Taylor

wise running logo 7_25_12












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)


“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¬† ūüôā

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

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