Tag Archives: motivation

The Minds of a Runner


One is the motivator who gets me out the door on a cold morning, pushes me to finish the last leg strong, and grinds out those last few miles when reason and sanity are screaming to end the punishment. But it dreams big and is tempted to push too hard, beyond the “extra mile” into overtraining and unrealistic goals.

So I have another mind who sets boundaries on training and has a practical view of what can be accomplished. And when I don’t set a new PR (personal record) at every race, it reminds me to be grateful for the experience and enjoy running for its own sake. But at times it needs a poke or three to get up and do what needs to be done.

When my running mind and rational mind are in harmony, amazing things can happen. But like any relationship in close quarters, there are moments of friction leading to some lively internal debates. In the end, I find a way to do what I need to. But it isn’t always a smooth ride!

Here are a few recent examples where my “rational mind” (RM) and my “running mind” (RNR) had differences of opinion.

1. Running in Lousy Weather

RNR: Remember, we have intervals on the schedule today.

RM: Yeah, but it’s windy and snowing outside. Let’s do them on the treadmill! We’re on the way to the gym anyway.

RNR: If we have to, I guess. . .Hey, what’s that on the side of the road?

RM: I see nothing. NOTH-THING!

RNR. Why, I believe it’s a runner. And he’s running into the wind. What dedication! There’s a real runner for you.

RM: I’m not listening.

RNR: You know, it’s not that cold out. And it’s only one set of eight quarters.


2. Hill Work Day

RM: Okay, the hill is just ahead. All warmed up and ready to go. How many repeats are we doing?

RNR: I think the assignment was four. But we can do at least six, no problem.

RM: Let’s see how we feel after the first couple.

(After repeat #2)

RM: Okay, let’s get in six. So next repeat we’re halfway done!

RNR. Oops, come to think of it, I believe the assignment called for eight. Yeah, I’m pretty sure about that.

RM: This isn’t fair. We still have a two-mile run home after this.

RNR: Think how good the cooldown pace will feel after the last repeat..

(Result: Eight repeats. Turned out the assignment didn’t specify a number. But the cooldown pace did feel good.)

3. Rest days

(Day before)

RM: Man, that was a brutal workout. But rest day tomorrow! Get to kick back and eat cookies.

RNR: You got that right. I am toast.

(Rest day)

RNR: What are you doing?

RM: Kicking back and eating cookies.

RNR: You understand that whole “rest day” thing isn’t meant to be taken literally. Go out and run a few. Earn those cookies.

RM: But rest is important. It’s a necessary part of training.

Kicking back with my daughter Tori in Richmond.

RNR: Come on, just a quick 5K. You know you want to.

RM: Actually, I don’t.

RNR: Lazy slob. We’re getting weaker by the minute. I feel our strength slipping away.

RM: Shut up and pour more coffee.

RNR: Okay, but if this happens again tomorrow I’m really coming after your ass.

4. Race day, at the starting line

RM: Okay, we’re going to run a good, strong race.

RNR: Righto.

RM: No pressure, no high expectations, just do our best.

RNR: Yup. Here to have fun. Only stress is what we put on ourselves.

RM: Ten seconds to the gun! Relax, shake arms out, breathe easy, focus. . .

RNR: And by the way, if you don’t set a new PR today, you’re a LOSER.


So if you see me out there putting in some tough miles, feel free to admire the balance of dedication and self-discipline of my “two minds.” Or, like the neighbor watching me do intervals in the snow, you could just yell, “You’re crazy!”

To my running readers out there: what goes on in your mind(s)? Feel free to share it here!

When a Run Ain’t So Fun

ANY RUNNER WILL TELL YOU that while every run is unique, a pattern will emerge over time. Most of them will be somewhere in the “okay” range – it was good, glad you did it, end of story. There will be a few glorious runs when you feel indestructible and never want to stop. And there will be a few times when the entire experience just plain sucks.

Today’s 18-miler was one of the last kind.

Yeah, sometimes it does.

Yeah, sometimes it does.

Perhaps it was due to my stupid cat who started crying for breakfast at 4:15 a.m. Or it was the cumulative effect of my increased mileage the past three weeks. Or, maybe it was just one of those days and it was going to happen regardless.

The Saturday PR group run begins at 8:00 a.m., but I’ve started doing a few miles before then so the main run isn’t quite as long. So I crawled out of bed at 6:15, fed Miss Obnoxious and her sisters, drove to the studio, and got in just under four miles before joining the group.

It's a good thing she's so damn cute.

It’s a good thing she’s so damn cute.

Those early miles were among my toughest this year so far. It was bitingly cold and I felt creaky and lethargic, with zero motivation. But as I returned to the studio, the sun came up and lifted my spirits. After some water and a bite to eat, I figured the remaining fourteen miles would be the normal, “okay” kind.

Not so much.

I did finally get warm, and starting out with a large, enthusiastic group is fun. But my body still felt leaden and I struggled to hold my standard long-run pace. For a few miles I chatted with other runners, which always helps the miles slip by. But all too soon I was by myself, far out of town, with a lot of miles to go.

Our club's not afraid of a little cold weather!

Our club’s not afraid of a little cold weather! (Photo courtesy Chuanwu Xi)

Usually at some point on a long run, I ease into a steady stride and can relax and be grateful for being out there doing something healthy and enjoyable. About halfway through I thought I was there. It was sunny and bright, I was on a comfortable dirt road, and feeling almost normal.

Then my kidneys went into overdrive. How does drinking a half-cup of water result in the need to pee out a gallon? Twice? And try as I might, I just couldn’t shake the heavy body feeling. So it was slog, slog, slog the rest of the way back.

But you know what? I did it. Not that I’d given myself much choice. The route was an out-and-back, so after pushing myself to the turnaround point, there was no shortcut. Cruel, but effective.

You know you're in trouble when you see each of these as a potential toilet.

You know you’re in trouble when you see these only as potential toilets.

And while these types of runs are miserable, they’re actually very valuable. It’s outstanding preparation for a race, when you’re giving it your all and are guaranteed to be uncomfortable. Getting through a bad run, no matter how awful it feels, toughens both body and mind for the events that really mean something to you.

It had been a while since my last bad run, so I was probably overdue. Now that it’s over, I can be properly grateful for it. And I gave my weary body some consolation, downing two pastries at Sweetwaters instead of my usual one. I think I can afford it.

Now what to do about my “recovery run” on Sunday? Part of me wants to blow it off, and the rest of me doesn’t want to think about it right now. So we’ll see. I get the feeling I’ll sneak it in, though. After all, it can hardly feel worse.

Age is Just a Group


Seems like 2016 started yesterday, and already it’s near the end of January. They say time speeds up as you get older. If that’s the case, by the time I reach 70 I’ll be afraid to blink. But for now, it’s time to enjoy every day of being 54, just as I did at 53, 52, and before.


On the other hand, time slows down as you speed up. So I just need to run faster!

Not that I focus overmuch on my age, or should. After all, it’s “just a number,” right?


Well, not so much for runners. For us, age is more of a group.

Rather than using calculated handicaps like golfers have, most events divide runners into five-year age groups (such as 40-44, 45-49, 50-54, etc.) or ten-year groups (e.g. 30-39, 40-49, etc.). Awards are presented to the top finishers in each group.

Overall winners and top placers still get the lion’s share of the glory (and all the money), but for the rest of us, age divisions provide a little recognition beyond a finisher’s medal and a pricey photo. It’s a way of leveling the playing field, giving older runners a competitive focus if they wish. And I think that’s good for the sport.

Wrong Age Group - highlighted

I’m not quite sure how I ended up in this age group. And I finished *second* in it?

I began competitive running just as I turned 47, so for my first few years I was in the 45-49 group. Mainly it was a positive experience, as I watched myself improve in speed and distance, culminating in my first marathon just before turning 50.


But there was one source of frustration; despite coming close many times, I never made the top five in my age group and got an award. If a tie is like kissing your sister, coming in 6th is her serving you a restraining order. The chase for an award wasn’t my only motivation to keep training, but it did contribute, and I’m sure it helped make me a better runner.

I read a blog post around then from someone who downplayed her awards, saying she had “a drawer full of them.” That’s a problem I’d like to have, I thought. So what if I had mugs spilling out of my kitchen cabinets? I wanted one from a race.

Xmas Tree 2011 - Running Ornaments 2

2011 – my first age group award! (Actually, this is the replacement. I dropped the first one.)

As they say, be careful what you wish for. After turning 50 I broke through and got that mug, and did the same in many more races after that. Now I have a full drawer too, and I better understand what she meant. In the end, they are mainly trinkets that take up space. (I still like to get them, though.)

Various Age Group Awards

Some of my more – um – interesting – age group awards. Yes, that is a spray-painted running shoe, a boot-shaped glass, and printed toilet paper.

I know what some of you are thinking. It’s selfish and materialistic to worry about awards. Why not just go out and race for self-satisfaction and the joy of participation?


Good points, and to an extent I agree. I race mainly to test my own limits, and to push past them. I’ve run in big races where I didn’t have a prayer of getting an award. And when I pace events, my focus is on encouraging others instead of pushing myself. An age group award is usually just a nice bonus.

And yet there are a few times it’s more than that.

Such as the Leap Day 4-mile race this February 29. Four years ago, at the 2012 race, I won my age group for the first time. And this year I’m still in the 50-54 age group. So I have a title to defend!

I’m freeing up some more room in the drawer.


Feb. 29, 2012 – #1 in the 50-54 age group. (The other guy can’t believe it, either.)

That Which Does Not Kill Us

WE ALL NEED A LITTLE INSPIRATION NOW AND THEN. It was below freezing outside on Saturday morning and I needed something extra to drag myself out of bed and go running with PR Fitness. It didn’t help that my upper body was stiff and sore from my Body Specs workout on Thursday.

Fortunately, the enjoyment I get from running with this group and the need to train properly was enough to get me going. I need to give myself the best shot at achieving my 5K race goal before Dec. 3. But for those occasions where we need that extra boost, the world of fitness and athletics is full of words of inspirational wisdom that we can draw upon. Here are some you may be familiar with:

  • “What a man can believe, the mind can achieve.”
  • “Quitters never win, and winners never quit.”
  • “It ain’t over until it’s over.” (gotta love Yogi Berra)

For more of this sort of thing, here’s a link to a list of The 50 (naturally)  Most Inspirational Sports Quotes in History.

But inspiration comes in multitudinous forms (big word used in honor of National Novel Writing Month), and not necessarily from famous people or world-class events. Since I began running races in 2008, I’ve encountered many examples of inspirational slogans that have stuck with me long after tripe like the quotes above have been relegated to the basement file cabinets of my memory. Here are a select few of them. May you derive as much insight and motivation from them as I have.

Oh, and my 10 miles today took care of my upper body soreness issue; now my lower body is just as stiff and sore as the rest. (Life is all about balance.)