July 28, 2009


It was a sweltering day, 15 years ago. Alone on a steep hill, I climbed. But just as fast as the sweat pored off my skin, guilt was drowning my mind. With a budding career weighing on my shoulders, I asked myself, why am I out here? And just like that, I succumbed.

Motivation. Sometimes you have it, sometimes you don’t. It’s the reason we keep going, through thick and thin, fatigue and frustration. It's how we overcome life's many challenges. Motivation comes to us in different forms and from different places. It is intellectual and emotional. It is in our head and in our hearts. Without it, we are hapless souls, trudging in and out of life's bland encounters. With it we are colorful players on the field, ready to take on the greatest opponents our minds can throw at us.

But where does it come from? Motivation. Are we born with an innate supply of it? Do we learn to "become" motivated through life's experience? This may well be forever unknown. What is known, however, is that motivation comes in different forms. Intellectual motivation, for example, is different than emotional motivation.

Like everything linked to the mind, intellectual motivation comes to us through rational thought. The desire to win trophies, gain kudos from friends and peers, or to be "known" as an athlete. These are all intellectual "motives" to which we often succumb. They are motives of the ego. But are these motives long lasting? Will they get you though the most grueling and challenging times? Unfortunately, they will not. Just like sugar, they'll leave you high one moment, and low the next.

Emotional motivation is different. It runs through your body. It comes from your gut, enters the spine, then without warning seeps through your skin. Before you recognize it, it will give you goose bumps. Wherever its starts and ends, you can feel it. And what's best, it doesn't even have to make sense!

What I've learned is that, unless I can really feel the motivation to do something big, I'm better off not even attempting to do it. The fact is I've been motivated by my ego to beat my marathon PR that has stood for 16 years, but I am yet to feel that I can do it. Can I still do it at 46? I'm still waiting for the goose bumps. And should they come, my ego will be anxiously waiting.


Mel-2nd Chances said...

Wow, what an incredible post, very thought provoking! I hope you get those goosebumps so I can read about new PR :)

Unknown said...


I am behind you 100% in not giving up in your pursuit to break your marathon PR.

Do I sense a little burnout still after Western States? You really trained, in my opinion, for that one for what 3 years? And you were trying to drop weight as well.

I am trying to do the same before the AC100. It adds an additional stress to that which already comes from all the training runs and "strategery" as one ex-president laughably used to say. :)

Anyway, good luck. Keep resting for awhile. I do believe you can attain your PR. In high school I ran a 5:08 mile which stood until I broke it at 40 years old (4 years ago) when I ran a 4:51 after 3 months of focussed training and losing 20 pounds.

It also lead to me lowering my marathon PR from 3:46 to 3:14.

Running fast mile pace for 6-10 miles on the treadmill really helped me develop my footspeed back then. If you do not already use the treadmill a little bit each week I strongly recommend you add it as part of your training.

Though slower today and 10 lbs heavier I still have dreams of achieving that elusive sub 3 marathon.

We can do it. Forget about age. Just go for it as your motivation returns.

Finally, I still find your performance at Western States hard to believe. A sub 24 hour finish with that freakin' ankle injury so early in the race?

That takes friggin' courage, talent and drive, man! Do not forget that incredible performance of yours. And see ya on the trail again someday.

Maybe I'll be up to your speed then(if I keep training hard).

Take care,

Robert Blair

New Zealand Running said...

Great article, thanks for writing it. Motivation is one of my biggest problems at the mo.


Anonymous said...

Thanks for the motivating words as usual. I am finally motivated in my running it feels good & you are partly responsible for my motivation so thank you for that.
Laura Weaver

Greg said...

took me a while to get motivated to read your post. Am glad I did! : )

Jason said...

This is a great blog that you have here. I have a sports blog myself where we cover a wide range of sports. I was wondering if we could do a link exchange. We have to stick together.

Jake A Harris said...

I agree that motivaion is crucial. The difficult part can be finding that motivation. One thing I do personally is track and upload every run, then broadcast it to friends and fellow runners via social media. This gives me an almost tangible reward and motivation during my training runs.

Unknown said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Unknown said...

Great blog. New to your blog and already very much loving it.

Music = My Motivation.

Looking for suggestions on music to listen to when I work out. My resolution for 2011 is to find more high energy music than the normal Top 40 stuff. While searching for music I found this video, its pretty funny and the song gets me moving. Wait until the end for a url to get the song for free:http://www.youtube.com/user/endthebonk?feature=mhum#p/a/u/1/cW8rnMmYID8

Music suggestions welcome. Any songs you can’t go to the gym without?

site said...

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