Top motivation tips from one of the UK’s best fell, mountain, trail and ultra runners
No two runners are alike. We all have different ideas on how best to train, perform in a race and motivate ourselves. Every one of us, no matter whether we run on trails, mountains, fells, roads or over obstacles, has different reasons that drive motivation. My reasons for motivation vary from wanting to train because I’ve eaten too much cake at the café where I work through to not wanting the new guy at the running club to beat me in the next race.
What motivates me to train?
One of the main motivating factors for training is because I want to achieve the race results I know I’m capable of… not because I simply enjoy training. Sure training is often fun but the more serious I take it the less fun it tends to be. Saying that, the harder I train the more satisfying it often becomes! Sometimes the weather will motivate me to train. It can be a bit of rain that has made the trails nice and muddy or the prospect of reaching a sun-drenched summit that gets me out of the door. Recently in the Lake District (UK) we’ve had temperature inversions. I’ve been heading out for training runs knowing that if I get up high I’ll break through the clouds holding residence over the valleys and be treated to a wonderful cloud inversion.
Memories can be a big motivating factor too. Sure, sometimes it’s hard to get out the house, but when I remember how much pleasure I get from running along a skyline or visiting summits, I usually rediscover my enthusiasm. Then there are times when I simply want to get outside and clear my head, unwind, stretch my legs, tire myself out and generally feel good about having done some exercise.
What motivates me in a race?
In just over a fortnight I will be competing alongside Paul Tierney, running as a pair at The Old County Tops -a 37-mile race over some of the Lake District’s roughest and toughest terrain. We won the race in 2013 in 7hrs 10mins, and its one of my key races this year too. Paul and I really want to win it, so the past few months have provided plenty of opportunities for me to motivate myself, not least because I don’t want to let down my partner!
Racing is important to me. It’s not the only thing that matters but it’s certainly one of the top reasons for training. I do, however, sometimes wonder, how much running would I do if there was no races? I don’t compete as often as some people, but instead focus my plans around some of the longer races, which I know I will enjoy. Then there’s the fact that I don’t like being beaten -nobody does -and don’t like finishing a race with regrets. What motivates me is pushing my limits and ensuring I look back on a race with satisfaction.
Last weekend I ran the Highland Fling -a 53-mile ultra race over trails in Scotland. I suffered a lot, especially in the last quarter of the race. By the finish I was shuffling. It was definitely one of the hardest races I’ve taken part in. There was no hiding place for me. I was moving slow, while other competitors were zipping past. So what motivated me to keep going? Easy… I didn’t want to drop out. I was determined to reach the finish line. My time became unimportant and my position simply didn’t matter. To succeed I needed to reach the finish, which I did. As a result I am able to reflect on the experience with a lot of positive feelings and satisfaction. It wasn’t pretty, but I did it!
How to get motivated… and stay motivated
As described already, there are many ways in which I draw motivation. But sometimes I need more… on these occasions I’ll make arrangements to get out for a run with friends. It’s always more fun to have someone to talk to whilst out running, especially over long distances. Making such an arrangement also commits you to that run and reduces the risk simply ‘giving it a miss’.
Over the years I’ve learnt not to get obsessed in trying to do too much training or overly suffering from disappointment when results don’t go my way. This is especially true when I’ve been returning from an injury or training lay-off. It takes time to make a return to full fitness, so I try to keep a positive frame of mind and motivate myself by breaking down my training plan and goals into manageable chunks.
Another key tip… don’t procrastinate! There is no better time to get out for a run than the present. Admittedly that’s not always possible so sometimes, for me, it’s a case of getting my run ‘out of the way’ so I don’t find myself procrastinating about when I’ll get it done!
Also, recognise and remember those positive feelings you get at the end of a training run or the finish line of a race. When lacking motivation, focus on those thoughts and picture the images in your mind. Be inspired by past memories. Learn to appreciate the opportunities you’ve been given, how good it is to run, and where you’d be without it.