Discover more from The Half Marathoner
Disappointing runs, setbacks + days when it just sucks
What I do when I lose my running mojo
We’re running Richmond this fall!
Join us when we get together in person to run the Richmond Half Marathon in Richmond, Va., on November 11, 2023 — and, add yourself to ‘The Half Marathoner Newsletter’ group during the signup process. Can’t wait to see you there!
I’ll never forget what it felt like the first time I crossed the finish line in a real race, which for me was the Peachtree Road Race, the 10K that’s run every summer here in Atlanta on the 4th of July. “I really did that,” I could hear the voice in the back of my head saying. “I really, actually did that.”
So you can imagine what it felt like the first time I crossed the finish line after running 26.2 miles, right? My inner voice was even more incredulous, but also even prouder: “We actually did something that seemed impossible just a few months ago, you know… and, hear me out, maybe we could do it again.”
As fortune would have it, I actually did do it again less than a year later — I went from running the Bermuda Marathon in January to the Marine Corps Marathon in Washington, D.C., in the fall of the same year. To say the least, it was a year that involved a lot of running for me; I must have put hundreds of miles on my shoes back then.
I remember talking with my father, after I ran Marine Corps, when he asked me if I thought I could keep going with running marathons; how far did I want to take this new hobby of mine? “I don’t know,” I said to him then. “Maybe ten? That sounds like a good number to shoot for.”
At the time, I meant it. When I heard myself say that number to him, I was about 26 years old. Anything was possible for me physically, I thought, especially after running two marathons in a year. How hard could eight more be, really?
Well, as I would find out, pursuing a goal like that was a lot harder than I thought it would be at the time — and not because of any physical injury to my leg, hamstring, feet or Achilles. Even though, a couple years later, I would add a third marathon to my list on what I thought was a journey toward ten, that third marathon would be my last.
Why? Because I simply gave out of the most important gas we need to go after big goals like these: motivation. Once I crossed the finish line of my third marathon, the desire to run — and spend months training for — seven more just seemed to have vanished into a cloud.
Those moments in my running life all came back to me today, after I read a comment yesterday in our Chat forum by a subscriber named Andrew, who shared this:
“Ran 10km on Saturday & 15km this evening. I’m registered for the Berlin marathon in 3 weeks and have done next to no training since [April’s] Boston [Marathon], yet now with 20 days to go I’ve gotten a massive dose of motivation out of nowhere, but I fear it’s too late. My plan is to try 20km this Friday. 25km & 32km next week. If I’m successful then I’ll try Berlin. If not, I’ll write this one off.”
What I find so fascinating about what Andrew shared is, clearly, he’s no slouch. Anyone who can make it to the starting line of the Boston and Berlin marathons in the same year is someone who takes their running more seriously than well, at least, many. And if a runner like him is experiencing a loss in motivation like the one he describes, then you know it can happen to anyone.
Preparing for an event like Boston asks for a really high level of focused effort, for months on end. It seems only natural that our minds (and bodies!) would want a break, at least for a little while. But I feel for him, because I’ve been there too — many times. I know the feeling well, when your mind wants something that your body is just not ready to go out and get.
What did the young Augustine of Hippo famously say when he doubted his own commitment to self-restraint? “Lord, give me chastity and continence — but not yet!”
The one thing I’ve found that has worked for me when I’ve experienced what Andrew is experiencing is simple and (I think) easier than trying to scale the same size mountain you’ve just climbed. Instead, I try going back to the beginning.
Instead of trying to get back to the same level where I’m running 13, 14, 15 miles at a time, I try running just three. Three easy miles, in a place I love running (like the Chattahoochee River here in Atlanta, where I live) lets me experience what I love about running in a context that’s all about enjoyment. There’s nothing hard, nothing to grit my teeth over. It’s just pure pleasure.
And once I demonstrate to myself, to my inner voice again that this is something I can enjoy, that’s where I build from. Where I start adding miles again, and slowly pushing myself forward from there. It always helps, for me at least, to go back to the beginning.
Like the writer Anne Lamott once wrote: “Almost everything will work again if you unplug it for a few minutes, including you.”
What about you? What works for you when your motivation flags? Are you able to find it again? I’d love to hear your thoughts.
Our training miles for this week
So, how did your second week in a row running seven miles go? Did you feel good, or better than the first time we ran it? I hope so — I planned these weeks as a kind of stair-step for us: one week, we step it up; the next, we reinforce what we challenged ourselves to do, and build on that progress for the following two weeks. I hope it’s working well for you!
Here are our miles for this week:
Tuesday, Sept. 5 — 6 miles
Thursday, Sept. 7 — 4 miles
Saturday, Sept. 9 — 8 miles
Sunday, Sept. 10 — 2-3 miles
As always, feel free to reach out with any questions about our schedule, your running, or anything else 👍 — Terrell