A Tale of Two Runners

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I’ve hit a slump in my running, and have been feeling terrible about it. But I’m learning that I’m not the only one feeling this way. Thankfully, my good friend and fellow pavement-pounder Megan Johnston agreed to share her struggle so we could both reflect. I hope you enjoy!

I woke up this morning at 6:15, after going to bed at 1am (I got into a spirited music discussion with the roommate last night), and had every reason in the world to roll back over and go to bed. But against every fiber in my being, I pulled myself out of bed, threw off the ReeFlexes, and hit the pavement. And yet, this time last week, practically nothing could have budged me from the comfort of my bed.

In every form of a bio I have posted online (be it on Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, etc.), one word is constant: Runner. Ever since the fall of 2009, I have risen from a moderately sedentary existence to transform myself into a runner. 6 full half marathons, 4 10ks, and countless 5ks later, I have gradually, reluctantly, FINALLY felt legitimate in describing myself as a runner.

And yet 2013 has not gotten off to a good start for me. Between the frustrations surrounding moving, lack of a goal after forgoing the Rock and Roll New Orleans race, and serious but legitimate fear of running on a dangerous new terrain (ice), there was a lot keeping me from running. But this week, I decided that I’m done being complacent, fearful, and aimless in my running pursuits. Motivation from the #safit community, fellow runner friends, and some new music- I swear that makes a world of difference!- has helped me refocus. This is the first time I’ve run in the absence of a goal. Be that a goal of weight loss, a time to cross a finish line, or the pursuit of new races, I’ve always run for something. I honestly don’t know how it’ll go when I don’t have anything specific to run for. But I’m trying. For now, that’ll have to be enough.

This is absolutely a work in progress, so I want to look to those who inspire me: you. How do you shake yourself out of a slump, no matter the kind? What keeps you motivated?

Megan, thank you so much for writing- here’s hoping we can get each other back on track! And to you who are reading, we hope this helps you realize that we all hit slumps, we can support each other through them!

mind over matter

Post-motivation blues. Schmung. Motivation collapse. Whatever you want to call it, it’s there, and looms after every major race any runner conquers. Your first 5K? You probably felt totally elated and then perhaps crashed. That first full marathon? Most definitely. You want to thank your body for the days, weeks, months of hard work it endured and carried you through to accomplish your goal race, whatever distance it was. But now what?
I’m in your shoes. Having completed my first full marathon just over three weeks ago, I’m now in that in-between phase of “I did it!” and “Alright, so what now?” Falling more towards the latter end of the spectrum, I’m struggling with finding the motivation, direction and inspiration to get my shoes on and out the door again.

While I’ve officially been back in the saddle for all of five days – two of which were great, one was less than mediocre, and two have been rest days (one on purpose) – I’m still struggling with finding that purpose. Where am I going with this this year? Having been in training essentially since August, I have no major impending event like 26.2 looming in my future.
I’ve always been a very task-oriented person – I love the thrill (yes, thrill) of crossing off things on the to-do list, look forward to the next opportunity to say I’ve accomplished some part of my goals or have at least gotten that major project completed. When struggling with work, or what direction to take on an event like the recent conference my students held, I turn to the to-do list and seek out specific things that I can work towards completing the overall goal.
As I try and work my way out of this “What now?” mindset, I look to the goals that I’ve set for 2013. As mentioned, my first and foremost running goal for 2013 is a sub-2 half marathon – as my current PR stands at 2:09:10, I know this is in my near future but is going to require quite a bit of work – and work that I am not certain I am totally ready for (mentally nor physically). However, knowing that I have two half marathons looming before me in the next 8 weeks, I know that whether or not I’m ready to jump back in the saddle… I’ve got to.
Maybe it’s a marathon rookie mistake. Maybe it’s jumping the gun just a little bit. But I need to get back on the road. Not just to shake this antsy feeling, but to regain a little bit of sanity and purpose that I felt I had when I was smack in the middle of training. Those goals bring me back to life, but to also ensure that I’m maintaining a fitness level that I know I’m capable of in order to successfully finish these two halfs… even if they’re not sub-2 level.
Once I know I can return to a training plan and feel like I’ve successfully completed those races, I can start working towards the time- and distance-specific goals I’ve set for 2013. I’m ready to rock, to cross them off the list, and note that they have been made.

How do you find motivation after a major race? How long do you cut yourself some slack for? Am I jumping the gun too early (your response taken with a grain of salt!)?

8 thoughts on “A Tale of Two Runners

  1. I was having some trouble getting motivated due to the weather. I mean running on a treadmill and a track four times a week gets pretty boring. AND FAST. I’m in desparate need of a climate change, but Iowa doesn’t seem to agree with me. What still gets me going is a preprogrammed running log. I have the lengths of all of my runs already planned out, and nothing is more satisfying than crossing one off. I am new to the blogging world in honor of the start of my first half-marathon training. Check out my blog with new posts to come: http://milesforthought.wordpress.com/

  2. You know what keeps me motivated? Fear of falling off track. Nothing scares me more than the thought of having to start all over again (because what’s fun now was definitely not in the beginning!!) And most of the time, even on the days I don’t feel like working out, once I get into the gym and the endorphins start coursing through my body, I’m feeling good and glad I made the effort to get my workout in.

  3. I would wish for both of you that you find the motivation to run simply because you like to run. It makes me sad to think the only reason you run is because you’re training for something — possibly that’s your running journey, while mine is quite different.

    I run because I love to run. I run because it sets my soul free. I run because its time just for me and because it offers me the time to think, to dream, to plan what I want out of my life. I’ve run a number of marathons, a bazillion half marathons and countless 5, 10, and 12k races (and my first 30k this weekend). I’ve enjoyed them all — but that’s not the reason I run every day, or every other day or every third day. I just love to run.

    Slumps are a very real part of every runner’s life — sometimes you just aren’t into it — I, personally, believe that is your body’s way of saying “I need a break.” It use to concern me, but I’ve learned to just go with it and do other forms of cardio — because undoubtedly time will pass and I will wake up to discover my body is begging to run.

    Good luck to you both — I hope you are able to find what you need to get you back out on the road/trail/path!!

  4. Speaking for myself, I will say that the love of running is underneath all of my efforts. I wouldn’t identify as a runner if I didn’t enjoy it in some capacity, and I don’t think that I run exclusively for the prior goals that I mentioned.
    What I will say instead is that right now, the love is being outweighed by a lot of other things. Exhaustion, fear, at times I’ll even admit to laziness. But the love is always there, or I wouldn’t be concerned with if I got up and ran again.
    The movie The Prestige comes to mind: one character says “I love you” to his wife, and she says either “not today”, or “today, you mean it.” I love running, just as you love running. But not every day. But the days that I love running are coming faster now, and I hope that continues.

  5. Thank you for saying that, Sarah! That’s how I’m feeling about it too. Now that I’m starting to establish a routine, my excitement about being back on the wagon is keeping me moving. Even if it’s a struggle, it’s better than nothing. Here’s hoping it continues!

  6. Welcome to the blogging world! I look forward to following your journey 🙂
    I completely agree, the weather is taking its toll on my motivation. Here’s hoping the spring ahead keeps us moving toward our goals, and best of luck with your training!

  7. I’m very much in the mindset, too, of crossing things off. However, that doesn’t seem to be working lately! Granted, I’m only back into week 1, as I mentioned above, so I know I need to settle back in. So much luck – looking forward to following along in your adventure!

  8. I will ditto every thought of Amma’s – and that yeah, maybe it’s my body saying “Whoa, chill out for a few.” Running is definitely my sanity and a way of life, I just need to find that place where I can take a deep breath, get out the door, and enjoy the peace that it brought me throughout all of training.

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