Motivation and Goals For The Running Journey

Have you ever grown bored with running? It may be due to the running phase you’re in. Running is an evolving process and knowing what phase you’re at in this process can help get motivation and goals back on track.

I like to think of running as having these motivation phases:

The Beginner
For beginners the key motivator is novelty. Everything is new when you're starting out - the act of going out for a run is new, as is every locale run. Important goals the beginner needs to have in mind with their running at this point in the process: 1) consistency - trying to make running a regular event and 2) finding a relaxed feeling and clearer mental state that running brings.

The Newbie
With running being consistent, an important motivator for the newbie becomes feeling part of a running community and finding satisfaction in running. A community can be: a local running club, group of friends, online club, running books and resources, or mentor/coach, just to name a few. An important goal for the newbie at this point in the process is following a structured training plan which gets them running longer and/or faster - pushing the limit of their fitness. This results in the newbie seeing that they’re becoming fitter through running. 

So how long can someone stay a beginner before moving to the newbie phase? It seems to depend on the individual and their running community. As I wrote about in A PREVIOUS POST, on University of Oregon track coach and Nike co-founder Bill Bowerman‘s project to introduce running to adults during the 1960s; he shut this project down until he could design training plans for these beginners after just three runs! On the other side of the coin, there may indeed be beginners that don’t go on to become part of a running community, who come home from work and really enjoy the head-clearing stress relief that a 30-minute run brings and follow this practice for a long period of time, even years.

The Competitor
For the competitor, their motivation to run attempts to bring out their best and a search to find success with every running experience - be it on trails, running a marathon in a major city, or running a flat, fast local 5K. Oftentimes, success for the competitor is thought of as where one places in a race, getting on the podium, and so forth. However, the goal of the competitor is actually to avoid a narrow-minded pursuit of rewards and ego boosts. Instead, the competitor needs to cultivate an internal sense of what success brings. Is it possible to bypass the competitive motive? Sure, however, beginners and newbies miss out on a great opportunity to develop this internal sense of success such as:
-Pride in one’s athletic status
-A likelihood to take on ambitious goals
-Optimism toward the future

The Runner
The runner finds motivation in the previous three phases mentioned - new experiences, mindful practice, satisfaction in getting fitter, and a competitor's ambition - all are important to the runner. Additionally, a goal for the runner becomes giving back to something that has given them so much - in ways that go beyond the physical act of running. This might be accomplished by being of service to others, like being a mentor or coach to beginning runners, perhaps serving as a race director, or raising funds for charitable causes. Also, running ultra distance seems to reflect going beyond the physical act of running.

The Race: Where Motives & Goals Meet
Races seem to be a meeting place for all these motivations and goals. Be it a beginner’s first race, to a newbie checking out their running fitness after following a 10-week training schedule, to a competitor trying to place well in their age group - and all can be under the umbrella of raising funds for a charitable cause; races seem capable of handling this variety of motives and goals.

Therefore, runners who are bored with running can use this information to take stock of their current running phase and whether their motivation and goals are aligned or maybe it’s time to move to a new phase.
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As mentioned above, I’ve posted before on coach Bill Bowerman’s project to introduce running to adults. Also mentioned in this post are the measures Bowerman took to make running a consistent habit for beginning exercisers. For more, check out: 

Also mentioned above, ultrarunning seems to reflect going beyond the physical act of running. I’ve posted about the biographies of a couple of ultrarunners before - Scott Jurek and Al Howie. For more, check out:

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Experiment of One Coaching covers topics ranging from running, strength training, health & wellness, sports nutrition to travel.