Motivation to Run: What Will Get You Out the Door?

Motivation Run

Awhile back, I was going through the training to become a running coach. At one point in the course, we were talking about goals and running motivation. The instructor firmly believed (and re-iterated several times) that the main goal- the primary incentive- of every runner was to get faster.

Not to get stronger or fitter or to ‘do better’ by any other objective or subjective standard, but to beat the clock.

I could not disagree with this statement more. ‘Runners’ are not a unified group with one single anything.

We have a million reasons for getting out of bed in the morning and going for a run.

Know Thyself

I raised my objection to his ‘getting faster’ idea and said that getting faster wasn’t my personal running motivation. I explained that for me, my running motivations tend to revolve more around my general strength and fitness. Gaining speed may come along as a side benefit, but the idea of running a 4:00-hour marathon instead of a 4:30 marathon does absolutely nothing for me.

Beating the clock just isn’t my thing.

He told me I was just kidding myself. Getting faster, he reiterated, was the main goal of every runner. This was just one of many times that we did not agree during the course of the training, but I digress.

(My informal survey of my classmates during a break confirmed that while speed is a common goal, it is far from universal)

Know what works for you. What will inspire you to run?

Motivation to Run

Contrary to what that instructor may have thought, there is no ‘right’ motivation to run. It’s a personal thing that you don’t have to explain or justify.

It can be something that is deep and meaningful to you. Or it can be something that is ridiculous or embarrassing to admit. It can also vary- I know few runners that are always motivated by the same thing on every run ever. I sure am not.

If it works for you and gets you out the door, it’s all good. No judgments here.

My Motivations

My motivations have varied over the years. Sometimes my motivations are more noble (the aforementioned getting stronger), but sometimes what gets me out of bed is my love of junk food. More than once I’ve stuck it out on a miserable long run because I had to burn off the calories that I wanted to a later consume in pizza or cupcakes. (I’m willing to cut down on, but not cut out, the junk food in my life)

I also don’t like to waste money. If my motivation is lagging I’ll register for a race. Entries are expensive. You add in travel and hotels- it is a real investment. Once I’ve made that investment, I will do what I have to do to get to the start line.

But just like my not being motivated by the clock, junk food and wasting money may do nothing for others. That’s why you need to know yourself and what will work for you.

Your Motivations

Your motivation doesn’t have to be important or life-altering (although it sure can be). And there is no right or wrong motivation.

Maybe your motivation is getting faster, nothing is wrong with that.

How Do You Find Your Motivation?

  • Do you have a dirty little running secret? Something you want to accomplish or a race you want to complete? Maybe it is something that seems so unlikely that you may not want to admit to others, but that you constantly think about or fantasize about? You don’t have to admit it to anyone if you don’t want to, but own it and work with it. Know your audacious goals. 
  • Is there something that you enjoy that you can restrict only to runs? Or restrict to only doing after a run as a reward (like me and my cupcakes)? If you will only listen to a favorite podcast, music or audiobook that you love during a run, you are probably much more likely to get out the door.
  • Imagine it is a cold, rainy Saturday morning and you are supposed to run 5 miles. What will get you out from under the covers? Thinking about this ahead of time and knowing the answer will make it much more likely that when that rainy, cold day comes you will be ready for it. If you wait for said cold, rainy morning to try to think about why you should run, you likely won’t be able to come up with anything.

Find your motivation and go with it.

What gets you out the door on those mornings when you just aren’t feeling it?


Motivation to Run


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