Returning to Marathon John: You Can’t Motivate Yourself

Yes I ran it...but that was a long time ago :-)
Yes I ran it…but that was a long time ago 🙂

As someone who has done a lot of running in the past but hasn’t done a race in over six months, getting back into shape is accomplished by taking lots of small steps.  One of the most important is becoming part of a running group that meets twice a week.  This is actually a pretty big change for me since I have always trained on my own, but it didn’t take long to realize I wouldn’t be able to get back into running shape alone.

There is nothing really wrong with training alone but it makes motivation and powering through the hard parts of a run really hard.  When a person’s in shape they can easily ignore the pain in their legs and their mind screaming to finish early.  A few weeks ago after deciding to take my training seriously again I expected that to be same…..it wasn’t 🙂  Motivation (the strength to keep going when it hurts) is usually there once you get into a running program, the problem is finding the strength to motivate yourself in the first painful weeks of training.

Knowing this would be a huge challenge I decided to join the running group, and start training for a 5K.  The reason for joining a group like this really simple…..our body is able to accomplish things we never dreamed when running with friends.  There is the mental side of it because we are less likely to stop running and embrace the “runners walk of shame” when others in the group are still running.  But the reason a running group helps me so much is there are friends to give encouragement when you want to quit.

During Monday’s run after passing the halfway point I moved towards the front of the pack with two other group members.  On my right was a man named Chris who had become very concerned because there were no walking periods in our groups training  (most of the runners had been part of an earlier group that broke the training into running and walking interval)s.  As we jogged and talked I encouraged Chris to go as far as he could before stopping, and it was okay if he couldn’t finish the whole three miles.

Following the one mile mark Chris was hurting but still kept up with us at the front, shortly afterwards he started drinking water and breathing heavily, after we had gone a mile and a half he started staring at his watch (which tracked our distance).  Finally after going 2.2 miles (Chris wanted to make absolutely sure he ran two miles) he slowed down and walked the rest of the way.  Afterwards I asked Chris if that was the first time he had run two-miles without stopping, he smiled and said he had never run one without stopping before.

To my left was a woman named Krista who joined the group with her sister a year before.  We finished the last mile talking about our dogs, family, and the fact that awesome running shoes can’t make us clumsy.  As we neared the finish she said with excitement “holy bleep” I can’t believe I actually ran three miles! (editors note:  I don’t agree with her language but choose to keep it in this post because it portrays her excitement in the moment)

Almost everyone in the group finished the three miles without stopping, and none had gone more than one without stopping to rest before.  As we finished up with some incredibly painful stretching exercises one of them turned to another and said “I would have never been able to do that on my own.”

It’s true that we can motivate ourselves…..but in life just like in running, it’s a lot more fun when others are encouraging you along the way.

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John Wilburn

Church planter, teacher, and disciple-maker in Barrouallie St. Vincent

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