Tuesday, November 24, 2009

How I keep motivated to run

Since today is a rest day and I'm not running, I thought I'd discuss how I keep my motivation to run. One of the runners in the running.about.com forum asked how I keep myself motivated, and I gave the following answer.

Having goals helps one to be motivated, whether in running or in other activities. I don't do a lot of racing, so my goals are mostly in other aspects of running. Racing goals wouldn't be achieved for several months, and I need goals for each run. So, I focus on short-term goals, things I can accomplish this week or next week. For example, a year ago South Jordan, Utah started construction on a new leg of the Jordan River Parkway where I run. It is a 0.75 mile leg that goes north to the border of West Jordan City. I've mentioned that leg quite a few times in this blog. I enjoyed watching the construction of the path and talking with the guys doing the work. That gave me goals for about four months. I looked forward to watching them carve a new path, compact the dirt, lay down plastic on the dirt, and finally lay about 6 inches of asphalt on the plastic. I was interested to learn from one of the workers that they sprayed weed killer on the dirt before they laid the plastic. He said weeds will come up through the plastic and the asphalt if they don't spray the ground. After they finished with the asphalt, I enjoyed watching them put in a wire fence along portions of the path that had horses.

After the construction workers left, I learned that the wire fence would be replaced, because it wasn't strong enough to keep the horses from getting on the path. So, I enjoyed watching a different guy put in a better fence. I was particularly interested in how he could put the fence posts in cement in the middle of the winter. It was interesting to learn that he had a machine that held a roll of chain link fencing and placed the fencing along the path. Many years ago, I had a part-time job one summer moving rolls of chain link fencing from box cars to storage in a building, and I know how heavy those rolls of fencing can be (200 - 300 pounds). I thought it interesting that the second guy put his fencing in places where the other fencing wasn't put. Then I began to wonder about the taxpayers of South Jordan City. Did they end up paying twice for the fencing, or did the first company lose money because their fencing wasn't good enough. Did their contract with the city specify exactly the type of fence to be installed, or was it left to the judgment of the contractor. Did the city talk with the land owners before the city purchased the land for the path to find out what kind of fence was needed?

For the past couple of years, someone has been moving dirt in one of the fields bordering the new leg of the Jordan River Parkway. I could hear the heavy equipment being used to move the dirt, but I couldn't see that any progress was being made. Finally, this fall I could see that progress was being made. I had the chance to talk with the land owner a couple of weeks ago, and he said he is preparing the land for the construction of a subdivision of new houses. Lately he has been moving big rocks to make a rock wall along the border of the Jordan River Parkway. At first I thought he was building a rock wall for landscaping, but I noticed yesterday that he is filling in dirt up to the top of the wall. Since his land is in the flood plain of the river, I realized he is raising the level of his land about three feet and is using the rock wall to prevent the dirt from being washed away during a flood. People who live in his houses won't see the rock wall, but I see the wall as I run past it, and it looks nice.

This fall I saw a big Heron in the Jordan River. It just stood there and didn't move much. I saw it on quite a few different days. That was interesting because I had never seen a Heron before. I haven't seen it lately, and I wonder if it went south for the winter. I also wonder how it could stand for long periods of time in the cold water. Ducks have soft feathers (down) that helps insulate them when they swim, but the Heron just has bare legs. Most of the birds in the river are ducks, but this fall I've seen quite a few American Coots. The most popular posts in this blog are about black ducks that I've seen. Some of them are Coots, but some are different. Quite a few people have found my posts via Google and have commented that they, too, have seen mysterious black ducks.

A year ago, I saw a black and white rabbit near the river. Someone had apparently turned the rabbit lose. I enjoyed seeing the rabbit a few times, but I haven't seen it this year. So, I wonder what happened to it. Maybe a fox got it; I have seen a red fox on the path a few times. If you click on the wildlife label in this blog, you can read about the birds and animals that I've seen during the six years I've kept the blog. In fact, the blog itself has helped me get out running, since I've gone public with my running and have to "keep up my public image" so to speak.

I have a lot of short-term goals related to my running. I began 2009 running about 20-22 miles per week, including a long run of 10 miles and a medium run of 7 miles and a rest run of 5 miles. Then in mid January I was attacked by blood clots. I went from a 7 mile run on a Saturday to only being able to walk 100 feet on Monday. My progress in getting back to my former distance has taken a lot more time than I expected. It has been almost 10 months, and my weekly distance is only up to about 10 miles, including my longest run, so far, of 4 miles. So, I'm busy with my weekly goals in inching forward in distance. There is a local 5K race in June that I've run twice (a 2nd and then a 1st in my age group). I missed it in 2009 because of the blood clots. I wonder if I'll be able to run it in 2010. I should be able to do the distance OK, but I may not be very fast. But that's OK. When you get to be my age, you're less concerned about speed and are happy to "just do it".

One of the things I'm looking forward to in the next month is putting sheet metal screws in my running shoes to keep me from slipping on ice. My shoes have 300 miles on them and have limited life left, so they are good candidates to become "ice shoes". Last winter and the winter before I used a commercial product with steel spikes, but they kept coming off when I got into snow several inches deep. People who have used sheet metal screws say they work fine, and I thought I'd give them a try.

The final reason that I get out and run is because I enjoy it. This enjoyment has carried me through 38 years of running. There are times when I get busy with other things and don't get out and run, but that's OK. I'm like everyone else and have my ups and downs. I don't beat myself up with guilt for not going out. I just finish my project at home that kept me from running for a day or two and then put my running shoes back on and head down to the Jordan River.

We are all different. What motivates one person to run may not help another person. One of the key things is to recognize that you're not "perfect" and to not feel guilty when you don't get out and run. Don't feel guilty because you're slow or because you don't go very far or because you don't go as fast as you did when you were younger. Just accept who you are and enjoy your life. If you would like to leave a comment explaining how you keep motivated to run, I (and others) would enjoy listening to you.