By Calvin W.What motivates you to run?
I don’t mean what motivates you to be a runner, but what motivates you when you’re facing a specific run?
Runners are cut from different cloths. Some are driven by internal motivators like the need to stick to a specific weekly schedule. Some are driven by external motivators like the desire to spend time with a runner friend.
I became a Wednesday night runner at JRC partly because that day fit my weekly running strategy. As for running with the store group, I did wonder if a group would keep me motivated as a relative newbie. Of course, the fact that it was a group was only part of the thinking process. I wasn’t going to keep running with any group, after all; what if I didn’t like the members? Worse, what if they didn’t like me?
And what about the running route? Then-organizer Chas said it might not be for everyone: 1 mile uphill at the end. Well, the uphill wasn’t that steep and I could dismiss other aspects of the course that I didn’t necessarily care for. The Growlers Group Run still does that route during the winter when we can’t get into Alverthorpe Park. And now I’m just used to it.
There are other factors runners consider: What’s the weather like? Some runners can accept a little rain, but a steady rain might be a no-go. (Comfort is a funny ask for someone who’s rapidly moving her or his feet for distances measured in miles. On the other hand, thunderstorms can be a real safety issue and I did cancel a recent Wednesday run under the threat of them and the visual confirmation of local storm clouds moving in.) Now, what happens if a heavy rain starts mid-run? Most runners I’ve been with will just gut it out. You still have to get back to the starting point.
Here are even more factors: Some people run to take care of their emotional health. Difficult day? Run. Others occasionally have home or work responsibilities that can’t go to someone else to manage. Run another time. Family members have grown pretty independent. Run. Nursing an injury. Maybe not.
People can only manage a finite set of variables when a decision is on the line. If the equation becomes too complex, they’ll just toss out a bunch of the lower level variables in favor of the most important ones. We do it in all aspects of life, not just running.
I’ve started my run in many a downpour when I’m in the middle of a marathon training cycle because I need the workout. Low-level variable: discomfort. Moderate-level variable: relatively short run. High-level variable: Sticking to the training plan. On the other hand, last month, when I wasn’t training, I looked out the window upon a modest rain while on the phone with a running buddy…and I bailed. I just didn’t need the run that badly and the prospect of wet shoes made me give up, even with a definitive running partner. Now if she’d twisted my arm, the scales might have tipped enough for me to give in. But she didn’t and so I didn’t. Low-level variable: getting a workout. Moderate-level variable: An available running partner. High-level variable: discomfort. Notice how discomfort figured into both of those considerations.
A few months ago, I wrote about EPBR Tania telling her kids she was going out for ice cream. Unwilling to face the ribbing she expected from them for running yet again, she used it as an excuse to join GGR secretly for a 3-miler. Low-level variable: the time it took to squeeze in a 30-minute run. Moderate-level variable: the likelihood that her kids would figure out it didn’t take an hour to get ice cream. High-level variable: the availability of other runners. High-level variable: the need to do a few more miles.
The point is that balancing multiple variables can cause a runner to make funny decisions as some jockey for position over others.
Pay some extra attention to the decisions you face, including non-running ones, and see if you agree with me.
-CtCloser (Calvinthe), "Negative split or positive splat"
Text and photos: Calvin Wang, CC BY-NC-SA 4.0
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