Perhaps the single most important factor in the training programme of any runner is motivation. Regardless of your natural ability and whatever standard you are, chances are if you aren’t motivated you won’t succeed in achieving your goal.
So what is it that motivates people? For some it a record of some sort, even if a personal one, or it might be raising money for a charity or finishing an event at a distance you’ve never done before.
I’ve detailed below some of the reasons why I stayed motivated during 18 months of training and the 99 days of the marathons themselves, that played a major role in helping me complete a personal goal in 1999.
Set your target
Devise a realistic training program with timescales that are achievable. Start with the race date and work back to the level you are at now. You should never feel under pressure at the outset. If you are falling behind when time progresses it will be because you aren’t spending enough time training not because your target was initially out of your reach.
Tell as many people as you can about your ambition
Talk to you local newspaper and radio station, or if it’s a really ambitious project contact the national media. The more people you tell the better. If at any stage your resolve begins to weaken just imagine how difficult and embarrassing it will to telling everyone you’ve had to give up!
Run for a charity
There should be no better motivator than knowing that you are helping someone’s quality of life through your running. Talk to big businesses rather than your friends and relatives to raise funds. Businesses can get good PR from a charity donation but tend to nominate one or two each year that they support, so be flexible in who you raise funds for.
I had an overall charity fund target rather than being too concerned about a target for a specific charity. If you do get support from a business do whatever you can to support them with publicity as a way of thanking them. If you begin to feel down at any point during your training, get some images from some of your charities so you can remember who you are supporting. There is nothing better than pictures of people who are far worse off than you are to get you motivated. These people are dependent on you, don’t let them down.
Keep a training log
When I first started running with my goal in mind, I began to keep a record of every bit of training I did, not just the running but every time I went to the gym as well. Each time you make an entry in the log you can see how you’re progressing and you know you’re one step closer. If you miss a couple of days the log can make you feel guilty and you can become even more determined as a result!
Vary your training programme
I run a number of different routes mainly because it’s so easy to become bored, especially when you’re training very regularly. It’s also important to cross-train. This was very important to me and helped keep me going especially in the middle of winter! Set yourself personal best targets on the stepper, bike or rowing machine and try to keep beating them.
Challenge the climate and beat it
There will be many days when you open the front door and think you can’t face the wind, rain, snow or maybe extreme heat, but you can. Think of the weather conditions as another adversary trying to prevent you from reaching your goal. Every time you let it win you go a step backwards. It’s a great feeling when you get home from a run in bad conditions; it’s great for morale!
Whatever your running ambitions you can achieve them if you start out with a sensible training programme which includes regular progress points. Stay focused but be balanced and don’t let it get in the way of the rest of your life, like your family. Don’t alienate them; you will be dependent on their support.