Other people can cheer, encourage, teach, and admonish. They can provide accountability – someone to report to so that you feel obligated to follow through on a plan to run something specific. Life is a team sport, and having people like this on your team is a wonderful thing.
Ultimately, however, there is only one person that can keep you engaged, motivated and challenged in your running: you.
Only you have the power to stand up and run. Nobody, no matter how important or how persuasive they may be, can make you get up and go run. Only you have that power.
Many people are aware of this power and choose to exercise this authority by continuing to sit on a couch. Some are even proud of these movements when they override the encouragement of a concerned loved one or friend.
You are different. You have chosen to be a runner. It defines you. Simultaneously, you define it. You define what it means to be a runner. You define the standard to which you hold yourself accountable.
Sharing Your Authority
If you are smart, you share your authority with others. You invite them to a place a accountability over you and your running by telling them what and when you will run. You give them a lot more authority when you make an appointment to meet and run with them. You may even place someone in authority over you, in the position of coach. You never really give up your power completely. You always have the choice of saying no. Still, you create a world of positive social pressure and it helps you stay consistent. You are smart.
Support Versus Pressure
You must be careful about this authority sharing. There is a point where positive support steps over the line and becomes negative pressure. If you are afraid of disappointing someone with your performance, you have crossed a dangerous line. This can suck the joy out of your running. If running is not a joyous thing, then you are doing it wrong.
Key Idea: Support becomes pressure at the moment that it focuses on performance rather than effort.
If you are feeling pressure to perform at a particular level, ask yourself why.
If it is coming from yourself, then you need to decide to give yourself a break. Refocus your attention on the level of effort that you are giving. Set realistic goals and make allowances for weather and other things that are beyond your control. Make your goals about giving a high level of effort rather than about specific paces, times, or places.
If the pressure to perform is coming from others, tell them about it. Thank them for caring and ask them to refocus their energy on encouraging you in your quest to give a high level of effort rather than specific paces, times, or places.
Practicing What I Preach
Personally, this transition has been a challenge for me. I have done a lot of hard and fast pace-oriented goals and seen a lot of disappointment, even though I was making great progress. I was creating stress and negative feelings and it was entirely unnecessary. Great effort should be rewarded. Progress of any kind needs to be celebrated. I have missed opportunities for joy. That is a crime perpetrated against myself.
I have finally figured out how to strike a balance. I still like to set pie-in-the-sky goals, but I realize that they will sometimes go unmet. I have started to learn how to become satisfied with a great effort towards those goals. I have enough stress in my life without creating more. Running is about joy. It also involves struggle and achievement. The greatest achievement, however, is being proud of what you have done and who you are becoming.
Running always gives more than it takes. If you have any negative emotions towards your running, take a close look at your goals & expectations. If you feel pressure from others, let them know. If they love you, they will support your effort. If you love yourself, you will reward your effort. Together with your friends, you can return to stoking the fires of desire for running. There is joy in running. Let it flow!!!
“Train hard, race easy, & enjoy the run!” — P. Mark Taylor