I have always hated to run. I distinctly remember being in high school with our gym teacher Ms. Banta screaming at us as we were forced to endure four laps around the high school track. "Faster, faster, come ON!" was what hit my ears as I gasped and panted and sweat and hated every single second. Running was horrible.
Once I made it through gym class and high school and out into the big world, I managed to avoid running through my 20s, 30s and 40s. I did get plenty of exercise, but it was from aerobics and other cardiovascular classes, hiking, swimming and biking. I would not run.
Then in 2010, the year I turned 50, my oldest son was playing with the idea of going into the military and he needed to get in shape. Not only that, he needed to start running since all branches of the military have running requirements. But he wasn't one to work out alone and he needed someone to go with him. So I volunteered. As much as I hated to run, I was willing to do it to help him. Isn't that one of the biggest motivators of all time? The desire to help our children be all that they can be?
So off we went to the trail and the first time was horrible for both of us. I think I made it a quarter mile (if that) before I ground to a stop and strolled the rest of the way. My son was in the same boat as me. But two days later, I said, "OK, let's go!" He was not interested. Believe me, I had no desire to run either, but instead of taking the day off, I thought, "Heyyyyy, if I go and keep going, then when he joins me, his mother will kick his butt and no kid will put up with that and he will be really motivated to do better!!!" So I went alone. And I continued going regularly. It was a month or two before he joined me, and I did do better than him, but it didn't motivate him. In fact, it motivated him to stop jogging and walk when he saw a pretty girl and start a conversation with her about, "Oh, can you believe I can't even keep up with my mother?"
I still disliked jogging, but it was something I could do for free, so my motivation became free exercise. I could just throw on a pair of sneakers and get moving. So over the past five years, with some big breaks when I broke my ankle and recuperated, I've continued to do my half-hearted style of running. I run, then walk, then run, then walk. In the last year or two, though, I have found myself pushing myself more. I was doing two miles regularly and then one day my stepson told me that if I took a different route, I could do a four-mile loop. I thought to myself, "Geez, I can't run four miles!" but the seed had been planted in my mind and I kept thinking about it. A month or so later when I was feeling particularly energetic, I tried the four mile loop and I definitely could do it. My regular route is now four-miles on several different loops, and if I only do two I feel like a slug. Recently, I was bored by the route and decided to try a six-mile loop and I've added that to my repertoire as well.
Much to my surprise, about a month ago, I was running along thinking of all sorts of things when I realized I wasn't breathing heavy at all. And then I also recognized that I kind of liked it. I felt great when I was done. I still do a run, speed walk, run process but now my motivation is to improve the percentage of the route I run with the ultimate goal of running the 6 miles straight.
But the big 'ah ha' came last week at my annual checkup. The doctor was checking my vitals and listened to my heart and asked me, "Hey, are you a runner?" and I said, "Um, yes, I run, why?" and he said, "You have a runner's heart." And I grinned. I thought to myself that what I've seen as half-assed running has obviously made a difference in my physical shape and this makes me even more motivated to improve. I don't want to lose that runner's heart!
So where does motivation come from? If there is something we desire to do, the world can provide the catalysts needed to do it. Doctor's comments, stepson's suggestions or a son's needs are all external drivers that can help motivate us. But motivation doesn't really come from outside; it comes from within. My desire to be a better parent, a healthier adult and a faster runner, as well as my need to constantly improve myself are what are fueling my determination to continue in this sport I used to hate. So when we desire to change something in our life, all the motivation we need is right there within us; we just need to recognize it.