Menifee Mom: Sometimes, Motivation is All it Takes

By Karen Thomas

I'll admit, my running schedule this summer has been a bit erratic. The heat alone is enough to destroy any motivation that might have actually gotten me out the door. And, despite good intentions, a busy summer schedule often overrides even the best laid plans for a good morning run.

But what is really frustrating for anyone who is a runner is finding out how quickly you lose the level of fitness you worked so hard to attain.

So now that my kids are back in school and back in soccer, I am working on getting back into my regular running routine. One of my scheduling strategies as a busy mom is to fit in runs during my older kids' practices. I'll run laps around their park or head out into the nearby neighborhoods to try out some new routes.

Last week I did just that and was determined to fit in my weekly "long run" during a long practice. The problem was, the weather was particularly hot and I was zapped after a long week.

I was well into my run, feeling just wiped out, and trying to get into my music when the monotone announcer from my "Runmeter" app interrupts the singing in my head. I hear: "Two.. point.. zero miles." (The pace is something I'd rather not share!)

If I didn't know better, I'd swear she was mocking me from inside my phone. I had been hoping that maybe I had just missed some previous announcements and that I was a lot further in my run, but no such luck.

As a runner who had only weeks before been running 10 miles easily, this was not what I wanted to hear. I'm hot, I'm tired, my feet hurt, and I just want to quit. I figure I could chalk it up to a bad diet and hot weather, finish at three miles, and try again next week.

But for some reason I keep going. I guess it is my stubbornness and my knowing that if I stop, I'll regret it. My pace continues to be anything but stellar, but at least I'm still covering distance.
At about mile 6, another runner crosses the street in front of me. She's moving pretty good. Immediately, I go into race mode and all I can think about is that I've got to keep up with her. I find that I can match her pace, but then I want more. Now, I want to pass!

Suddenly, I'm in my rhythm. I am focusing on my breathing, my stride, and now ... my competition. Soon I'm close enough that I think I'll break out and pass, and she speeds up. It's as if she is competing too! I respond by increasing my speed, telling myself that surely she is still early in her run and if I wasn't on mile 7, I would not feel like I'm about to die keeping up with her.

But I press on. I gain on her, and she takes off. I catch up, and she's gone again. Finally, we reach a traffic light and I break the ice with, "So, how many miles today?"

She responds, "Oh, I just finished my 12th."

And with that, my bubble bursts.

I sheepishly tell her I'm at 7. I'm hoping she has no idea that I've been racing her the last mile! The walking man comes on and we continue, but each going our separate ways. I've still got one more mile to go, but I soon realize I'm not nearly as tired as I was back at mile 2. In fact, I'm feeling rather energized.

My announcer friend (yes, she's my friend again) comes back on and I learn that I've just run the fastest mile I've had all summer! That little friendly "competition" was just what I needed to get me past the defeating messages in my head and just RUN. It feels amazing.

I guess it is human nature to feel defeated and slow down when the going gets rough. I would never have thought that a perfect stranger would have been the one to pull me out of a rut.

I'm wondering how else in my life I can apply this strategy. Always competing against others will ultimately cause issues, and I'm certainly not advocating that. But if we can look for ways to turn our weak moments into opportunities to prove that we can push harder, then surely we'll find those mountains a little easier to climb.

Karen Thomas is a stay at home mom of four daughters, has been on the PTA board at her kids' school for four years, and is a volunteer at her church, in addition to her activities as a volunteer soccer referee, a piano teacher, and a runner. Her column will appear here every Thursday. Comments are welcome.


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