Motivation to Run: Find Your Why

Motivation to Run: Find Your Why

Updated: Mar 26, 2024Kalle Kortelainen
Photo & text: Chief Athlete Lara Hamilton
Finding motivation to run can be difficult, even for high-level athletes. It is important to find your ‘why’ to running. This isn’t necessarily set in stone, as goals can most definitely shift and change - and they should! Whether you want to get fit, spend some more time outside instead of in the gym, test your limits physically and mentally, or join the running community for the social aspect - there are many reasons people decide to start running, and get hooked on it. 
My personal ‘why’ is the meditative and self-challenge aspect of running. When I go running on trails or in the foothills near where I live, I feel like it’s a little momentary break from the business and hustle of the town below. Sunrise or sunset runs are particularly meditative, as there is a calming effect of being in nature during the golden hours of the day.  

If we take a moment to consider ultramarathon runners, who essentially run through the night, and often different extremities of weather- how do they do it? Better question, why do they do it?

Most of them will respond with something along the lines of, ‘I want to test the limits physically and mentally of my body’, or they could be doing it for someone. At the end of the renowned Tor Des Geants ultramarathon race ( km), Stephanie Case, an ultrarunner herself, mentioned that, “the look they have in their eyes….you can’t get that look from anything else.” (Trail Runner Magazine Issue 139/2020). 

How do I motivate myself to run? 

It’s all too easy to buy a pair of new running shoes, get a kit together - but how do you motivate yourself to get out the door consistently? 

For competitive runners, we lace up whether it’s rain, hail or shine. Sometimes it is simply about ‘getting it done’. What makes it a bit easier is having team-mates, or a training partner to run a couple runs with. If you’re fit enough, you could even have a bluetooth phone call whilst you run (I’m notorious for doing this when I’m bored). 

Here’s my list of top running motivators:

  • Sign up for a race, or a virtual race

What drives most runners is the notion of training for a particular event. Whilst we are in the middle of a pandemic in-person races are few and far between, however there are plenty of virtual races or personal challenges you can get amongst on Strava

If you join The Chief Athletes Club, you’ll be able to participate in monthly running challenges like run your fastest 5km, or run 100km in a month.

  • Listen to Music or podcasts

Listening to some new music (sometimes I prep a new playlist for a run, if I know it might be a bit tedious to get out the door that day), or finding a podcast you enjoy can make a run go by faster. Another bonus, you’ll learn some new things. I listen to The Big Ass Trail Runner Podcast, and often find myself laughing audibly on runs!

  • Positive Self Talk

There’s no denying that running is a tough workout - the difference as to whether you finish a run or race can be your mind and thoughts.

Believe it or not, we do actually have control over our thoughts. 

Take a minute to let a thought come to you. You can choose whether you accept this thought as truth, and act on it, or, you can let it pass by and move on. Not all thoughts are helpful - so we pick and choose. I like to say, treat yourself like you’d treat a best friend. Cheer yourself on. It can simply be, ‘one step at a time up this hill. You’re doing great, keep going.’ 

It sounds corny, but you can also create self-mantras. I personally tested out a few that work for me, so I recommend finding some that work for you. It can be as simple as an affirmation. Mine is along the lines of, ‘you’ve trained for this, you are ready.

  • Learn to Meditate Whilst Running

My favourite way to incorporate meditation into running is to be observant of the surroundings, and quite literally ‘get lost’ and ‘get curious’ in them. Whether its the different rocks or bark on the trees around you, a bird above, not knowing what is around the next corner of a trial….there are many ways to incorporate elements of mindfulness in on a run.

  • Go with a friend

The difference running with a friend, teammate or training partner is phenomenal. Often you get so caught up chatting, that the run flys by in no time! You can hold each other accountable and keep each other motivated.

  • Joining a Run Club

This personally really helped me over the summer living in a different country, whilst collegiate athletics was not practicing. I attended a speed session and a long run once a week. The club offers various paces and lots of smiling, very friendly people who share similar interests. It can give you something to look forward to each week, especially on the social side of running.

  • Have a warm coffee or favourite food waiting at home/cafe

There’s nothing like a warm cup of coffee or tea if you’ve been out on a cold run, or a fresh beverage after a hot run. Whilst this isn’t the best long term incentive, sometimes it can be the difference as to whether you get out the door or not. 

I strongly recommended refuelling within 30 minutes of finishing a run for best recovery. Have you tried Chief Collagen Bars? They are low sugar, protein packed and full of healthy fasts to keep you full for longer. It’ll also curb those sugar cravings. 


What to do when things get tough towards the end of a run

The end of the run can be the hardest for many people. If we begin a run too fast, we can die out a little at the end. On the other hand, if we are pushing the limits (pace, time, distance, surface), the last part of a run can seem harder. 

I recommend some of the following tactics to get you through the final push. 

  • Self-Talk

I discussed this briefly earlier in the article, but at this point in the run it holds more importance than ever. I guarantee you’ll feel better for going the distance and finishing what you initially set out to do - so do your best to keep going. If this means you need to cool the pace slightly, do so! It isn’t a race. 

  • The “run to the next tree” tactic

I personally use this one, if I’m struggling a whole lot. It is particularly useful for faster pace runs in a structured run training program, called ‘tempo runs’ or ‘threshold runs’. Pick a thing or spot to run to, and get to that point, and repeat the process. Most often or not, you’ll forget you are doing it, and continue on running farther than you thought you could previously. 

  • Tune into a Running Motivation app

I recommend the Nike Run Club App. You can set up your runs to run with guidance from Eliud Kipchoge, Shalane Flanagan, or even run with the ‘Headspace’ meditation app -  (it will track your stats for you too!)

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