Where’s that kid going?
Is someone chasing him?
He must be in some kinda trouble.
Long before there were fitness centers, long before there were local road races, and long before there were name-brand running shoes, there was my father. My dad started running when he was about 10 years old, in the mid-‘40s. He would run to and from school, on the weekends, and whenever the opportunity presented itself. He would run all over his Brooklyn neighborhood—on the sidewalks, in the streets, across the boardwalk into Brighton and Coney Island, through the parks, and along the beaches.
Unlike today where we see runners outside all the time, in dad’s day and in his neighborhood, no one ran. Well, for pleasure or fitness that is. Many people who would see him running, including his own father, never fully understood why he did it, nor how he got himself out there every day. No one else in his family ran—in fact, his dad, mother, and sister were all heavy smokers and he grew up breathing second-hand smoke.
Back in those early days, dad did not run with anyone. He had no role models. Running groups? What were those? They didn’t exist, at least none that he knew of. Aside from his years on his high school’s track team, dad never trained for any races or competitions of any sort. A 5K? A 10K? There was no such thing.
That was okay, since none of that mattered to him. He didn’t really need any person or race to motivate him. He was self-motivated.
While I’ve been motivated in my running by others, when it really comes down to it, I’m my own motivator. We all are. My running friends aren’t with me every time I go for a run. The treadmill at my gym won’t come to my house and escort me over to it. I don’t get a wake-up call from my running group to show up there every Saturday morning. The only person who’s going to make sure I’m prepared to run 26.2 miles at a decent pace on the day of the marathon is me. If I’m not prepared, I can only blame myself. If I cheat or take shortcuts in my training, the only one who will pay the consequences is me.
How does one become self-motivated? Well, you really have to believe in yourself and truly love what you’re doing. Self-motivation must come from a place deep inside you—and it goes way beyond wanting to do well at a competition. In fact, when I run, I’m rarely thinking about the marathon or even about any upcoming race. Instead, I’m fully in the moment, thinking about how good running makes me feel. I’m thinking about how much fun I’m having and how I want it to last forever. When I cross the finish line on May 5th, while my training plan will be over, my running plan is really only just beginning.
My dad, at 78 years old, is still running. He still gets up early, dresses for the weather, and runs all over his Brooklyn neighborhood— on the sidewalks, in the streets, across the boardwalk into Brighton and Coney Island, through the parks, and along the beaches. If you should see him out there, ask him where he’s going and why. Ask him how long HIS running plan is for. Whatever he tells you, I can only hope my plan will last that long, too.