At every event it seems that you will eventually hit a wall. It is that moment where your energy is at its lowest, your legs are yelling at you, that one toe really hurts, a muscle you didn’t know you had is cramping and/or your mind is just telling you that your body is done and you really can’t take another step. Then you look up and see a hill/obstacle/milemarker and realize how far you have yet to go.
How do you push past the barriers?
What makes you go on when the going is toughest?
Digging deep on your own well of confidence, courage and stubbornness helps. For me, getting angry also helps — the course, myself, that guy up ahead who is making mile 9 look so damn easy…
Anger is a good motivator but even better: purpose.
The one thing I have found that can really get me through those toughest of times — especially while running and just getting one foot to go down in front of the other — is remembering why I’m there. What am I running for?
My own health or my own training doesn’t do it. Not even the promise of beer will do it sometimes. When my body is screaming “stop,” anything internal usually doesn’t work. What I need in those hardest of moments is something bigger than myself to push me forward.
I need a cause.
Thankfully, there are many, many, many to chose from.
Recently, Jen and I ran the Dublin Rock and Roll Half. It was a great race though my time was not at all where I wanted it to be. I remind myself that it was a stretch for where I was/am in my Marathon Training and just completing it is what is most important.
I pushed myself to do it and pushed myself through the course because I was also doing 13.1miles for the Run for a million.
I was constantly aware I had that extra bib number on my backside.
It was a reminder of those who have suffered so much more than sore muscles and a few blisters yet continue to fight on. Along the course I chatted with a number of others who had shirts or other identifiers that they were similarly running for something bigger than themselves.
It gave an easy entry into conversation to help pass a few meters. One New York woman in particular and I shared a few grim laughs over the fact that we were struggling. We had made similar deals with ourselves about walking the uphills — but we were continuing because we were part of a greater effort.
We had support and incentive, both on the course and virtually, that kept us going.
Behold the power of community centered around a cause.
Even though race brain makes me forget her name, I won’t forget the supportive conversation we shared nor the smile she had for her fellow teammates on the course. Not only does supporting a cause give us motivation and encouragement — a little energy boost — but it provides a community and net of support to help push us past our own perceived limits.
Giving gives back
I’m running the MCM, my first marathon, as part of the Semper Fi Fund team and honestly the social accountability and encouragement is the only thing keeping me plausibly on my training regimen. I know Jen had a similar experience when she was training for the NYC Marathon with the Alzheimer’s Association.
Excercise and events can be so much about ourselves: our bodies, our times, our struggles. That is all well and good but it has it’s limits. Finding something bigger than ourselves to give to, gives us the motivation and encouragement to go beyond what we are capable of alone.
So here is the moral of the story: find your external cause.
Sure, you can look for a big goal-event across the world but it can totally be just signing up for that 5K that supports an association, foundation or charity that you like. Put the event on your cal and sign up!
Don’t have funds? Volunteer! I got the motivation to sign up for my first half marathon by being a course volunteer for that same race the previous year.
Google it. I’m sure there is something near you can put your efforts behind — either as a participant or supporter.
Do it now.
The cause you support will likely benefit you more than what you feel you put into it.
What cause do you support and how has it helped you athletically? What race or event with charitable roots are you training for?