Sunday, November 20, 2011

The ‘M’ Factor

It can be a magical word, taboo and unspoken, or loud and in your face.  Perhaps catalyzed by coffee, sweets, a can of FRS or Red Bull, certainly it takes the right amount of energy, but there’s more to it than that.

Sooner or later somebody says something about it, implies you have a lot of it, says what they’d do if they, too, had it. 

Oops, yep, it’s, Motivation, with a capital M

“You must be really motivated to run a marathon.”
“I’d run, if I had motivation like you.” 
“What motivates you to run [so much]?”  (To me, this seems a foreign question and I have have a hard time answering.)
“Do you run with a group?  No?  How do you find the motivation to get out there?” (I actually ran with CARA this summer, but generally run solo.)

Of course, this can be applied to any other activity besides running.  And there are other twists and similar connotations, but generally these statements all mean the same thing: you must possess some characteristic they don’t.  And who knows, maybe that’s true.  Or, maybe it’s just small talk, chit-chat.

Why do we get up and run in the morning?  What makes us keep running even though we are not chasing anything or being chased?  For most of us, it’s not for fame or fortune.  Quite often it’s not even for fun. 

There are plenty of dark, cold wintry mornings (even if it’s only autumn) where I struggle the good fight to lift my head off the pillow and begin what seems at that moment an agonizing process.  When you wake with a chill and know it won’t get any warmer exercising outside in the cold wind for an hour or more, or you’ve stayed up an hour or two later than you should have, and sleep seems like salvation, is it the rare quality of motivation that spurs you to rise?  What you do in that moment is what counts.  Is making the transition from content to driven only possible by a small fraction of the population?

As winter takes over our land, just as there are fewer people doing things outside, there are fewer and fewer runners running outside.  My running friends disappear.  Have they lost their motivation? 

We all have our passions, and maybe that’s where the real magic is.  I’m not regularly driven to go to the gym for yoga or weights, and I don’t yearn to stand in long lines outside stores at midnight in the name of savings.  For others, motivation and ambition come into play at work.  But we don’t have to run; we do have to earn a living.  So, is the driving force that gets us out running a result of some unique and curious wiring upstairs, or is it purely basic (but often forgotten) human nature to be active and mobile and galloping along in groups or even alone?

Every so often, I lose the battle and sleep in.  Once in a while, the motivation is not there and I skip a run.  Just like everybody else.  Maybe motivation is magic.  Like everyone, I want to increase my motivation – or at least hang on to the little I’ve got.  The marathon, even a 10K, is a long race if you’re not motivated to finish it.  Is motivation desire, or decision?

Maybe motivation is simply a more consumable word for responsibility or a more acceptable and tangible word for human spirit.  It’s overtly apparent, yet completely invisible: if you want something, you find a way.  If you want to run faster, you have to run faster.  If you want to run far, you have to run far.  If you want to workout at dawn, you have to get up, early.  If you want to eat less, you have to eat less.  If you want to run a marathon, you have to start training for a marathon.  Nobody else is going to make you do these things (my wife would be thrilled if I never run another marathon), and it’s never easy.  I think there's no real secret sauce, there is just doing and not doing.  That’s the simple beauty and the curse of it.  The sauce is making the decision to do it.  The sauce is persevering: you must make the decision, and then continue making it.

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