Archive for Motivation

Does your running define you?

I’ve been asking myself this question for the past couple of weeks leading up to this years Comrades Marathon – which incidentally I decided not to run based on the fact that I have just not done enough training because of my injury, to have an enjoyable day – which would make the 11 or so hours it usually takes me, rather long and tiresome.

But, having made that decision I have been plagued with feelings of being left out and thoughts of ‘just trying’ although my reasons are purely valid.  My mom said it is my heart saying one thing and my brain (logic) another, which has led me to this question – Does running define me?

I don’t think I’ve been a runner for long enough to have it feel like my life however it does feel like a large part of it, and sitting on the sidelines this year I have no doubt, is going to be a battle for me.  Why do I feel like this?  I had said to myself at the end of last years run that I was done for a while with the Comrades, and wanted to focus on other things – which I have (I did the African X a few weeks ago, but that deserves a post all of its own), but then why the angst about not taking part this year.

I certainly am happy that I don’t have the nerves which seem to take over at this point, and the various aches and pains which plague runners leading up to the race.  I’m also happy that I get to spend the whole day with my dad supporting other runners from our club, including my mom!  I’m not going to miss the battle with my brain to shut out the noise from my body when  nearing the 70km mark and you really start feeling the distance on your feet and legs.

I guess if I look at what I am going to miss, it may not sound like much but I guess they all have their role to play:

  • I’ll miss running with friends and making new ones on the way (Yes Julie, I’m going to miss running with you my friend)
  • I’m going to miss the excitement and anticipation at the start, standing in a crowd of over 10 000 people, listening to Chariots of Fire with the whole day ahead of you.
  • I’m going to miss the camaraderie at 75km when you have less than 18km left and although your body is saying “I’ve had enough I’m sooo tired”, your brain and everyone around you is saying “Almost there, come on now not too much longer”.
  • I’m going to miss running into the stadium to thousands of screaming people and crossing the line with friends (That’s you Craig)
  • But I think most of all, I’m going to miss that sense of achievement and the absolute certainty in knowing, as you get that medal around your neck, that you can do ANYTHING you set your mind to.

I guess this leaves me asking – Does running define YOU?

Comrades Runners

This is that point where your friends keep you going

Everything you need is already inside…

Sometimes as a runner, motivation can become an issue – especially during the last few weeks leading up to a big race which you have been training for. It’s at times like these when I turn to other sources to help motivate me, and this is one of them…

Nike Running Advert

I’m not a technical runner, so I don’t salivate at the prospect of a gadget which will tell me all the stats of my run BUT I loved what they had to say about why we run.

Running Anniversary

On Sunday I ran the VOB Grape Run which is what I like to refer to as my ‘Running Anniversary’ race.  The Grape Run was the first half marathon I did and was basically the race which helped prove to me that, in fact, running the Comrades was achievable.

Now I know the race is just a half marathon (21.1km), compared to the 89km of the Comrades, but it was on this race that I realised the key to distance running (and  most endurance sports for that matter), is to manage your mind effectively because most of these races are won or lost in the head.

I walked away from this race thinking, was that if I could finish a 21km race after never having done more than 10km in training, then the same concept would hold true for the longer races.  As it turns out I was right, 7 months after my first Grape Run I did the Comrades marathon, my longest distance in training being a 56km training run…

Now, 4 Grape Runs later and 3 Comrades Marathons under my belt, I feel that unless you can master those voices in your head which tell you how tired you are or how your knees are aching, or overcome the belief that distance running is 100% based on your fitness – then you will always struggle, no matter how many km’s in training you do.

Happy Anniversary to my running – sometimes I hate it and sometimes I love it but above all, I have learned a great deal about myself and the extent to which the human body can be pushed!

Grape Run Views

Motivation in Endurance Activities

Last night I found myself discussing, once again, the topic of running motivation to a fellow runner.  He was telling me about his first marathon experience in Knysna and asking how you then imagine yourself running not just another 14km in the Two Oceans, but double that and then some, for the Comrades…

I have said this before and I will say it again and again – when we run a half marathon or a marathon and then think about going further  – your mind knows exactly how far you are going and so after 21km or 42km, to think about going any further once you are done, just feels impossible.  Yet, when you know you are running 56km or 89km, you get to the 21km or 42km mark and feel perfectly fine (speaking in relative terms) and keep on going.

Lewis Pugh, an endurance swimmer illustrates this perfectly in the video below and with the statement  “There is nothing more powerful than the made-up mind” – which is what I’m going to leave you with for now because it describes what I’m trying to say, perfectly.

The Psychology of Running

With the Comrades less than a week away, I have had a fair share of people asking me how I manage to run for so long (around 10 – 12 hours) and so far (89km), so I thought I’d share what goes through, or more accurately what doesn’t go through my mind during this race…

The biggest thing about being able to do endurance events is how well you are able to get into the ‘zone’ or to the point where you body is doing what it needs to do automatically, and the mind is still.  You need to stop all the doubt and frustration going through your mind because I believe this is the factor which determines whether you have a good race or not.

I have said this before and I’m going to say it again, this is just one day!  One day of pain and fear and exhaustion, but just a day, not a week or a month or a lifetime.


Before the race I try and stay as calm as possible.  It is very easy to get caught up in the mayhem at the start and it is also very common to feed off the nervous excitement and anxiety of other runners.  I try and block all of this out and focus on the fact that I am standing at the start of the oldest Ultra Marathon in the World and the fact that I am finally at the point where all my months of hard work are going to pay off.  I try and stop negative thoughts before they have even had a chance to bloom and gain momentum.  I would suggest basking in ‘Chariots of Fire’ and the fact that you have loved ones watching from all corners of the country.  It is too late at this stage to stress about the training you didn’t do, focus on what you did and trust in your power of will.

During the Race

The way I see it is that to get through the day, you have to become pretty damn good at ignoring what is going on in your head.  Your legs will be sore, your feet will be aching and there will be various other aches and pains which will occupy your mind – if you let it.  It basically becomes a battle between you and that noise in your head (mind).  My first line of defence is usually to find someone to speak to – this distracts your mind from focusing on what is sore and other negative thoughts by concentrating on someone else.  If there is nobody in sight I will put my iPod in and crank it up depending on how much my mind is protesting.

If this doesn’t work, and there is usually a couple of points in the race where you will need to step it up a notch in running your mind into submission – this is where I will try and connect with my senses which shuts the discursive mind (that part of your mind which is making a noise) right up.  A simple running through of your senses, from feeling your feet in your shoes and your clothes on your body, taste, smell and sight to hearing your heartbeat and the sound of the footfalls of runners around you.  This does wonders in reconnecting you with that part within which is capable of anything.

As you run into the stadium

You need to remember to be totally focused as you run into the stadium at the end.  You need to enjoy and remember what it is like to run into a stadium where thousands of people are shouting for you because YOU have just run 89km, you need to be with it enough to plant this memory into your brain, although I must warn you, it is usually due to this feeling at the end which makes people do this race again and again 🙂

I have a little energy exercise I also do when I’m REALLY feeling like I might lose the battle with the noise in my head, but that is for another post.

The Psychology of Running

Only 24 Days to go…

I came upon this realisation this morning while deciding whether or not to get out of my nice warm bed and head out into the cold and wet Cape Town morning for a run at the gym – unfortunately instead of spurring me into action, I just turned over and went back to sleep…

It’s not that I’m unmotivated because I have been training, more so I think than previous years.  I did a 21km near Stellenbosh 2 weeks ago and then a 56km on Sunday, both of which went very well although I still don’t think I’m anywhere near 1000km, but I can live with that.

I think many people who are doing this years Comrades Marathon are reaching the same point, its getting harder and harder to motivate yourself to get out there and its not just because of the weather.  This is normal, or at least I remember feeling like this before, where you are just sick and tired of running – or if you are not running you are thinking about running or stressing about how to fit it in.  This all forms part of the pre-Comrades stress and I wish I could tell you that it gets better… it doesn’t, actually it peaks at round about 5am on Sunday May 30th 🙂

Anyway I hope you have all sorted out your flights, accommodation, pick-up points etc – if not and you still have questions then please give me a shout and I can see what I can do for you.  Oh and Rescue Remedy really comes in handy these last few weeks, go and get yourself some!!

Say Cheese!

Running Catch-up

The past few weeks have flown by in a blur…  I was in Joburg and Pretoria for a week where I managed to take part in a 21km run with my mom and a couple of ladies from the Irene Running Club, Amanda and Thea. This run really brought back some memories from when I was younger, having grown up in Pretoria.

Last week I did another 21km for the guys at My City Running Tours – I’ll fill you in on that great run in another blog post.  On Saturday I ran with the old guys I usually run with on weekends when I’m not doing a race,  it was great to be part of the banter with people who have known me since I was a toddler.

This week I think I might have over done it because my legs feel as if they are filled to the brim with lead and I have a shooting pain in my one quad BUT, I’m heading to Thailand tomorrow where I plan on doing as much of nothing as possible, with a few runs here and there to prepare for the Two Oceans Ultra on April 3rd.  I’ll be sure to send an update on running in Paradise 🙂


Photo Credit

Comrades Marathon 2010

Everyone interested in doing the Comrades Marathon in 2010, you need to pay attention to this!!

The Comrades Association has anticipated a huge influx of entries for the 2010 race.  It also happens to be the 85th Anniversary of the marathon and is being run as a ‘down run’ which the route originally followed.

The entry process has changed somewhat from previous years – if you have entered the race before, you have the privilege of pre-entry which started on September 1st and will go until October 31st with the entries capped at 15,000.

If you are a newbie, your chance to enter starts on November 1st and continues to November 30th OR until the limit of 5,000 entries is reached.

No entries will be taken in 2010!!

All of this is why I sent my entry in on Monday 😉  Now I know I said I was going to give it a break with this kind of running for a while but what happens if I change my mind next year and then can’t enter – confined to being a spectator at the Ultimate Human Race – I think NOT!!

Get your entries in, the counter is sitting at 4,541 just 10 days into the entry process!!

Here is a little inspiration for those of you sitting on the fence

Running Stories – Being a Bus Driver

This is the third post in the ‘Running Stories’ series, you can see the others here, here.

I’d like to introduce you to Stuart Wainwright – in case you missed my Comrades Marathon Race dissection, Stuart was the guy who brought our sub-11 hour bus in.  Stuart doesn’t only limit himself to crazy races like the Comrades, but competes in the 100 mile Washie as well – “Obsessed? Maybe, but I prefer passionate” is what he said!!

How long have you been running for and what made you decide to start running?

I started running in 2004. I had been playing rugby in the UK, and decided that I was sick and tired of spending most weekends in hospital, so started looking for a new sport.

My dad and I were at gym on Saturday afternoon, and he said that he was running a 21k the next day and suggested that I joined. I agreed somewhat hesitantly… The race was sent the wrong way and turned out to be 24+kms – I nearly died and couldn’t walk for 3 days. The next weekend I ran another one.

In Dec 2004 we decided to do the Two Oceans 56km. I ran the last qualifier for the race in 4h57 (you have to run a marathon in under 5 hours to qualify), once again nearly died, and then ran the Two Oceans a month later in 6h57 (you have 7 hours), experiencing a new level of pain. The rest just fell into place.

What made you decide “I think I might do the Comrades”?

My dad grew up running comrades. He ran 17 consecutive Comrades by the age of 34, and was the youngest to get a green number (10 runs). I never really thought that I would get into running and as a 104kg rugby player, highly doubted it! Things fell into place, and before I knew it, I had to run one with my dad. I brought him back in 2007, after a 16 year break to run his 21st. Now it’s a part of me. It’s what I do. I can’t imagine a life without running.

What made you decide to become a bus driver – and why the sub-11 hour bus?

Last year I took the 12 hour bus. It was for a number of reasons. I was running the Washie 100 miler (160.9kms) in July and felt that Comrades would be the perfect long slow training run. I had also been running in the 1000km challenge and run more than 50 marathons or ultra marathons in the previous 12 months, and felt that the 12 hour bus was safe.

This year I wanted to better my Washie time, with about 15 marathons less than last year and a lot more 100 miler experience, I decided that I was capable of running (or trying to run) sub 9 at the Comrades, but then ruining my chances for the Washie OR I could take the 11 hour bus and get to the Washie with fresh legs – Hence my 10h52m time. It is the perfect training run for Washie, in timing and distance.

It takes a lot of energy to motivate other people on a race of this length, how do you prepare for that?

Honestly, I have very little preparation for motivating people. I kinda just wing it. I try to have as much fun as possible, and offer as much help as I can. Working with another pace setter makes it a lot easier though. After doing it alone for 89kms this year, I had no voice left, and my throat and ribs hurt from shouting at the top my lungs. Well worth it though.

Are there people who help you on the day, running with you and taking the flag when you need the loo?

As I mentioned, I did it alone this year. So, when I needed a widdle stop, I simply slowed the bus, and directed boys to the left, and girls to the right. It was one the funniest sights that I have ever seen on the road… 300 guys all standing shoulder to shoulder having a wee. Would have made an awesome photo!!

If push came to shove I would hand the flag to someone that had been in the bus for a long time, and then catch up with them again…

How does the Comrades compare with other endurance races?

Comrades is the greatest ultra marathon in the world, simple as that – not for its difficulty, but for the entire event. The crowds, the runners, the sheer number of participants, and the unparalleled organisation.

There are races that wouldn’t accept Comrades as a qualifier because they are so difficult. Comrades is supported the whole way by crowds and organised helpers. Other long distance races normally result in a true understanding of the phrase “the loneliness of the long distance runner”, while Comrades is never lonely.

Life is about lessons, what have you learned from running endurance races like the Comrades?

Endurance running teaches you to finish what you start, no matter how much pain, discomfort or misery you are in. It teaches you to work for your goals, and it teaches you to understand what is within reach and what is not. Everyone takes something different from Comrades and the lessons keep coming thick and fast for me. I hope that one day I can run it as an old ballie (South African slang for old guy), and still learn something new about myself.

Aside from what it teaches you about yourself, it shows you what other people are really made of. I have always said that it brings out the real person, and before I get married, I have the condition that my partner will join me on a run, of whatever distance she can handle, to bring out the real person.