The Keys to Running: Staying Motivated

There’s been a common theme recently at The Jerd about goals and motivation. I encourage you to read these posts:

So let’s explore how to stay motivated as it applies to running.

What’s the Big Deal?  Just go do it.

Running MotivationEasier said than done.  Distance running in particular can be either an exhilarating rush, or a mind-numbingly boring exercise in drudgery.  It’s important to have *something* that motivates you through a 5K, 10K or longer workout.  In my case my preferred 5K course is literally right outside my doorstep.  I run this course at least twice a week, and have been for a few years now.  I know every hill, every side street, and every street light.  You’d think I’d be a little bored with it by now.  Here are some things that motivate me to keep going.


When it comes to distance running, goal setting can be really simple.  Usually there are two metrics people care about – how far did you run, and how fast did you run?   These sorts of goals can be short term, long term, or both.  For example, a short term goal could be to add on another quarter mile or half mile to your run, or to take 15 seconds off your 5K time.  Longer term goals could be to simply participate in a 5K, or move on from a 5K to a 10K, or knock a full minute off your 5K time.   Setting a lot of small goals and achieving them can help you attain your longer-term goals.


Getting any sort of feedback will motivate you to keep at it. Participating in a group or running with someone can provide continuous motivation to continue (see below).  For the technology-oriented isolated nerds out there, you can get your feedback immediately during your run from your iPod or iPhone.  Spoken feedback, even something as mundane as “Halfway point. Two point five kilometers to go” can do wonders for motivating you to keep going or even to pick up your pace.  Hearing acclaimed marathoner Paula Radcliffe congratulate you on “your longest workout yet!” can be a welcome affirmation.


Running with a friend or in a group is another great way to motivate yourself.  It’s a lot easier to convince yourself to skip a run or a workout than it is to tell someone else you are not going to make it.  There are a lot of running clubs out there that organize regular group runs.  I can almost guarantee you that the local specialty shoe store holds weekly or monthly group running events for all levels of difficulty.   During an actual 10K or longer race, see if there is a “pace” person.  This is an individual who will run at a set, specific pace, for example: the 9-minute mile pace.  Runners of similar ability will cluster around the pace setters, providing you with others to run with, and the reassurance that you can do it.


This may not technically be a motivator, maybe more of a coping mechanism.  Anything that can distract me from the repetition of putting one foot in front of the other can help.  Specifically, music is the most helpful thing that will take my mind off of the long miles.  What you listen to is of course, up to you.  Some people prefer fast tempo, high beats per minute (BPM) music to help set their pace, and others prefer the distraction of a spoken word podcast or audio book.  Regardless of what you listen to, be sure to keep the volume at a level where you are still fully aware of your surroundings.  Distraction is great – to a point.

Tracking your Run

This might be the most motivational thing that I do. I use Nike Plus to track all of my running workouts. I track the distance and time of each run, and upload it to the Nike Plus web site.  It provides the gratification of seeing what my workout looked like, such as where did I speed up or slow down, the distance covered, the average pace, and calories burned.  I am not recommending Nike Plus over other services such as MapMyRun or RunKeeper, it was the service I picked when I started a few years back and haven’t had a reason to switch.  I *love* the fact that I can say with authority that I have run over 1800 miles in the past few years.  That is encouragement.

We have only begun to scratch the surface on discussing what motivates you.  We will be taking a closer look at the topics here in future articles.   What motivates you?  How do you get through a long workout, and still end up looking forward to the next one?  Leave an answer in the comments!


Brian Kehs

About the Author: Brian Kehs is a husband, father of two, a runner, and a manager in IT. In addition to running, Brian is an avid Star Wars fan boy who thinks Neil Gaiman’s Sandman may be the best literature out there. He regularly run 5Ks, 10Ks, 10-milers and half marathons. In his free time he coaches an elementary school running club.

1 reply

Leave a Reply

Want to join the discussion?
Feel free to contribute!

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *