Training Tips: How and Where to Find Running Inspiration

by Karl Gruber

If you are looking for inspiration and motivation to train for and sign up for your first full or half-marathon, look no further than a man considered one of Canada’s greatest national heroes, Terry Fox. He ran his “Marathon of Hope” across most of Canada in 1980, on one healthy leg and on a low-tech prosthesis, to help find a cure for cancer.

I get pretty emotional when I remember how Terry’s incredible story inspired and motivated me to run 52 marathons in 52 weeks in 1996 and 1997. One day, I happened to read a story on this young runner from Winnipeg, Canada, who had lost his right leg to cancer at the age of 18. After a long recovery and getting fit with a prosthetic leg, Terry decided he could make a real difference in the battle against cancer. 

In 1980, he decided to run all the way across Canada to raise money and awareness for a cure for cancer. For 3,339 miles, Canada’s eastern most city on the Atlantic coast, he ran through six provinces for 143 days – running close to a marathon a day, all on only one good leg. While he started all by himself with only one friend in tow and no recognition at all, Terry’s fame grew and the notoriety of his “Marathon of Hope” earned huge national media coverage across all of Canada. 

Terry’s cancer unfortunately recurred during his run, forcing him to end his marathon near Thunder Bay, Ontario, almost two-thirds of the way across Canada. And sadly, Terry later died one month short of his 23rd birthday on June 28, 1981. Still, he left a lasting legacy. His “Marathon of Hope” ended up raising over $24 million for cancer research, and HBO went on to make a feature movie about him and his trans-Canada run.

While Terry Fox is perhaps the ultimate inspiration for any runner – healthy or physically challenged – it should be noted that it isn’t necessary for you to find inspiration to train for your first full or half-marathon from such an amazing running feat. Inspiration comes in many forms! Over my years of running, I have been inspired and motivated by a  running partner going through a nasty divorce, overcoming a recent knee surgery, or simply kicking butt and taking names in an older age group. 

Isn’t it funny how you can feel like one of your daily training runs is one of the toughest runs of your life, but when another runner comes by, gives you a huge smile and an enthusiastic “Nice job! You look great,” all of a sudden your energy level spikes upward and your mind blares “OK, maybe I really can do this!”

Dr. Tim Noakes points out one of the easiest and best ways to find inspiration and motivation - joining a local running group, or at the very least, hooking up with one or two buddies to run with on a regular basis. In his encyclopedic running classic Lore of Running, he notes that you first need to analyze your levels of motivation and personal discipline when it comes to running. 

“At least at the beginning, running is neither easy nor enjoyable. You need great motivation and personal discipline to survive the first three months before running becomes a habit controlled by the subconscious. The result is that many beginners, who possibly see only the glamour of marathon running and are unaware of the demands of the sport, soon fall to the wayside. Realize your weaknesses, and get others to help and support you. In particular, you should plan to run in a group of people who meet regularly and who will assist in motivating you.”

Don’t be surprised when or where motivation to run and train comes from! Personally, I have found inspiration to run from times of high stress, frustration and anger – unlikely companions of inspiration you may say. However, as you may soon find out, running is one of the best relievers of negative energy and experiences. It literally motivates you to get out the door and blast away those bad moments. I can guarantee you that you will be feeling much better by the run’s end. As I said, inspiration to run can come from the most unlikely of sources, so run with it while you can.

If you’ve already joined a local running group and signed up for your first half-marathon but are still looking for the inspiration to get out there day after day, week after week, I suggest you complete the process that I call Clarity Through Contrast. On the left side of a sheet of paper, list four to five reasons you aren’t inspired or motivated to run and race, such as:

  • “I really just don’t like getting all sweaty and feeling sore.”
  • “Running is boring.”
  • “There’s just no way I can run 13.1 miles! It’s too far.”
  • “I am just too out of shape to run.”

Once you’ve written out your contrast statements, move to the right side of the paper and write out the reasons you believe that you really can successfully run your first half-marathon, such as:

  • “You know, I really don’t mind getting sweaty and a bit sore, because I know I am gradually becoming more fit and becoming a better runner!”
  • “I really do like to run, and I am now enjoying each and every time I lace up my running shoes!”
  • “I really can run 13.1 miles! I know I can do it!”
  • “I am now getting more and more in shape with every run!”

Once you have completed your clarity statements, go back over to the other side of the paper and cross out your contrast statements. By doing so, this literally obliterates the contrast you thought! Now go back over to your clarity statements and read them aloud, over and over. Place them in a highly visible place such as your bathroom mirror and repeat them out loud every time you see them to keep them ingrained in your brain. This process is a great method of finding motivation and inspiration within yourself, which can then be boosted with outside sources of inspiration such as Terry Fox.

Next time you are out on a run and not feeling so great, remember the inspiring words of Terry Fox, “I want to try the impossible to show it can be done!”

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