Thursday, October 13, 2011

What type of runner are you?

Not long after I laced up my first pair of running shoes did I realize I needed something to get me out running.  I needed something to make me still go run if it was cold and rainy or if it was 100 and humid.  Over the past few weeks as I have been getting back into running after my bike accident, I have really spent some time thinking about why I run, which lead me to this post.  Without generalizing too much, and without stereotyping, I have come up with a few groups that tend to define what motivates us to run.

*Disclaimer* While this is article is written from the running perspective, I see it holding true in the triathlon realm as well.  Over time, I have met people that fall into each of these three categories, some even find themselves in multiple categories.

To Runners:
This group of runners has a purpose, often motivated by a goal.  When I started running, I set a goal to run a marathon.  Every run had purpose, to get me more prepared for that goal.  Everyone in this group has a different threshold for motivation.  For me, running to stay in shape was not enough to keep me motivated.  For some people, setting a goal to run their first 5k is what it takes to drive them to consistently put in the time to accomplish that goal.  From my experience, this as one of the largest categories, and I believe that the increasing numbers each year seen at races are a direct result of this mentality.

-          Distance (5k, Half Marathon, Marathon, Ironman, Ultra, etc)
-          Time for a distance (Sub 30-Minute 5k, 5 hour marathon, etc)
-          Weightloss (10 pounds by summer, back to pre-pregnancy weight,…)
-          Placing or Podium (Top of Age Group, Overall winner, finishing ahead of someone you know)

Every time someone hits a goal, they have to re-evaluate, even if subconsciously.  Is the motivation to continue training there now that I have passed this event?  Well for some, the answer is a clear yes due to missing a goal.  They may bounce back and try to reach their goal again, but some get discouraged if they do not make the mark.  Some hit the goal, are completely satisfied and stop activities afterwards, never making another goal to pursue.  
Finally, there is the section that sees what their work has done, and looks for the next challenge. 
This group shows a progression from a 5k, to a half marathon, to a full marathon.  Always building distance or setting a faster time to pursue.  It may be competition or it may be the sense of accomplishment that drives them, but they have a burning feeling inside to explore their limits.

From Runners:
This group of runners may or may not admit or even know they are in this group.  They are often running from something… We all have skeletons in our closet, and some people use it as motivation to run.  Some of the common things people run from:

-          Addictions (Drug, alcohol, etc)
-          Issues at home
-          Obesity
-          The past – Anything that they want to get far away from (Turning a new leaf)
-          Stress

While many of the above are fairly self-explanatory, they are commonly related in the fact that it is something that is causing a void and needs to be filled.  The one that sticks out for me in this group is stress.  While it does not necessarily leave a void, it can be a catalyst to other issues.  Some may say people run TO relieve stress, but I categorize it in the FROM category, because of the downstream impacts if the stress is not dealt with.

There are no shortages of stories of people at rock bottom who see a commercial, magazine, someone running, or some other trigger that makes them do a re-evaluation of their current situation and want to make a drastic change.  These people have something they want to get away from quickly.  While running is not the “fastest” way to get away (sure you could drive), it sure gives a physical feeling to “running away from your problems or heading in the other direction”

I have heard a number of stories from people who may not necessarily be classified as an addict, but had many bad habits.  Once they started running, they realized that the two did not play nicely together, and something had to go.  Hopefully it was the activity that hindered running.  In no way I am I saying you cannot enjoy a beer and running both, but to go out drinking many nights a week and still run is somewhat counterproductive depending on your goals. 

For Runners:
This is a group of people who run for something.  Often it is a cause (Think Breast Cancer 5ks, ALS races, and other like events) but not limited to a specific race.  Sure there are people who do events to raise money for a specific cause, but there are also others who dedicate their training to one cause.  I have done 5ks for a number of causes, and the MS150 bike ride, so my “for” events are spread out.  Some people choose to do events to raise money across multiple events for one cause.  While these examples are often an extreme event, such as running across the US, or something that seems completely unattainable, it pushes the person to do the unattainable because they are thinking about the good that will be done for their “for.”  In no way am I saying you have to run across the US to be in this category, simply setting a goal to raise money for a cause, regardless of the event distance puts you in this category.

This is a group that I think many people revisit throughout their running “career.”  These events can grow to be very large, and serve as a great way for people to get involved and contribute to a cause.  It may spark interest in future events.  While some people will stick with the FOR cause, many do continue to run for other reasons, and then someday circle back to being a FOR runner when they no longer to keep setting goals, and want to still have purpose in their running. 

Regardless of the type of runner you may be, do what drives you.  Whatever it takes to keep you motivated, keep with it.  If you start losing motivation, look at how you could change your attitude or outlook on running, it can provide a much different perspective.  Although races are filling up at record rates as more people get involved, remember you are in a small percentage of people who are out and doing something, regardless of your reasons.  Find what works for you, and keep going!


Di Tri-ing October 13, 2011 at 7:18 PM  

I'm definitely a TO runner...right now training for my first 26.2 in January. Then, my first 1/2 ironman. Then, my first Xterra. 2012 is going to be a year of "firsts" for me.

It's exciting to think about how I am going to evaluate the next goals after I've completed these around this time next year.

Glad to hear you are on the mend from your accident!

Jeff - DangleTheCarrot October 14, 2011 at 3:09 PM  

Good to hear you are back at it after the crash!

TO Runner here ... can tell you have been running a lot because you probably thought of this while running.

Anonymous October 15, 2011 at 1:17 PM  

Most days I am a To Runner, many days I am a From Runner, some days I am a For Runner. I guess that constant mix is what keeps me running. Great post, although I am not sure how you read my mind...

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