Good Form Will Carry You Through®

What Kind of a Runner Are You?

By on 07/24/2013 in Running

What Kind of a Runner Are You?

What Kind of a Runner Are You?

In running, as in other things, we need to locate the inner meaning and enjoyment of a task. While training for a marathon, we should ask: “What kind of runner am I?”

Running a half or a full marathon is physically challenging, to be sure.  Through training and on race day, we runners discover that long distance running brings a psychological challenge as well.  In fact, it may seem long distance running is 90% physical and 90% mental. I recently gave a talk to a roomful of runners about the psychology of running a marathon (or a half marathon). Some of the topics I covered included:

  • Identifying the type of runner you are.
  • The signs on overtraining and how to correct them.
  • The psychology of training and racing.
  • Recognizing and handling “The Stopping Wish.”
  • Understanding what motivates you while you are racing and in training.

I’d like to explore one certain aspect of the psychology of running a marathon, namely trying to come to grips with those factors that motivate you while you are going through the weeks and weeks of training it takes for a marathon.

In running, as in other things, we need to locate the inner meaning and enjoyment of a task. While training for a marathon, we should ask: “What kind of runner am I?”

What makes us go to training? What makes us return to training? How do I measure a successful workout? Psychological research has shown distinct patterns of human thought and personality traits. These can be broadly described as internal and external.

Internal versus External

Internal motivation is when an athlete’s performance is based on enjoyment of competition, excitement or the desire to learn and improve; when participation in a sport is pleasurable. Internal motivation often exhibits itself in task-mastery orientation (running a personal best in a race or improving intervals in training).  Taken to an extreme, this runner likes to practice, but does poorly in races, searching for the ‘perfect’ race.

External motivation is when an athlete’s performance/motivation comes from awards or the approval of others. External motivation often exhibits itself in ego orientation (motivated by social comparison, e.g., how many others they beat in the race).  Taken to the extreme, this runner does not feel her performance was ‘good’ unless she wins the race and sets a course record.

Inherently, neither is good or bad, but helps to understand what drives us to perform better.  And each of us falls somewhere between the two extremes in our motivation.  We want to take what we learn on our training runs and our races into the next race.  And even if we do not win the race outright, we can measure success by improved performance.  Balancing these two elements leads us to better race dat performance.

Do you have a team that would like to explore the psychology of running a marathon, or training for any task that seems like a marathon? I would love to speak with your group. Some of the motivational talks I have given include “Running for a Cause: Benefits of Partnerships between Races and Charities” and “Good Form Will Carry You Through.” You can go to my news page and scroll to the bottom to see a list of my speaking engagements. Please contact me if your organization if you’d like me to speak to your running clinic, business or organization.

 

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