How My Motivation for Running Has Changed Over the Years

I started thinking about this some time back when I was listening to a podcast and they were talking about how their motivation for athletic activities they do has changed over the years. For example, one person was talking about their motivation for doing triathlons and the other person was talking about their motivation for running. When I started running what I would call in a more regular way in my late 20’s (I phrase it this way because prior to this point I would just run whenever and wherever with no real plan or intention and no races), my motivation was simply for the sheer joy of running, truthfully.

I didn’t need to lose weight or get healthier nor did a friend talk me into running with them. In fact, my boyfriend at the time was motivated by me to run and we would often run together. He ended up doing a sprint triathlon but shortly after that he ran less and less. His heart just wasn’t in it and it was obvious he was just doing it to spend time with me but he had no real motivation to run.

No longer with a running partner, I ran by myself and eventually trained for and ran my first 5k and gradually built up to a half marathon then eventually I ran a marathon. I enjoyed the solitude of being alone with nature and I liked how I felt after a run- accomplished and satisfied. My motivation to continue to run eventually became seeking out more half marathons. It was about more than just running the race, however; all of those training miles became my new normal and a part of who I was.

One thing that helps with motivating me to run is having beautiful places like this to run

Many years ago after I had run a half marathon in several states and I made the decision to run a half marathon in every state, that became my goal and my motivation. Never once did I doubt if I could make it happen. I knew I would eventually get there, no matter how long it took me.

It was definitely always about the journey for me and just enjoying myself along the way. I always made it a priority to spend at least several days in a state, usually more, preferably after the race and take in as much as I possibly could. With only a couple of rare exceptions did I not care for a place I visited. Some places were just OK, as well, but the majority of places I went to far exceeded any expectations I might have had.

Speaking of expectations, one thing I’ve learned over the years but still have to work on is to have zero expectations. This can be about a place I’m going to, about a race, about a person, or about anything coming up in my life. I’m a realist and optimist by nature so it doesn’t work for me to have really low expectations for a place or person but I’ve found if I go into something with no expectations at all, that usually works out well for me. But back to my original topic.

Now that I’ve finished my quest to run a half marathon in all 50 states, my motivation has once again changed. After my final race in November 2021, I was asked by many people, “What’s your next big goal? A marathon in all 50 states?” or other similar questions. I always just laughed and said, “No. For now I’m just soaking it all in and trying to enjoy the moment.”

After my half marathon in November 2021, I needed a break from running so I took two weeks off from running completely and only went on walks and hikes. Historically when I was still in the midst of my 50 states quest I would almost always take two weeks off from running after a half marathon to let my body heal completely so that wasn’t unusual for me. What has been unusual is for the first time in a couple of decades, I don’t have a half marathon in sight and I’m perfectly OK with that.

I’ve found myself going back to my roots, if you will, when I ran for the sheer joy of running. There is zero pressure for me to find another race to train for, at least in the near future. I had signed up for a local race in February that would have involved something entirely different for me but it was made into a virtual race with the option to defer to 2023, which I did. I ran the Cherry Blossom 10-Mile Run in Washington, D.C. in April, (Cherry Blossom 10 Mile Run) and loved it. For now, I’m just seeing what races seem interesting and going with that.

What’s your motivation to run/cycle/hike/swim/multi-sport/other? Has it changed over the years?

Happy running!


Author: runningtotravel

I'm a long distance runner with a goal of running a half marathon in all 50 states in the US, which I completed in 2021. I also love to travel so I travel to other places when I'm not running races. Half the fun is planning where I'm going to go next!

11 thoughts on “How My Motivation for Running Has Changed Over the Years”

  1. The pandemic put my goal of running a half in every state on hold. Even when I started, I was already over 50 & my husband worked a demanding job with a lot of travel, actually. So I always knew when I started that I may or may not finish.

    I haven’t given up on that goal, but I’m a realist too! I was not even quite half finished.

    There’s absolutely something to be said for just running & I’m enjoying that.

    I also like to take a complete break from running a few times a year. I think it’s really good for us,,physically & mentally!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. That’s the great thing about the goal of running a half in every state- it’s all about the journey, so it’s a great experience no matter how many states you run.
      Agreed about taking a break for both the physical and mental components.

      Liked by 1 person

  2. Definitely has changed.
    It’s always been social… a way to connect with new and old friends.
    At first… only 5ks and where I live i could run 30 a year!
    After my first half marathon, my goal changed to run all distances.
    and I enjoyed halfs because I felt more satisfaction than with a 5k and I was motivated to run longer on the weekends.
    No big goals but race fun races and plan ones when I on vacation.
    As I got older, I realized that I should run at least one full and I did.
    Not sure if another one will happen… maybe.
    I struggle with a goal to get faster or at least maintain my current pace. I want to just run for fun….

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Connecting with friends is a nice perk to running. When I began I wasn’t a social runner but that’s changed for me over the years and now I love my running group.
      Maintaining current pace or getting faster is tough and I think it only gets harder. It’s possible but it takes more effort than when you’re younger. Maybe the reward is greater though.


  3. It’s so interesting how our running evolves over time. I ran my first half and full marathons in 2007 and pretty much ran at least one full marathon and several halves every year thereafter until 2019. 2019 is when I completed the 6 world marathon majors. Also in there I dabbled in sprint triathlon, because this non-swimmer wanted to overcome her fear of open water. Since crossing that finish line in London though, I have no desire to race anymore. I still run 3-4 times a week, but it’s almost always on trails now, because that’s what brings me the most joy. People always ask me what’s next, and there really isn’t anything at this point. I love my trials and coaching others.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I think you answered your “What’s next?” question in your statement- coaching others and enjoying trail running. That certainly seems like a wonderful next step to me in your running journey.


    1. I say, whatever works. If it’s donuts that get you moving, then so be it. Nothing wrong with that. Speaking of donuts, you should come here and run the Krispy Kreme Challenge! But then you do have to run after eating a dozen donuts.

      Liked by 1 person

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