- "I can't do this."
- "I'm running out of gas.
- "I'm losing ground on the person in front of me."
- "I need something - anything - to get me through this."
- "How am I ever going to finish?"
1) Personal struggle or tragedy. It's amazing the strength we are able to summon when we think about family or friends who have gone through struggles, dark times, or even illnesses. Pulling strength from those who may be fighting their own physical battle can be just the motivation needed to dig deep and endure.
Similarly, if we remember a time in our own lives when things were bleak, we instantly recall the physical and mental fortitude required to pull through those trials, and somehow the mid-race struggles just don't seem as challenging.
2) The drive to win. Period. We all race for different reasons. For some, just simply crossing the finish line is a long term goal following months, or even years, of training. Others might enjoy the comaraderie and company of friends that is overwhelmingly present among the obstacle racing community.
There is also, of course, those seeking victory, or even redemption. The drive to be first. To stand on the podium. To hear the applause when your name is called. For competitive racers, this is enough to refocus when the doubts start to surface. Breaking up the remaining course in to small, achievable goals is a tactic that helps keep me pushing.
If I'm in podium contention, my focus is to run my race, stay confident through each obstacle, and keep the front runners in my sights. If I can see someone in front of me, my goal becomes to pass them. If I do, I look for the next person, and so on. If I happen to be in the front, I know I need to keep pushing. I envision my finish and that makes me smile. And don't we all run faster when we're smiling?
3) Mantras. For many, there comes a time in a race when the inner voice keeps us motivated. Maybe it's a particular line from a song (think Rocky soundtrack, Linkin Park, Metallica) or the motivational quote you memorized and recited before every race since you were in high school.
Some racers say the repetition of their cadence leads to mantras running through their heads. "One foot in front of the other." "You're almost there." "Keep pushing. Keep pushing." I often find myself saying - out loud - "C'mom, you got this. This is YOUR race. Don't let up." When I know what (or who, if anyone) is in front of me, but not what is behind me, the internal voice is critical in maintaining focus and concentration.
4) For fun and gratitude. The "stop and smell the roses" of the racing world. During a particular grueling OCR event a few years ago, I found myself on the peak of a mountain on the verge of tears. Broken, exhausted, angry, and far from any step on the podium, I stopped.
It was at that very moment that I looked out and experienced one of the most breathtaking views I'd ever seen. From that race forward, I am sure to, even if only for a split second, take in the view. I never want to take for granted the privilege of being able to race in new and amazing places that I might otherwise never have the opportunity to see.
So what drives you?
Perhaps you can relate to some of these strategies. Maybe you have your own way of pushing through the pain. Or maybe the medal and banana at the finish line are really all the motivation you need...