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Motivation Is Not Real: Run Without It

Written By George Callahan

May 28, 2018

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To an outsider, the ultra marathon community appears to lean on motivation. To the outside world, motivation drives an ultra marathon runner to explore possibility, their own iron wills, and the limits of their bodies.

Ultra marathon motivation…

Stand at any aid station during an ultra marathon, or any endurance race, and you’ll hear all about ‘motivation’ as the day turns to night, and the night drags on.

“I’m motivated.”

“Where can I find motivation?”

“You need some motivation!”

“What motivates you?”

Motivation has locked its grip not only on ultra marathon and trail running communities, but fitness, entrepreneurship, education, and every other success-driven group.

For example, thousands of Instagram accounts sport a ‘motivated lifestyle;’ this message also plagues the walls of fitness centers. T-shirts sport ‘motivation’ like an oath of loyalty to a culture of common men and women.

Motivation doesn’t just envelop the world of ultrarunning, it’s everywhere.

The motivational Instagram accounts, the quotes slapped on gym walls, the shirts pledging a life of dependence, each lack depth. Each lack thought and align with culture, a complacent and mediocre culture of people who need a stimulus to act.

Motivation Is Not Real.

The Drug Of Action

People lean on motivation and use it to prop up action. Everywhere people use the drug of action to fake commitment to wellness and success. You seek motivation to conquer a great challenge, to run an ultra marathon; your search is in vain.

In other words, you’re faking it.

You don’t mean it; you don’t really want it.

Ask yourself: “When do I get ‘motivated’? Where do I use ‘motivation?’”

Think about it.

A pump-up song sends chills down his spine; they run all the way to his feet. Consequently, his feet are laced into running shoes and he’s off down a Wicked Trail. He has fantasies of physique and delusions of toughness. The pump-up song echoes in his head over and over again. It is a vibrant reminder of his fantasies and delusions, those he chases with pride. As the trail winds, the song grows faint. The morning grows hot and the sun beats down; soon, there is no pump-up song at all. His footfalls echo, now, and he can’t mask the discomfort with electric bass and inspirational lyrics. As a result, all he can hear is the voice. “Stop. Quit. You’ve done enough. This is far enough. You’ve had enough.”

He stops running. Just to catch his breath.

The sun bakes the air around him.

The runner can’t draw on the distant sound of his pump-up song, the one that seemed so relatable and actionable in his air conditioned home. Therefore, he looks at his watch, grasping at mental stimulus, or perhaps a way out.

The pump-up song pushed him out the door, but he can’t hear it anymore. He only hears the voice, the voice that started planting excuses in his head earlier in the run.

“It’s getting late.” He does a brief stretch and grimaces. “Didn’t feel that before.”

“I’ll walk from here. I should take it easy for tomorrow’s strength session anyway.”

This quit, this retreat from discomfort, is rooted in motivation. In other words, our dependence on motivation is why we quit.

The heat of the day, aches and pains, time restrictions: discomforts meant to harden the mind. Discomforts are turned into excuses by those unable to draw on beliefs, values, and goals. The next training session will lean harder on the addiction of motivation, and the realization of its folly will remain shrouded in the fog of Culture.

Discomforts will continue to become burdens and excuses; quitting is easy to justify.

As a result, the folly of motivation will remain shrouded in the fog of Culture, of complacency and mediocrity.

“Why can’t I get past this?”

“I want to be that.”

“Why can’t I do more?”

“I want to do this.”

“Where can I get more motivation…”

Ultra Marathon Motivation: Motivation Is Not Real

Delusions

Motivation is a moment of decision aimed toward goal fulfillment driven by an environmental factor. Exhilarating music, an excellent quote, a motivational speech straight out of Braveheart: the heart speeds up, sweat forms on the brow, and visions of excellence flash through the mind.

Delusions.

These motivations won’t last into mile 80 of an ultra marathon, or any challenge that rises up along the Wicked Trail.

Excellence, or goal fulfillment, is never achieved by a motivated mind because a true goal, rooted in value and belief, will take from you what you didn’t know you had. It will devastate you, it will require patience, it will seem years, or many miles, away.

Your pump-up song will eventually fade in the pursuit of a true goal, in the pursuit of excellence.

If your excellence is merely a delusion, you’ll look for more ultra marathon motivation, mountain-conquering motivation, and stay addicted.

At mile 80 of your first 100 mile race, three years in a struggling business, or one year into a challenging career, motivation will not carry your forward. This is why so many people fail to meet goals and participate in the cancerous retreat from discomfort.

Culture is addicted to motivation.

The word is thrown around and abused.

Motivation sits in the back of the room and waits to be invited in. Exhilarating music, an excellent quote, a motivational speech straight out of Braveheart. Motivation sees his chance, his chance at relevance.

Where is he on cold dark mornings and late at night, when the rains pour down? Where is he when the knee aches, the feet hurt, and the head pounds?

Not with you. Not on the Wicked Trail.

Ultra Marathon Motivation: Motivation Is Not Real

Action driven by motivation is an explosion. It flashes and burns bright but lacks a sustainable fuel source. As a result, it lasts but a short while. You feel the intensity of the heat and see it stifled with discomfort.

Action driven by a firmly rooted “WHY?” is a forest fire. No one sees where it begins, in the early morning hours. It matters not where it begins. It consumes. A forest fire burns bright and wide, completely engulfing its surroundings. In other words, this action is relentless.

Let your drive be that of “WHY?” Leave motivation behind. Don’t acknowledge him. Don’t invite him in.

Let motivation sit in the corner.

In short, say it out loud: “Motivation Is Not Real.”

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