Time Isn’t Everything. Your Attitude Is.

Staying motivated when a PR might not be possible

Last updated on December 17th, 2021

We all have different reasons for running. Whatever those reasons, our diverse experiences have led us to enjoy this form of exercise. For some of us–perhaps a lot of us–there is some burning sense of competition at our core, and this may be the primary ingredient in our motivation. Maybe it’s an innate desire to improve ourselves, to improve our time, or to improve our feeling of well-being.

That desire to improve has probably led to many positive outcomes in our careers, families and life in general. However, that same desire to improve can be a difficult thing to manage as we grow older, especially with regards to running. As we intellectually know, once we get to “middle age” and beyond, it’s difficult to improve at many things, especially anything having to do with athleticism.

We understand that our bodies will slow down, it will be tougher to run, it will take longer to recuperate, and old injuries may crop up unexpectedly. As we age, how we handle that knowledge becomes vital when trying to assess our enjoyment of running. It can be difficult to react to that knowledge in a healthy way.

Here are some tips or ideas to consider. First of all, we need to let go of the timing device dictating our satisfaction level with a particular workout or a race. That can take some effort, as we still want to time our workouts and races. Timing is fine, but we need to stop letting that time determine how happy we are with ourselves or with a particular run.

Photo: Yaniv Knobel

As you age, you may notice that you have more inexplicable bad days of running. A customary 6-mile run goes dramatically worse than it did a mere two weeks ago, and there’s no discernible reason you can find. A half marathon time may be 12 minutes slower on what seemed to be an easier course than just 6 months ago, and you thought you were faster than that. [Editor’s note: We touch on this phenomenon in our Runner’s Glossary. See “Good body day/bad body day.”]

Try this: Whenever someone asks about your latest run, force yourself to reply in some sort of positive manner. There is something positive in every run. It might be surrounding hills or the perfect temperature or watching the sun rise or a pleasant conversation with another runner. Do not lead with your time and some variation of “it wasn’t as fast as I wanted.”  

As we age, it will never be as fast as we wanted!

Here’s my best advice on the subject: Find the positive in every run and let yourself be happy and content in your achievement. Then, share that positivity with others.