Kat Pagano is an accomplished collegiate runner that has a passion for running that has carried her far. She is currently teaching at EKU’s Dept. of Exercise & Sport Science and is a coach for the Madison Central Cross Country and Track teams. I am extremely excited that Kat has agreed to share some of her knowledge and insights here with us.
Finding Your Personal Motivation
The Power of both External and Internal Drive
This is the armpit of the training season! Welcome! And don’t be afraid of the stench. No doubt about it, this is the hardest part of the year to; 1. Stay motivated, and 2. Lace up those Brooks and face the war zone of cold outside. So what is it that keeps us motivated?
Is it external? A new tune on the IPod, new pair of shoes, or a friend dragging us out the door kicking and screaming. Or is it internal? You have the everlasting fire burning inside of you, nothing can take your focus off of the prize; spring time weather, getting into rip roaring shape, winning your age group in a 5k, and best of all, getting a new PR!
Most of us would probably say that we have little of both external and internal motivation. Which one seems worthy of more admiration though? Probably the latter of the two! Not needing external incentives to run is much easier right? Sure is! That’s because we don’t need a REASON to run, we just do it. But do we do it with zest, vitality, and moxie? Not always. That’s where external motivation can be VITAL to staying in the one foot in front of the other game.
During my junior year in college, I came face to face (literally) with the greatest external motivation of my career. We don’t truly recognize how powerful and influential external motivation can be until we experience a low point in our running. This low point came at the worst of times; during the Ohio Valley Conference Outdoor Track and Field Championships (2009).
I was solidly ranked to win both the 10,000m and 5,000m run, no questions asked from my competition. The 10,000m was the first day of the two day championship meet. The gun goes off, and the only thing on my mind is the win. Low and behold though, she-who-shall-not-be-named, starts pushing the pace at mile 2. I hold on for four laps, but she’s got that super seniority and a cross country championship title over me (or at least that was my excuse at the time). She takes the race at 3 miles, I eat the dust of her pink Nike spikes, and then have to finish the remaining 12 laps knowing that 2ed place wasn’t where I was supposed to be. Facing my coach after the race was going to be another can of worms to boot. Worst of all, I have to face this speed demon the very next day in the 5,000m run. Least to say, I needed a SAVING GRACE.
The next day turned out to be cold and dreary, just like my spirits after a restless night of tossing and turning over my defeat in the 10k. Nevertheless, I started slowly warming up for the 5,000m in double layers of sweat pants and jackets. My shins were throbbing from the 24 lap race the previous day. I had to run though, I had to get through this day. As I trudged and dragged my deathly slow warm-up pace into the women’s locker room at the Tennessee Tech football stadium, I started walking. As I got into the guts of the locker room, I noticed a chair in the corner. I went over, sat down, slouched, and put my head in my hands, feeling like I couldn’t withstand the possible outcome of my next race. After a few minutes of feeling sorry myself, I looked up, and this is what I saw…
How ironic! There was nothing left to contemplate. My brooding ceased. I made up my mind that no matter the outcome of the race, I wasn’t going to walk off the track without giving my competition the most brutal, and relentless race of their lives. I walked out of the locker room with new found inspiration. I stripped off my layers, laced up my red Brooks, and took my spot in lane #1 for the start of the race.
The external motivation that I gained from reading this quote, enabled me to win my 3rd Ohio Valley Conference title. I can’t tell you what it was, I can only tell you what it felt like, and that feeling was something close to euphoria. It wasn’t the win as much as the comeback from the loss that made this my most memorable victory.
So, whether you are internally or externally motivated, remember to always look for new and refreshing ways to stay motivated. Whether that’s hitting YouTube for some inspirational videos or downloading some new songs, whatever it takes to push you just…one…more…mile in your run can be the deciding factor in your personal sense of achievement. At the end of the day, the personal satisfaction that you gain from running will either enable, or inhibit your motivation. So stay motivate my friends!