What makes you run?

This isn’t a philosophical question, it’s a very practical one! How do you keep going when you are running? What motivates you to keep putting one foot in front of another? I confess I find this really difficult. Sometimes I’m off in my own thoughts and I realise that I have slowed down to a walk. My legs aren’t sore, I’m not that short of breath but something inside says ‘ok stop this running now and walk for a bit’ and I have to tell myself to start running again.

I know that some people like to tick off the minutes or the miles, but my attention span is too short for that (and it’s hard to read a watch without specs on) so what I have started to do is count my steps.

I count them in groups of eight, so one 2 3 4 5 6 7 8, two 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 etc until I get up to 20 then start again. Yes my attention span is so dismally short that I can struggle to keep running all the way up to 20!

I started doing this in ernest about a week ago. I estimated that when I got to 20 that would be a minute. Then I started trying to get to twenty for every finger on my hand, thinking that it would be 5 minutes. I was surprised by how many times I wanted to slow down or pause in that 5 minutes but the discipline of counting of setting that tiny goal,  keeps me going. Eventually I worked out that 15 fingers is, for me at my average pace, 1 mile.

What really brought this to my attention was my new sports watch. Yes I have indulged myself, but that’s another story! I have purchased a garmin forerunner 225 which has the advantages of heart rate monitoring without a chest strap, cadence, Bluetooth connectivity with devices, but best of all, get this! Colour indicators for your heart rate zone!!!!!

???? You ask. Yes it’s perfect for doddery middle aged women, now I don’t need my glasses to look at the numbers for my heart rate, I can just see what colour it is☺️.

Anyway, it does cadence also, which means that I get an output like this:


Seriously? I asked myself. Stopping to walk every minute? Stats geek that I am counted up all those red dots and calculated stops per minute for each run for the last month. Interestingly it wasn’t related to run length, pace, elevation or heart rate. Just simple concentration and will power. Sometimes I stop nearly every minute, sometimes I average 2 minutes!  I have suspected that I am the worst, slowest, laziest runner in the world and now I can see that it’s probably true! This is what happened after I started counting:


You can see where I made the effort to keep going for a mile. And do you know what? Legs were fine, lungs were fine, all in the head, well most of it, there were a couple of times where the HR nudged into the red zone and I slowed to walk.

I don’t intend to spend the rest of my life counting every step I run. However I like to think of it as a tool to motivate me to keep going, I want to keep going with it enough so that eventually it comes naturally to keep going for at least a mile! But for now counting is really good for me, it keeps me moving and gives me constant feed back to monitor progress,  3 fingers, 2 1/2 minutes, 5 fingers, third of a mile.  393 fingers, 26.2 miles 😳

Does anyone else have to work so hard to motivate themselves to run not walk?


About mawil1

Hi my name is julie and I took up running at the age of 46! Hence 'mawil' Middle Aged Woman In Lycra. I did it at first because someone asked me to do a charity run with them. I couldn't run at all, but pride wouldn't let me be seen to be unable to run so I started a walk run programme. I stuck with it and to my surprise I found that I liked it- after a couple of weeks of progress I was hooked! My blog is about my progress in running and how I fit it in with the rest of my life.
This entry was posted in cadence, fitness, garmin, habits, heartrate, hills, marathon, Motivation, positive mental attitude, running, stats geek, training plan, walking. Bookmark the permalink.

12 Responses to What makes you run?

  1. The desire to walk is a mental game for me. It is hard work to keep on running.

  2. So... says:

    Counting fingers for 26 miles would be a marathon in itself.. 🙂
    Actually, sometimes even I want to walk despite everything being okay like you just mentioned. So I start to negotiate with myself. Until that tree or that traffic signal and before I realise it I have passed that spot and continued. Another technique I use is to tell myself that even if I run slower than I walk, I will still run.

    • mawil1 says:

      I’m hoping to be past the finger counting by the time I get to the marathon! I agree about. Telling myself that my slow run is better than a fast walk. I think that like a lot of bad habits, being aware that you do it is the first step towards correcting it – I hadn’t realised that I stop as much as I do!

  3. That’s a brilliant way to keep your mind motivated and occupied!! I’m going to try it!!

  4. oscardiamond says:

    Wow! Well done in having created a system to keep you focussed on running. I don’t think there’s anything lacking in concentration if this works for you but it sounds exhausting. The non thinking person often says that running is boring and that’s why they don’t do it. The thinking person often thinks too much and gets easily distracted from the physical requirement to maintain a pace. Generally I don’t have a problem running at a consistent pace. The pace may vary according to how I feel and the consistency is usually there but I don’t have any technology to prove it. I’m often highly amused by my own thoughts and not infrequently, I’ve heard people comment “Look… there goes that crazed, laughing runner who insists on dressing like a banana. Best keep clear!” or something along those lines. Do you believe me?

    • mawil1 says:

      Don’t know why but I believe it all apart from the banana bit, and even then I’m willing to give it consideration! I wouldn’t be surprised to hear that you ran dressed as a banana once! I suppose the numbers thing is a bit of a personal choice, a bit like counting time when playing music. When it’s new you have to concentrate and count, but when you get better you think about expression instead. I’m sure that reciting poetry would work just as well if your inclination is language rather than numbers.!

  5. shazruns says:

    Somewhere I read that Paula Radcliffe counts to 100, I tried this once and kept loosing track like you, my attention span is short,! I tried times tables once but found my usual pathetic mathematical ability gets worse when I run and I struggled with the basics! Good luck with those mind games.

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