Running Motivation – How To Kick-Start Your Enthusiasm

Do you need some inspiration or practical tips to get you running?

We’ve all suffered from waning motivation, slumps, or a general lack of interest at some stage.

It’s easy to rationalise to yourself some reasons to skip your run and stay on the sofa.

In times like these, it’s helpful to have some goals and systems in place.

Let’s look at some techniques (I don’t want to use the word “hacks”) and habit-forming actions you can take to ensure you get out the door.

Let’s start with my no.1 piece of running advice . . .

Sign Up For A Race

Do you need to kick-start your running training?   Finding it easy to skip the evening run in place of Netflix?

By far the easiest way to over-ride your lazy streak is to sign up for a race.

That external commitment you make when you sign up for a race is one which will compel you to get race-ready in time.   It will be the deciding factor on those cold evenings when it’s easy to

It can be hard to get yourself out of this rut when you get fed up of the routine – this is when it’s time to mix things up and give yourself a goal to work towards.  The best way to create some of that internal motivation is to sign up for a race today.

Getting Started

So how do you approach finding your next race?  Let’s explore…

Set Exciting Goals…

In his book, ‘The Magic Of Thinking Big’, David Schwartz makes the argument that nobody gets excited by mediocre, or mid-range, goals.  It’s only when you ‘shoot for the moon’ and aim for something that will stretch yourself that people get excited – and will more importantly boost your own internal motivation.

In running terms, this means you might want to look for something that is a new challenge for you – this could be running a longer distance than you’ve achieved before, setting a new PB or trying a different and new race format. Trails, team events, Tough Mudders, stage races, triathlons – there’s so many different race formats out there, you’ve got no excuse for just repeating the same old 10km you did last year.  Get creative and be adventurous when setting your goals.

…But Be Realistic

The flipside to ‘thinking big’ is of course being realistic when you set your goals – there’s a fine line between pushing yourself within your physical limits and becoming overly ambitious.  If you bite off more than you can chew when you pick a race, then your training will gradually become more frustrating as you don’t meet your targets, and your motivation will crash and burn, leaving you less interested in running than ever!

In other words, be realistic and choose an event that you feel you could realistically achieve with a dedicated training programme.  And schedule in plenty of time for preparation, both physical and mental – at least six months is a good length of time to improve your fitness, and instill the good habits you’ll naturally make part of your routine as you prepare for your event.

The Global Limits Cambodia Race finish line at Ankor Wat – one of the world’s foremost UNESCO heritage sites

Pick An Event With An Interesting Edge

Another tip for keeping yourself excited about your upcoming event is to make sure you choose an interesting one.  Nowadays there are enough events that have a weird spin on them that they become much more of an experience than just ‘going for a run’.  Many races now take you to parts of the world that the public are not normally allowed in – the 4 Deserts Namibia race, or the Run The Rann race in Gujarat, India being examples we’ve recently featured here.  In the USA and the UK, there’s a wealth of races that take in the most scenic parts of the countryside and coastlines.  Then there’s the crazy events like the Rock ‘n’ Roll Marathon series, Bay to Breakers in San Francisco and of course the Barkley Marathon.  The list is endless, get online and search out something appealing…

Use Running As A Reason To Travel

Many distance runners note this as the single best thing about having running as part of their lifestyle – they get to use a race as a good excuse to visit someplace new or exotic.  Running an event in a new country gives you a different perspective – you will likely see the country from a different angle than if you visited it on a touring holiday, and you’ll instantly have a good story and a reason to interact with the locals.  It’s also a fantastic way to get a break away with friends.  And  it’s easier to justify a long weekend in New York, or a week in the Caribbean, say, if you are going to be taking part in a running race while you’re there.  Use it as an excuse to see all those places you’ve looked at on the map, but never had quite a good enough reason to visit – until now.

See The World When You Travel To Run
See The World When You Travel To Run

Use A Training Plan

OK so you’ve signed up for your event, and your enthusiasm is sky high at the moment.  Now is the time to lock down a training schedule – sit down and think about what is going to be required over the next few months in terms of commitment, and draw out a training plan.  Channel some of that enthusiasm onto paper, and then you’ve removed the ‘decision fatigue’ element from your training period – rather than waking up and deciding if you are going to train that day, and what you are going to do, you’ve already got it all laid out on your own customised training plan.

See our Training Plan advice and examples →

Tell Your Friends About The Event

There’s a lot written about whether it is actually  a good idea to tell people when you set yourself a new goal – some feel that by sharing a goal before you’ve actually achieved it, you gain some of the ‘feel-good’ factor associated with completing the goal, and this makes you less inclined to really finish.

However, when it comes to running-related goals and working towards completing an event, telling everyone and anyone who will listen can work well – make sure the people around you are aware you’re training for something new and ambitious.   This puts a small, but hopefully not-too-uncomfortable, amount of social pressure on you to stick to your training plan and follow through with the event.  Posting on social media and setting up a charity fund-raising page are other tools you can use to share your goal with others.  Friends will start to ask you how your training went at the weekend, or comment on how you look fitter – all of which feeds back and motivates you to keep on-task.


Consciously Develop New Habits

In the bestseller ‘The Power Of Habit’, Charles Duhigg explains how changing your habits vastly influences your lifestyle and wellbeing.  An external goal such as a running event six months away gives you all the reasons you need to make small but significant changes to your lifestyle, which can have compound effects on the rest of your life.

For example, as part of your training, you might decide to do one good hour of exercise (running or cross-training) every day.  Not only does this serve as excellent preparation for your event, but this establishes a new habit in your lifestyle that has far reaching effects – the regular exercise will make you fitter, happier (thanks, endorphins) and maybe lose some excess weight.

And the opportunity-cost of an hour’s worth of exercise is almost always positive – in other words, what else would you have done with that hour?  Sat at a desk?  The feel-good buzz left over after your exercise will carry through the rest of your day too.

So the habits you establish when training for a big event can carry through after the event, having far-reaching benefits long after you’ve collected your finisher’s medal.

Then what are you waiting for?  Sign up for an event today!

Thomas Watson

Thomas Watson

Thomas Watson is an ultra-runner, UESCA-certified running coach, and the founder of His work has been featured in Runner's World,, MapMyRun, and many other running publications. He likes running interesting races and good beer. More at his bio.

2 thoughts on “Running Motivation – How To Kick-Start Your Enthusiasm”

  1. Dear Tom, we met at Run the Rann but inquire where we can get info on stage races that are 2 or 3 days in length.. slightly less daunting.thank you
    more like Run the Rann..


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