8.25 on the treadmill and 2 miles on the stair master this morning. After, I gave my immune system a boost by exposing myself to the mold in the 24 Hour Fitness shower.
While running today I thought a lot about lack of motivation and burnout in running and I came to a few conclusions. I re-read parts of last year's article in Outside Magazine on burnout among top ultra-runners and I just got to thinking...
1. Basing your running around marathons and ultra-marathons is a recipe for burnout. This is especially true for "destination races" like Boston, New York, Western States etc. In the short term it might seem like just the opposite is true as running the Boston Marathon is so much more exciting for most people than, say, the South Jordan Marathon. However, my experience is that these races become all-consuming of your time, energy, and thought processes for weeks and months prior to the race. The expense and prestige of running such races might also force you to adopt a rigid 16 to 24 week training plan that you feel like you have to conform to. After a while your life becomes hostage to "the race" and "the plan". Runners are also more likely to get injured when they commit to running such races months in advance. They are also more likely to run them anyway if they get injured because they have invested so much time and money.
2. If your goal is to race marathons and ultra-marathons and not just finish, you will probably only last a handful of years in this sport. Especially if you insist on doing more than one or two a year. It's better to train to race a quality 5k than it is to slog through a marathon with a goal of finishing. The fitness that comes from racing 5k's is better for you in the long run as well.
3. Basing all your family vacation plans around your running and racing plans is NOT sustainable. You may have a spouse who is a good sport and claims to enjoy this but they probably don't. After a while you will sense this and feel guilty. Racing on vacation is great but it should be incidental to the vacation and you should stick to shorter races.
4. If you want running and racing to be a meaningful part of your life for many years it has to be sustainable. My advice is to focus more on process goals. Adopt the mantra "the process is the goal". Don't adopt a rigid annual race schedule that you feel compelled for some reason to stick to. Make training and fitness your goal and think of how to organically fit it into your life. Accept the fact that there will be an ebb and flow to your racing fitness throughout the year depending on what else is going on. If you have a great stretch of traing and everything is clicking, start looking for a race to do the next weekend. Make it a 5k or 10k or a shorter trail race - there's no need to go to the physical and mental well every time you race for hours on end.
5. It's important to push yourself and stretch your limits and this involves going outside your comfort zone. However I would say that if you have more than one run a week where your attitude is "I have to run" rather than "I want to run", you are headed for burnout.
6. Know the difference between building your body up and tearing it down.