Tuesday, September 20, 2005


tree on Granville Island Sept. 16, 2005

Why is it really hard to find the motivation to do something that’s clearly beneficial but requires a little effort, but once you’ve got that desire finally nailed, there seems to be a very fine line between motivation and obsession? Entering my first half marathon gave me the motivation I needed to continue running. It was more than the prospect of not embarrassing myself during the race, collapsing on the kerb and crying, looking like Paula Radcliffe in a funhouse mirror. It was also because once I’d started training I became addicted to the endorphins, the image of myself as this lean, hardened animal, prowling the suburban jungle and – let’s face it – the discipline. Even the pain after a long run had its benefits, especially for the masochistic doppelganger I try and keep hidden under the bed.

I decided after the race that if I could run 21.1 km in 2:09 my first time out on a hilly course with irregular training, then I could easily do a sub 2:00 with the right training and time invested. About six weeks before the race I was right on target when I started to feel some numbness down my leg. But the slut on my shoulder offering me a martini and cigarette must’ve been on holiday that day because all I could hear was the moustachioed gym teacher on the other, her grating voice hollering at me to quit being such a pathetic wimp. By this time I could taste that faster race and I wasn’t going to let a little “stiffness” get in my way. I continued to train, it hurt more, and I had to cut back, much to my increasing irritation. On race day there was even more pain than I had expected and I only managed to do another 2:09. It was the beginning of summer and I decided that all I needed was a rest from running and took six weeks off. From here on in the story gets predictable: more training, more pain, a slower half marathon in the fall, more pain, physiotherapy, Pilates, more pain, complete rest, begin again.

A beautiful early fall day today, almost two years later -- perfect for a run on the nature trails near my house. While I was out there, still suffering from chronic piriformis syndrome (where the piriformis muscle in your derriere pinches the sciatic nerve), I began to realise how ephemeral that state of perfect motivation is. It can be desperately difficult to get to that point, but once there how do you avoid destroying it with your own success? (And who do I ask?) Now I run because I’d rather run with a little pain than not at all. Yes -- another metaphor for life.


Blogger The Whippy Curly Tails said...

Wow, great story. I once ran in 10Ks. No way now. You run for all of us. Take care of yourself! A great inspiration.

Have i said I love your new blog name...must change blogroll for you. =^..^=

Love the image of the tree, just beautiful!

21/9/05 7:56 p.m.  
Blogger andrea said...

Thanks, Lyn. I was actually thinking that this post was worthy of pulling, so I'm glad you liked it. It is an amazing tree -- no idea what it is, though.

21/9/05 9:45 p.m.  
Blogger ChittyChittyBangBang! said...

I am not much of a runner and it has never high been high on my to-do list.
I do take part in other sports and understand the competitive nature of it and how competitiveness can take the fun out of doing something you did for fun and for the joy it brought you.
Perhaps it has something to do with how we were raised and the whole idea that if you master something and do it well, see how far you can push it and how much better you canbe at it. As if setting the goals and achieving said goals is the only measure by which we can justify why we do what we do. God forbid we tell ppl we do it for fun and simply because we want to, because then it becomes frivolous.
I actually do not know the answer - just throwing some thoughts and perspective round. Nice post.

21/9/05 11:17 p.m.  
Blogger andrea said...

You have a point there -- the pushing to be "the best you can be" when, let's face it, I was never even going to place in my age category let alone "be a contender". And that's not why I started doing it in the first place!

22/9/05 7:17 a.m.  
Blogger carla said...

Okay...I'm sitting in my class while the guidance counselor is talking to my seniors. They think I'm doing work at my desk...

I really can identify with this whole scenario. It calls to mind a line from Joseph Conrad's The Secret Sharer where the narrator says " I wondered how far I should turn out faithful to that ideal conception of one's own personality every man sets up for himself secretly." Don't we all have an ideal image of ourselves in our mind? Don't we hate to think that we might let that image down in some way? One slip, one little crack, and the whole thing will fall apart! What I find happens with this kind of thinkng is that we become inflexible out of fear. That almost always leads to some kind of downfall...in your case, an injury that makes your running difficult.

I really agree about that fine line thing. Motivation and focus are one thing. Obssession is another thing, and it's not a virtue. I think many women have been programmed to be very accomplished in so many areas, and we are subconsciously afraid to show any signs of weakness. Our self-esteem is at risk if we do let off a bit. I think this is such an insidious form of self-torture, but it's difficult to identify and correct.

I think one way to get to that "state of perfect motivation" is to try to tap into your intuitive voice. Listen to it. It usually tells you what's okay and what isn't. Maybe your voice was trying to say, "It's okay to skip a race if I'm injured and I need to heal. There will be another. I'll come back stronger," but you said...no way! I'm not a sissy ... no pain, no gain, etc. You're right...the second guessing thing does so many of us in.

Anyway, I enjoyed reading this because it really reminded me of the kinds of things I do. I've been working on finding that balance...sounds like you have as well!

That tree is beautiful...such bright colors!

22/9/05 11:05 a.m.  
Blogger andrea said...

Your juggling act sounds eerily familiar to me, Carla...

As for the need to feel accomplished, I can see that. One success breeds another and another until we start relying on these external things to keep our self-worth propped up at the expense of other, less tangible aspects of ourselves. I guess that's why it took me so long to quit teaching.

Thanks for the great insights.

22/9/05 11:39 a.m.  

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