Running without goals


Monday is a rest day.  It is pretty much a given after a weekend of a long run and a recovery run.

Last week was different.

I haven’t been able to get focused on a race, a time goal, or a running goal in general for months. I have been apathetically running and haven’t been able to shake it.

My coach has worked with what I give him: for my apathy -but want to keep running- we are working on basics and running for fun.  I have done a lot of fun runs lately.

Last week I looked at my training schedule and it was more of the same: fun runs, no stress, easy mental state, no pressure runs.  I thought that by now I should be “getting it;” I should know how to run for fun. I thought of Malcolm Gladwell‘s book The Outliers and his comment about how it takes 10,000 hours to learn a new skill.

I have run for over 5 years, but always with a sense of pressure or expectation motivating me. I realized that to run for fun it was going to take me some of those 10,000 hours.


Aimless or with a destination in mind?

Last weekend I met with my patient coach and he asked how I was feeling about running. I felt a little unsettled after our conversation; it was like I hadn’t quite resolved something in my mind. When I got home I mentioned to my husband that my planned marathon race in the fall was up in the air, that perhaps a half marathon “for fun” would be a better option for me now. He laughed and commented that when I’m not sure what I want, all I’ll get is fun runs.

I ran on Monday — it was scheduled. While I was excited about running on an expected rest day, I spent most of the run freaking out. It felt like crap.

On Tuesday we ran a track workout and I redeemed myself. On Wednesday my mind still felt happy on my fifth consecutive day of running.  I had my best run in weeks: faster, more at ease, and with a smile on my face.  As my coach suggested, I ran with my heart, not with my legs.

I may see a goal forming on the horizon.


Have you ever felt aimless and then found your stride? What changed? What helped to motivate you to move forward?


12 thoughts on “Running without goals

  1. Tania, as you know, I am not a runner but I feel aimless every day at The Grind where I always manage to hit my stride. Spot on way of looking at day job which I know was not necessarily the intention of this post.

    • Virginia, we can be aimless in many ways. Somehow things do come together, but I think we are so focussed we overlook that small moment where things shift. We look back and remember that weeks ago we felt differently but we don’t remember when things changed.
      Good luck with the Grind today!

  2. As someone who always has goals for EVERYTHING, I have found the benefit and pleasure of being less directed, especially when it comes to workouts as I get older. My body tends to seek its own level of need. I am learning to workout when I need to, to slow down, to push myself. To do so relentlessly with goals in mind, always seeking farther, faster, more reps is exhausting and many times leads to injuries. I’ve learned this the hard way and am surprised at the level of fitness that can be maintained without killing myself. And I enjoy it more. Sometimes, too, a period of rest from constant striving helps new goals emerge.

    • I think when we have physical limitations (and running tends to lend itself well to injuries) it’s really important to listen to our bodies. When we are not in it mentally, it’s even harder physically because we can be sloppy and cause more damage. It’s so true that when we “allow,” instead of forcing ourselves to reach a goal at all costs, we’ll actually get there. Balance is something that comes with experience and acceptance.

    • I’m more like you in my options. Very black and white, feast or famine. Sometimes I completely miss what is going on around me because I am too focussed on a goal.
      To go and have fun, without expectations, is a reward in itself. Goal-worthy indeed.

  3. I run because it just makes me happy to be outside, to be jamming out to my music, and to let my body open up and feel fast and strong (or on off days, to at least know i’m out there doing something). But, it took me a long time to get here. I started running competitively when I was 11 years old and it wasn’t until I hit my late 20s, long after all of the races, teams, and coaches faded away, that I figured out that I ran, not because I was good at it, but because I actually loved it. That was the moment when everything changed. I’m slower now, for sure, but I look forward to my run all day and can’t wait to charge outside as soon as I get home from work.

    That said, I still sign up for a big road race at least once a year to get my motivation up because my love of running never extends beyond an 8 mile long run.

    • Hi!
      Thanks so much for these comments. Great to hear people’s stories and motivations. I think we all find our groove, once we remove the thinking part out of the equation. 😉
      I love how you’ve found what works for you, but still sign up for the longer distances to keep striving for something out of your norm and to keep you motivated.
      Happy trails, friend.

  4. Tania, in answer to your question…oh, yes! Many a time, I have felt aimless and unmotivated. It’s hard to get your groove back. I think sometimes you can reach a plateau and it’s hard to progress. I guess the best thing is to keep it going, if possible! I think there’s a lot to be said for staying the course. I think eventually it pays off!

    • Yes, being in limbo is hard. Tiring, in fact. But when we keep going and get through a plateau it can pay off. Whether we choose to keep going after this we will have gained clarity and know ourselves better.
      Just keep doing what you’re doing!

  5. I too have just come back through a (frankly) crappy time for running – the type of times when your get up and go has done just that, and you are completely unmotivated. You don’t enjoy the runs, the thought of running, of even changing to go running, presses on you, and your times disappoint always.

    I honestly don’t know how I did it, except to say that I said “screw it” to a few things. My normal route to opt for a shorter run, running in the rain just because I try and avoid it when we have a beautiful summer like we have in the Pacific Northwest, and just trying to remind myself why I started in the first place.

    It was tough, I admit. But I found it was like when I first started running, and there was a switch that flicked, something that went ding. I did have to change it up, much as you have.

    I’m glad you’ve got your groove back, though…

    • Hi Martin,
      Great to see you here. I think the biggest thing that keeps me running is the knowledge of how hard it is to start up again after completely stopping.
      Sometimes we just have to let go of our expectations, experiences, paces, routes, and routines and keep going for the sake of going. Like you, there were some days where I just went because I went. It was as simple as just logging miles and time. And then it started to feel better. And it’s feeling better still.
      Happy running to you. Glad you’ve come through again as well.

Sharing is caring.

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s