Do Elite Runners Ever Lose Motivation? HECK YES!


This is a question I get often. Not just from other runners, but from non runners.

Is running fun every single time?

As much as most people think it looks easy, or we make it look easy, I hope through my blog I have shown you that I have those same doubts, the same voice screaming in my head to stop every time I run.

When Jane (Runs Wild) interviewed me a few months ago, she asked me a question that sums up my thoughts on this. For those of you who read it, I hope you saw my response. Here is it for those of you who did not.

Question: At mile 20 of a marathon, what is typically going through your head? What motivates you to push through the last miles?

Answer: Okay, I am going to fast forward to mile 23, as I think this will be more what you are looking for. At mile 20 I am (other than my first disaster of a marathon) somewhat comfortable as I have paced myself so that I feel good at that point and then can really go for it. 

Okay, so at mile 23, the thought is something like: “f#$% this hurts. Oh my god. I can’t do this. I am gonna stop. Yeah, I will just say that my foot was hurting too bad to run anymore….NO TINA, don’t you DARE. Just maintain, no need to run faster, just keep going, you are fine…..okay, it must have been 5 minutes by now?! Where is the 24 mile mark? Come on legs, oh my god, this hurts so much. I can’t do this…YES YOU CAN, BELIEVE…..but I don’t believe….YES YOU DO”

Something like that? Now I sound like a crazy person, but hopefully it shows that even elites doubt themselves every step, but like I said before, it’s just about keeping forward one step at a time 🙂 What motivates me is just thinking of the finish and how good it will feel when I cross it. But mostly it’s just a battle for each step!

Does that seem like I enjoy running all the time?

Haha, definitely not.

In races I go through waves of wondering why the heck I put myself through this. I tell myself that never again will I do this. Why would ANYONE want to do this?

Yet somehow, we make it through those moments, and we come out the other side.

The more struggles you go through, the more you appreciate it, and the more you fight those negative thoughts back, the more proud of yourself you are.

So, back to the original question; do I enjoy every run?


Definitely not.

Just over a week ago, I did my last “time on your feet” long run.

This involves running for multiple hours to get your body used to being out there for that long. You should only do this 1-2 times in a marathon segment, and for me, this is running close to 3 hours, at whatever pace feels easy and comfortable.

Actually if you are aiming for a 3:30 marathon and beyond, I would recommend following Runners Connect guidance and do the steady run back to back with a long run instead of this.

I really think this makes a lot of sense, especially because, these long runs are what beat me up. Bad.

I ended up with 24 miles, and during the run I felt great; smooth, strong, barely breathing, and I was able to wear my entire race day outfit to make sure there was no chafing, use it as a practice run to take on all 3 gels and water every 3 miles.

I walked in the door after my run feeling good, actually kind of wishing I could do more, but little did I know what was coming….

I felt worse the three days following this run, than I did after the World Half Marathon!

Yep. I felt more tired, heavy, and just crappy after an easy run than I did after a half marathon race.

That is how much these runs beat you up!

Each of those days, I had 9 miles as easy as I liked. I ran 8-8:30 per mile each day (that is 2.5 minutes per mile slower than my race pace for a marathon), and I felt HORRIBLE.

I always tell people to run so slowly on your easy days that you feel you could do it all over again, that you do enjoy the run, no matter how tired you are, as you are not pressing at all.

But it was not happening on these three days. It’s days like those that I WISH I was able to compile everything that I have learned now and give it to young Tina then. Lucky for you I have that now and it’s the Mile 20 Mental Training Course!

It was one of those “ugh, I still have 4 miles left”…….5 minutes later “oh my god, I am so tired, come on Tina, you can do this”. I was talking to myself the whole way.

My legs felt like they were in heavy mud, and I just felt so exhausted, that I wanted to walk right there and then.

Thankfully, my legs had bounced back by my hard workout on Friday, which was a relief as last time I did one of these runs, it took about 5 days to get my legs back, and the workout that week went really really badly, and had a knock on effect to other workouts as it dented my confidence.

These time on your feet runs, although necessary and will allow your body to get used to the pounding, really hurt. I can guarantee you I would have bounced back quicker, had I done that long run at 6:30 pace instead of 7:30 pace, because I would have been out there less time.

But this is my body.

It reacts well to the hard workouts and the races. I can bounce back quickly from those hard efforts, but the longer ones, those are where I struggle.

So my point is, yes, every single runner has days where they are not motivated to get out the door. I had to talk myself out the door for each of those runs last week, and then talk myself through the run when I wanted to stop.

I have at least a few of these days each week.

If anyone ever tells you or gives off the opinion that they do enjoy every single run, they are LYING. It is human nature to take runs for granted sometimes, especially when you feel crappy, and everyone has crappy days!

It is just down to your body and your body only which days those are. Your training partner may be really sore after a hard workout, but you may just feel a little tired, but then that same runner may feel fine after a long run, and you feel tired.

As with everything in running, it is all about finding what works best for your body, and listening to it 🙂

Which workouts tend to make you feel the worst?

inspiration, motivation, struggles

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  • A brilliant post. And one that I can completely identify with.

  • This is definitely true. Everyone at every athlete struggles with motivation (or lack of it). Thanks for posting about this Tina, I know a lot of people look up to your blog and seeing elite runners sometimes struggle to get out the door motivates us all!

  • I so love that you share this because some people do think it comes easy or you just love it so much that it somehow makes mile 23 less of a beast!!! And, you do not sound crazy, you sound like a “normal” runner! I think we can ALL relate to this and have been there. The difference is if you push though and continue on and make it to the other side! Thanks for sharing this most important side of elite training and racing my friend!

  • When something is your passion and your talent, so many people assume that you love it because it “comes easy.” But working towards a goal requires breaking yourself down a little bit, because that is how you come back stronger. That is the mental battle. But that is what cements you to the cause.

  • Thanks for sharing this Tina, your thoughts above are exactly the same as what was going through my head last week when I did the Paris marathon and it’s reassuring to know elite runners go through the same mental turmoil, because you always look so strong & in control when you’re running & if you guys can do that & push through, then it gives the people like me (slow-mo!) great encouragement that we can keep going and finish. Your honesty, as ever, is a great help!

  • I think we all can relate to this, so thank you for sharing! Passion and talent, both with which you abound, don’t always make things easy – but they do make the hard work worth it.

  • Olena @ candies & crunches
    April 14, 2016 12:27 pm

    Thank you so much for being real, for being you! Many of us look up to you! <3

  • My running buddy and I were just talking about this. We run 5 days a week and most of those days we don’t exactly feel like we want to run or we get out there and it’s just plain hard. But what we DO want is the feeling of accomplishment, confidence, endorphin’s, etc. after the run. I like to think in terms of my future self and what will make my future self happy rather than my in the moment self. Thanks so much for sharing!

  • I think this definitely also depends on if you’re a sugar burner or as fat burner. Fat burners tend to like longer runs and sugar burners do better with hard intense sessions.

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