Out There: Inspiration Overload

There’s no shortage of inspiration in the world of endurance athletes.

On September 6, Drew Hudon will jump in a lake and start swimming to the opposite shore–32 miles away.

Last week, my friend Joel Runyon announced an equally exciting goal: in the next year, he plans to run seven ultramarathons on seven continents.

My sister-in-law has run 72 marathons. My partner is training for his 11th and 12th Ironman triathlons–which will happen on back-to-back weekends. And last Sunday, Coach Dude ran a perfectly split 2:34:20 marathon after being jolted awake on race morning by an earthquake.

Meanwhile, I cursed my way through a three-mile recovery run on the treadmill this morning in my underwear, then ate half a pint of Ben & Jerry’s for breakfast. (I, too, wonder if I’ll ever become a functional adult.)

One of these things is not like the others, yes?

It’s not my intent to be the anti-motivation of the running world this week, yet here I am, devoid of encouragement and frankly, a little cantankerous. I think I’m suffering from Inspiration Overload.

There’s no shortage of inspiration in the world of endurance athletes. Read any running blog, and you’ll find race recaps with motivational clichés to the gills. Take to Pinterest, and you’ll find hundreds of encouraging quotes accompanied by photos of fierce-looking runners with six-pack abs. TED Talks, YouTube videos, news stories about a homeless 7 year-old with one leg and a lazy eye running across Antartica for world peace…okay, that didn’t actually happen, but it certainly sounds like the next viral story, doesn’t it?

In comparison, the average runner can sometimes feel…well, average. When faced with a never-ending blitzkrieg of people doing amazing things, feeling average quickly turns into feeling inadequate: I don’t look like those people with the six-packs. I don’t run for a charity. Today’s workout didn’t help me overcome adversity, battle demons, or even experience a runner’s high. What am I doing wrong?

And that, perhaps, is where the problem lies–we’re so oversaturated with inspiration, we believe every single workout needs to result in an earth-shattering realization worthy of some serious navel-gazing. If it doesn’t happen, surely we did something wrong.

Sometimes, a run is just a run. That you actually did it–that’s inspiring enough.

You see, there are a lot of people who pin the motivational quotes and listen to the TED talks with rapt attention, then do nothing. Posting a picture of a trail runner with the words “never, ever, ever, ever give up” is all well and good, but a bit pointless (and even hypocritical) if one hits the snooze button instead of the trail. It doesn’t take a lot of time or effort to share inspiration.

But to actually be the inspiration? That’s different.

Yes, of the feats of people like Drew and Joel are inspiring, but they’re not the only ones. You may think you’re average–even inadequate–but you probably encourage just as many people as they do.

Your friends, family members, neighbors and coworkers know you get up and train every morning while they’re hitting the snooze button. While they’re reading yet another inspiring blog post with wistful sighs of maybe someday, you’re out there kicking ass. The stranger cheering you on at your race doesn’t know if this is your first marathon or fifteenth Ironman–they just see you doing it, and that’s pretty awesome in their eyes.

And when these people decide they’re motivated enough to actually do something, too, they’re not going to take to Pinterest. They’re going to knock on the door of the person who inspired them.

You best put some pants on and hide the Ben & Jerry’s.

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About The Author:

Susan Lacke does 5Ks, Ironman triathlons, and everything in between to justify her love for cupcakes (yes, she eats that many). In addition to writing for Competitor, she is a featured contributor to Triathlete and Women’s Running magazines. Susan lives and trains in Phoenix, Arizona with four animals: A labrador, a cattle dog, a pinscher and a freakishly tall triathlete named Neil. She claims to be of sound mind, though this has yet to be substantiated by a medical expert. Follow her on Twitter: @SusanLacke

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