Motivation: both complicated and crucial, it can be one of the trickiest components of our Race Day to obtain. Sometimes our motivators are obvious and come very easily; other times they are elusive, Multi-faceted, multi-layered, and malleable.
When you do manage to grab hold it can be fleeting or can change over time or across seasons, depending on situation/circumstances. The sources, and types, and manner of motivation can differ as much as the racers differ from each other in terms of background, life experience, level of fitness, etc.
What motivates each of us is of the most personal aspects to race prep/race day. When the training's all done, your race shoes are laced up and you're standing on the starting line, it's go time for real. Even if you're racing with a group of people, at this point it's on you. This is your race day, and it's you against the course that's been designed to break you down even as it builds you up. A good mantra doesn't take up any space in your hydration pack or Drop Bin, but it can be one of the most important or defining factors of your whole Race Day performance!
For most of us, the idealistic "Why I Race" reasons that cycle through our brains on a day-to-day basis are boiled down and simplified into a phrase or "mantra" we repeat to ourselves during the race to keep our minds and bodies focused on our goal. And sometimes it can surprise even us what that mantra is, because when the going gets tough our internal dialogue evolves into what motivates us on the most basic level of our being.
What are the things that go through your mind at this crucial moment? What motivates YOU to keep going when you're all alone, and the fatigue starts to sink in, and your muscles are screaming and you can feel your body start to break down? In the moment when everything inside you is telling you to stop, what internal script causes your body to continue to move?
...That is what we wanted to find out. For this article we surveyed the toughest of the tough to see what keeps THEM going: Spartan Ultra finishers. The responses we got are as varied as the racers themselves.....
Some of you focus on different types of things: the pain (or avoiding it), the glory of the buckle, the post-race meal. Some of you talk directly to yourselves: building yourself up through self-talk, rationalizing the reasons why you need to finish, or even bullying your body into compliance. Some of you are private in your thoughts: focusing inward, while others repeat phrases out loud...and some of you find solace in skipping a mantra altogether in favor of human connection with other racers on the course.
Some of you race for yourselves and some are motivated by others: some of you race thinking of those who can't, and others race for those you hope to inspire.
And some of you just mentally "check out" altogether: repeating simple phrases over and over, distracting the mind, shutting the brain off entirely.
About half of racers (41%) are using a mantra in the category that we are calling "Positive Vibes": you're thinking of an inspirational quote, or giving yourself positive self-talk (e.g., "You got this! This is your day...this is YOUR RACE!") or reminding yourself to "Just Keep Moving." A lot of you are using humor as well (15%): remembering amusing memes, thinking of movie quotes ("If you're not first, you're last" - Ricky Bobby), or joking that you should hurry up because the people spectating your race are "probably tired of waiting by now."
28% of you are remembering your "Why" in some form: remembering what your motivations are for participating in OCR and living this healthy lifestyle, or who you are hoping to inspire, or how long/hard you have trained for this moment.
...But we don't all go for the touchy-feely positive vibes 😂 🤗. Some of you are focused on the fact that quitting/failure is NOT an option (16%). Another 16% of you focus on the pain specifically: either embracing it, reminding yourself that it's temporary, or reminding yourself that the pain will be worth it in the end. 15% of you actually get MAD and yell at yourself to keep going. About 10% of you focus on how it will be "worth it at the end," and a few of you are just completely mentally checked out: singing songs to yourself or attempting complicated math problems in your head.
The single most popular "type" of mantra is exactly what the word "mantra" implies: a short word/phrase repeated over and over to help with concentration and to fill the mind with focused intention.
CATEGORY: YOU GOT THIS/SELF PUMP-UP
CATEGORY: GET ANGRY/RULE #76: NO EXCUSES, PLAY LIKE A CHAMPION
CATEGORY: I LOVE THIS SHIT (OR, PRETENDING YOU LOVE THIS SHIT BECAUSE THE PAIN IS WORTH IT AND YOU DON'T HAVE A CHOICE BUT TO CONTINUE)
CATEGORY: YOU NEVER KNOW WHO'S WATCHING/FOR THOSE WHO CAN'T
CATEGORY: REMEMBERING PAST ACCOMPLISHMENTS
CATEGORY: JUST KEEP MOVING/LITTLE BY LITTLE!
CATEGORY: JUST REWARDS/LOOKING FORWARD TO THE FUTURE
CATEGORY: MENTAL CHECK-OUT
HONORABLE MENTIONS: THESE QUOTES WERE REPEATED MULTIPLE TIMES BY MANY PEOPLE. YOUR FAV QUOTES INCLUDE (in no particular order):
300 (MOVIE) QUOTES:
What we choose to focus on during a race: the who, the what, the why...can be as unpredictable and varied as our backgrounds, and what brought us to the sport of OCR in the first place. Sometimes we are even surprised ourselves by the difference between our day-to-day motivators and the stuff we start saying to ourselves when things get "real" out there.
What we do know is that when you find something that works, you gotta hold on tight and not let go because a good mantra - among other things - can mean the difference between earning that sweet, sweet finisher medal...or walking off the mountain with a DNF.
So, what do YOU say to yourself when you're deep in the Pain Cave...to keep your body moving and inspire yourself to endure, one step at a time? Let us know in the comments!
A SPECIAL REMIX FOR ALL OF YOU WHO REMIND YOURSELF TO JUST KEEP SWIMMING. WE HOPE YOU FIND IT AS DELIGHTFUL AS WE DO...ENJOY
June 02, 2019
I love to use perspective. If it is pouring rain… “it could be 95 degrees and 95 percent humidity!!!” If it is 95/95 “at least there are no ants”. If there are ants at 95/95 “at least I’m not allergic to ants”… if i’m allergic to ants “at least when I die i’ll have a view”. It could always be worse, and it is fun trying to figure out all the ways it could be
May 29, 2019
Awesome, and thanks your using part of my story. I got a little emotional reading it.
The someone watching is big for me, but I imagine that I will also be using something from every category while I do Killington.
It is a great read. Thanks.