A bunch of us were traipsing along on a trail last week. The route meandered mostly upwards for about 15 kilometers before we reached our high point and headed mostly downwards for the remaining 15 km. As the trail dipped slightly before resuming its upward trend, a question was posed:

What makes you start running again after you have been walking?

We all chattered about different motivations that get us going again but I found myself thinking on this question all week. I am not questioning what makes us slow to a walk in the first place: there are countless reasons that make walking (or stopping) a viable option. I am only interested in the thought process behind starting to run again.

Grade – I have a mental picture of my runnable grade. If the trail grade relents to something within my ‘runnable’ zone, then I somehow convince myself that walking is no longer an option.

Catching My Breath – After a big climb, I am often breathing too hard, feeling winded, to begin running. I need to spend a few moments/minutes allowing my cardio system to recover before I can run again. But once my breathing is back in control, I am usually easily persuaded to run again, especially if the climb is over.

Being Hunted – I only encounter this motivation during a race and, even then, it is rare for me to ever feel competitive. But, for many runners, the thought of being passed by another person is a strong motivator to begin running again. For some men, ‘being chicked’ falls into this category and I believe it is even more motivating! If I feel that my gains are soon to be lost, my shuffle will become slightly more determined when I think about those pursuing me from behind.

Reeling Someone In – Again, this is a race day anomaly. If I can spot someone ahead of me, I can usually find the strength to push the pace a little higher. I attach my mental bungy cord to their shorts and pull myself through the distance that separates us. If I had slowed to a hike, the mere thought of reeling someone in is enough to get me going again.

Keeping the Group In Sight – Many, many times, I have been the caboose in a group run – since I tend to surround myself with greatness – so I have to work hard at keeping up with the group. Fear of making a wrong turn and being left far behind (or worse – the beer supply being finished before I get there!) forces me to keep the legs turning over.

A Fabulous View – Standing back and soaking up an amazing view is one of the key reasons that I run. Although it would be luxurious to flake out on a hot granite slab and soak in the view of the valley below for a few hours, I get motivated to get going again in hopes of finding something even more spectacular atop the next summit.

Staving Off the Chills – No matter how warm the day (in the pacific northwest mountains), I get chilled as soon as my effort declines. I have to be moving and exerting myself to a fair degree in order to stay comfortable. After the effort of a climb, I can enjoy the view for only a few minutes before I need to get going again or I need to instantly don an extra layer or two for the descent. The fear of being cold is enough to put some speed in my turnover.

Bugs! – In the height of summer, the flying insects can be as numerous as the wild flowers. While steadily moving along, I can just stay ahead of the bugs. But any stop, whether to adjust shoe tightness, wait for a trail buddy or a well-deserved snack break, the cloud of buzzing buggery descends, finding nose and ear holes quite irresistible. Horseflies, blackflies, mosquitoes, no-see-ums, deer flies and gnats are always waiting, which motivates me to get a move on and pick up the pace.

A Change in Muscle Groups – Any repeated movement is going to become tiresome. I embrace the idea of being able to change my pace and engage different muscle groups. Running feels freeing after hiking or walking for long while. To me, a flat road run is torture because the same muscles are in demand the whole time.

These are the ideas that have been churning through my mind. What makes you speed up to a run? Please comment and add your own.