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Finding Purpose - Aryn Embretson - Two Laps 7th Edition

Just a few months ago USATF announced the new Olympic Trials qualifying time for the marathon in the upcoming 2024 Olympic cycle. Particularly for the women it was an eight minute drop from the 2020 standard to now, going from 2:45 to 2:37. With a PR of 2:48 I initially thought I was within striking distance. As the new standard was announced I was left stunned. What may have been expected by some came as a shock to me. It forced me to reflect on why I choose to run and what truly motivates me to keep going. Do I keep running? Do I keep trying? Am I only running to try to prove something to myself? My own pride? Prove something to others that I am good enough? Ever since I started running I have been chasing goals and chasing times. While I don’t think chasing times is a bad thing, I do think it is not a sustainable form of motivation. Because what happens when injuries come, life circumstances change or your running strength fades? I knew I needed a deeper purpose than I was giving myself.

I came up with three things that help me stay motivated and make my training feel purposeful - other than having a race or goal to shoot for.

  1. To remain healthy. – Running not only motivates me to be physically healthy but more than anything to help with my mental health. Getting outside first thing in the morning for a run, while some may see it as time that would take away from more productive work, I see it as time that makes me more productive and motivated throughout the day to accomplish other things. I sense I have more energy, less anxiety and more productivity. Getting outside in particular makes me feel refreshed, more alive and much less stressed. Running also helps me eat healthier throughout the day and become a more patient person. A win - win. Not to mention endorphins!!

  2. To develop and build community. – If I’m feeling unmotivated I know I can call up one of my friends, or old coaches to meet up for a run and instantly I am motivated to get out the door. The community aspect of this sport is truly special. I love meeting up for week day workouts with strangers in the city of Chicago, getting to see the “regulars” on the path day in and day out, and being able to cheer others on who are equally doing the same to you. It truly is a unique and special sport. Because almost anyone can do it, it opens up the opportunity to meet a wide range of people. The friends and people I have met through this sport and the friendships I want to keep building on is a motivation to keep running. And when you add a coach and team into the mix, having that extra accountability certainly motivates you without needing an extra ounce of energy.

  3. Build confidence and discover more about yourself. – Running is tough but because of it I feel it builds a mental toughness in you that is unlike other sports. I mean it takes a special kind of person to openly sign themselves up for 26 miles of pain, am I right? There is nothing more satisfying than the feeling you get after you complete an extremely tough workout, no matter if I perceive it as fast or slow. The feeling of improving myself on a daily basis is extremely satisfying and I have discovered that I can build more confidence when I challenge myself beyond what I thought I could do. Running has taught me so much about myself, and who’s not to say I can continue to learn more about myself the longer I choose to run?

I love this sport and I love who it has made me to be in the process. While I do still have some big goals to chase, I don’t want to lose sight of the more lasting reasons that I keep choosing to run and what will keep me in it for the long haul. At the end of the day I have to ask myself is it worth the time and effort? And the answer is always yes!

~Aryn Embretson

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