Finding Your “WHY” as a Long Distance Runner

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Why do you run?  In this episode we talk about the importance of finding your “why” if you want be a long term runner and what listeners shared with us about what motivates them.

Plus we give you a quick run down of this year’s MTA Virtual Half Marathon.   And in the quick tip segment, Angie answers a question about how to implement treadmill running into your training. 

Finding Your WHY

When it comes to running or any other important habit that you want to implement in your life it’s important to find your “why.” In fact, finding your why is probably the most important thing you can do to create a sustainable running habit.

I know that right now we’re talking to aspiring runners, brand new runners, lifelong runners, and those somewhere in the middle.  Maybe you’re still a bit on the fence about this whole long distance running thing.  You know that it can be a key to making you healthier and happier, but some days you just don’t have the motivation to get out there and some days you find yourself just plodding along. 

All of this is totally normal.  Not everyone falls in love with running during the first steps…in fact, many very accomplished runners had a bumpy start.  Like Pete Kostelnick who we interviewed on our last episode. He didn’t always pump out 55 mile days for weeks on end.  In fact, after running his first marathon he swore he’d never do another.

Some “Whys”Are More Sticky

One way to turn an “it’s complicated” relationship with running into a full blown commitment is to find your why.  And I’m going to let you in on a little fact…some whys are more “sticky” or meaningful than others. 

My Story

When I first started to run as a teenager my whole motivation was to lose weight.  That began an on again, off again relationship with running that would last the next decade.  As soon as I started feeling too fat or out of shape I’d jump back on the running bandwagon.  But it was a means to an end.

When I started running again at the age of 27 my weight had nothing (or at least little) to do with it.  I was looking for a change in my life.  I was seeking something that I could do for myself to make myself healthier and happier.  And this time it stuck. 

Angie at her first marathon

I ran my first marathon in 2008 and haven’t looked back since.  That’s not to say that there haven’t been bumps in my running journey.  I’ve dealt with setbacks, discouragement, and many runs that just sucked.  But I’ve stuck with it because part of my identity is based on being a healthy and strong person and being a runner makes me feel both of those things.  Along with the benefit of being healthier physically running also helps me manage anxiety and depression.  I also love the way running has allowed me to explore the world. Now I’m one of those people who hopes I can run up until the day I die.

Another thing to keep in mind when thinking about your why is that it may (and probably will) change over time.  It’s important to reevaluate your WHY on a regular basis.  Some of your whys will be serious and life-changing, some will be fun and whimsical, and most people have a combination of reasons.

We asked the participants of the 2nd annual MTA Virtual Half Marathon about their why.   And here’s what they said:

Love of food/drink

“I like eating ice cream and drinking brewpub beer.”  -Kathleen

“I like to drink beer year round.”   -Stephen

Friends/running community:

“Besides my love of food? Well, it’s my running friends.  No matter how crappy my day can be I know they are there to make me laugh.” Kathleen

“Endorphins, girl time, chocolate.”  Jennifer


“I made a goal. Run 26.2 in all 50 states by the time I turn 50 (2019). Although I’m 2 states away from finishing my goal, I know I won’t stop. It keeps my head level. It’s my ME time. Oh, and it’s my bad ass feeling.”  JoAnn

“Running in the winter can be tough. I always have to sign up for another race to keep up my motivation.” Margaret

Alone time:

“I love being out in nature, having some Me Time with a podcast.”  Amanda

“Running is a huge part of who I am, and I can’t even conceive of a week without running. I run for fun, to enjoy being outside in every type of weather, to challenge my body, to focus my mind, and also to let my mind drift. Plus I love to eat chocolate.” Lynne

Supporting charity:

“I started long distance running to support a local charity. It helped to find the right charity, the right coaches, the right races, and most importantly the right running buddies. I went from a novice to half marathoner to marathoner and will hopefully keep adding on the distances. Running keeps me sane. And the MTA family keeps me motivated.”  Pamela

Because I can:

“Because I can! When I’m running, all of the “I shoulds” turn to “I cans” and then “I dids.”  Rachael

“Because I can and what keeps me going? I am the sole healthy member of an immediate family struggling with morbid obesity. I also live in the second most unhealthy state in the US and see my community struggle with health. Some in my immediate family are completely immobile because of it and I think about that when I run and feel much gratitude for my ability but also sadness and empathy knowing that they cannot do the same. I run for myself and my health but also for those who can’t and hope that I might, in even the smallest way, be an inspiration to someone in a similar circumstance, whether it be in my family or community. I want to challenge the doubts of people who fear starting an active lifestyle and think running (or walking) is not possible. I want to help others love to live healthier active lives. This is my “why” every single day.”  Jennie

To be a positive example:

“I’m a positive example for my kids to follow. It’s something my wife and I share.”  Ryan

“Running is my passion and purpose and allows me to connect with and inspire others. I enjoy running with friends and coaching kids. Reaching goals feels amazing.”  Cari

“My two kids are my why.” Kyle

“My girls, my patients, my health, and because today I can and tomorrow I might not be able to.”  Jennifer

“Started running 2 1/2 years ago for my health. Never thought I would love to run but I do! Helps me keep my head clear, de-stress, sleep better, maintain a healthy weight, and be a role model for my daughters. If their Momma can become a runner at age 45 they can do anything they set their mind to. I ran my first marathon this year.”  Hope

A way to enjoy nature/fresh air:

“I have been looking at running as an opportunity to enjoy ALL seasons rather than always sitting inside waiting for Spring to come and just feeling cooped up and inactive all winter. It has kicked seasonal blues in the butt so far this year!!”  Sara

“Because I love being outside, because it helps me with stress, and because I never feel better than after I’ve finished a run!”  Suzanne

“Fresh air and being outside – I need my outdoor time!”  Jo

Stress relief/better headspace:

“Running is like medicine for me. I’m a pastor and my job is never done. When I finish a run, I feel accomplished something and it helps me with the stress of life. A good long run is one of the few times in my week that my mind can just relax and enter into the pattern of foot-falls, breaths, and motion.” Eric

“I’m in law enforcement and running is my stress relief as well. I started running to lose weight and redirect my thoughts from stress at work.”  Joel

“Because I love it! For my mental health, it makes me happy, the feeling I get after finishing a long run or race is the best!”  Annabelle

Change or improve my health:

“Stay healthy. I also remember how good I feel afterwards.”  Valerie

“About 18 months ago I was fat and unhealthy and hated what I had become. I read a book that spurred me into action, lost 30kg. Then I started running and found my new passion. I did a 282 day running streak, found the MTA podcast along the way…I have first marathon in 7 days time. My why is that running is my new addiction…it’s better than food, better than alcohol, it’s the best way to start my day.” Simon

“I have been running for 5ish years and it’s the whole package of clearing my head of negativity, being healthy and sleeping better.”  Scott

Challenging myself/achieving goals:

“What keeps me going is the challenge and the accomplishments. Plus I feel good after I’ve done it, may it be a half, a full or an ultra. I’m trying to see if I can do a 50 miler next year. Which is definitely another challenge for me. But first, I’d like to finish my 50 states half and full by next year.” Lynne

“I just enjoy challenging myself….trying things I’m not sure I can do….and it’s something I get to do for myself that’s healthy.”  Tom

“The thought of something greater within myself waiting to be discovered.”  Andrew

More confidence:

“I love the process of working towards a goal that is challenging and something I chose for myself. I love how it puts structure into my daily life and how it affects me as a person – I’m so much more confident, independent and enthusiastic than I used to be.”  Cecilia

“Because of all my “nevers” that actually came true. I never thought I could get a doctorate, mountain bike race, have twins, have amazing family and friends, have a rewarding career/business of my own, have a heart attack at 45 and bounce back. Running certain races/distances/times/with friends is a satisfying way to keep quashing my “nevers” and continue to test my limits physically, mentally, and spiritually…on my feet and in my life as a whole.”  Jennifer

“The confidence that running gives me is my reason and my hope is to run forever!”  Tricia

“It makes me feel like a stronger person. Knowing I have the ability to win the battles with feeling tired, being cold, and being lazy. Every time you go running; that’s a win.”  Stephen

“I can’t imagine not having running in my life. My “why” is that it completes who I am. It helps with my fitness and stress and my ability to think more clearly. It provides me with the opportunity to be outside where every run is a different adventure. I love the struggle and the feeling of accomplishment after completing a 20 miler. I love the running community. It’s fun quirky and tremendously supportive. I’m 53 and I’ve only been running for 5 years and my largest regret is that I didn’t find it earlier.”  Gregory

Also Mentioned in This Episode

MetPro -a world-renowned concierge nutrition, fitness, and lifestyle coaching company. MetPro’s team of experts specialize in developing customized nutrition and training programs for high-profile athletes, executives, and celebrities. Using Metabolic Profiling, MetPro analyzes your metabolism and provides you with an individualized strategy to obtain your goals. Just visit to get started today.

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2018 MTA Virtual Half Marathonsee photos here.


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