How to keep motivated when your races are cancelled

How to keep motivated when your races are cancelled

How to keep motivated when your races are cancelled

Like many of my runners I’ve been training for a race that was postponed and now is cancelled.

When I heard about this, for a second I wondered if I should carry on with my training programme – after all I no longer have a race! But that thought only lasted a minute before I realised although my race may be cancelled my goal (for a sub 2 hour half marathon) remains. I just might not be achieving it officially this year!

But it got me thinking about how understanding what motivates us can help us keep going even when things don’t go to plan.

You may have heard of the terms intrinsic and extrinsic motivation but what does it mean and how can it help us?

Intrinsic motivation comes from within. It’s the motivation to run because it gives you a sense of achievement, satisfaction or mental well being.

Extrinsic motivation comes from external factors. It’s the motivation to run because of an external reward (cake anyone?!).

Quite often a race acts as a big extrinsic motivation. It gives you a set date to train to, you have the reward of finishing a race and getting a medal, the knowledge that if you don’t train the race may not be enjoyable, and you may also be fundraising so don’t want to let people down.

And without this set date our motivation can take a nose dive as we no longer have this big extrinsic motivation to train.

But all is not lost!

Many of us are motivated both intrinsically and extrinsically, and if we can work out how to appeal to both we should be able keep motivated to run and train.

How Does This Help?

Well, knowing how we are motivated means we can play to our strengths.

When it comes to running if your motivation is more extrinsic then you know you have to give yourself some external encouragement.

What does this mean? Well it could be

Social – if the thought of letting someone down gives you horrors then team up with an accountability buddy. Someone to run with who you don’t want to let down by not running with them. You know if you don’t turn up then you are affecting your friend’s run, as well as your own!

Reward – if giving yourself a reward will help you then perhaps paying yourself a small amount for each run you do will help. Put 50p or £1 in a jar every time you go for a run over a certain distance or time, then you can use this money to reward yourself. It could be something small like a coffee and cake at your local café or save up for something big to really give you motivation.

Charity – fundraising for a charity that means something to you can be a big motivation. When there are no formal races then you can create your own challenge and ask people to sponsor you.

If your motivation is more intrinsic then you won’t need the external encouragement but there are things that can boost your motivation.

Plan – having a plan and writing down when you are going to run each week will give you a focus. If it’s in your diary you will do it! So write down you are running 5 miles on Monday, then run it.

Change of route – if you have a favourite route that always brings you joy then plan to run it. It will give you something to look forward to and will keep you motivated for your other, more regular runs.

Goal – give your self a SMART goal to work towards. You know what you want to achieve, so use this time to build towards it. Break bigger goals into smaller sections so you have a clear plan to get to it.

And, of course, both extrinsically and intrinsically motivated people will benefit from a running coach! A coach keeps you accountable, adapts to external changes and will plan a programme that is based on your goals and motivations.

Motivation does change, it’s not a static thing. You may start running to keep eating cake (extrinsic) but become more competitive with your self as you see what you are capable of (intrinsic). Similarly you may like running because of the mental well being it gives you (intrinsic) but decide to run a marathon for a charity (extrinsic).

Knowing what motivates us means we can build strategies so we can keep running even when things don’t go to plan.

Are you more extrinsically or intrinsically motivated? What do you do to keep your commitment and motivation high when things don’t go as expected?

Leave a Comment


  • Dave

    Bit of both for me. Always try to run with someone so I cant let them down and try to have targets to aim for. The guilt from eating cake is tempered by my running!

    • Coach Nicola

      I think we all have a bit of both, but the proportion changes depending on our goals!
      I have to say that the promise of an ice cold drink or ice cream after a run is giving me a lot of motivation at the moment, it’s hot out there!

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