Whatever it Takes: The Many Motives of a Running Mom



My initial motivation to start exercising was, of course, the scale. And the fact that I married a skinny man. As my weight crept up to my husband’s weight in the months after we were married . . . well, rather than become the chubby little wife, I became the red-faced, panting, wanting-to-toss-my-cookies wife. But only for a little while. Then running got easier, I lost my “newlywed-19,” and my motivation became to train for a race. The truth is that I wanted to beat the race time of a friend of mine. I can be competitive like that. The good news is that that little competitive streak kept me running. And when that race was over, I signed up for another one my first marathon.

The fear that I felt as my husband and I trained to run 26.2 miles our 2nd race ever motivated me to run speed workouts in parking lots after dark. It drove me to wake up well before dawn to meet my training group for morning long runs. And it drove me find out that running, though sometimes painful, and sometimes difficult, was also a lot of fun. I met some really cool people training for that race, people I wanted to be like. And that was a great motivator, too.

Then, a month or so after I finished the marathon, I got pregnant. And, again, my motives changed. I ran to stay healthy through my pregnancy, to keep my energy levels up and my body strong. I was training for childbirth, and hoping that running give my baby a healthy start.

It’s been six years since my first baby was born, and my motives for running and exercising have continued to change and evolve. Sometimes I run to get faster. Sometimes I run to be more focused. Sometimes I run because I know if I don’t I’ll be cranky and impatient with my kids. I run because I want to feel like I look good in that dress. I run because I want to be attractive to my husband (not that he wouldn’t love me if I was his chubby little wife, but I’m not sure I would love me as his chubby little wife). I run because it helps me eat better and sleep more soundly. I run because I write about running and I need things to write about. I run because I think people are watching me, that they have expectations. And lately, now that I have a daughter, I think of her as I run more than I have with my sons. I think of the person I would encourage her to be, and I run so I can be an example for her.

Of course, there are less high-minded motivations as well. I run because I, like every woman, just want to eat whatever I want and not gain weight. I run for the ice cream. I run because I like to wear running clothes. I run because it gives me a chance to listen to what I want to listen to. I run because then I can feel good about my un-shapely legs. If they don’t look good, at least they can take me far and fast.

There’s always something out there, something I can latch onto to get me out of bed early in the morning, or when it’s cold or when it’s hot, or when I’m tired or grumpy or lazy. What about you? What motivates you to get moving?