You know you’re in Texas when you climb into your running partner’s truck and spot a pink .22 rifle between the cup holder and passenger seat. Four of us were heading out to the family ranch of my friend, Monica, for a cross-country run. Those of you who are city folks might wonder how much crime we anticipate out in the Texas Hill Country. Well, it isn’t exactly the wild west anymore, but a rifle is handy when you encounter wild boar, rattlesnakes, or a mountain lion.
Before you auslanders* shake your head in disbelief, we saw a wild boar out in the country just two weeks ago. Imagine an aggressive several hundred pound wild boar with nasty tusks looking at you with ill intent, and you’ll know why Monica brought the pink rifle. Luckily, she convinced her husband we would be fine without strapping the pistol on as well. It’s darn difficult to run with five pounds of pistol slapping against your body every step. Then again, it’s hard to shoot a boar when you’re half-way round the ranch and the rifle is still in the truck…, but at least we had a chance with it nearby. As it turned out, we didn’t see anything to shoot that day.
*In our German heritage town, auslanders refer to foreigners or just plain people who “aren’t from around here”.
We heard plenty of shots though, since it was the first day of dove season and neighboring ranchers were out bringing down their share of birds. Ah now, I have truly digressed. Here I am writing about rifles and wild animals, when I really want to share what I re-discovered about running and motivation.
We went to the ranch to have a different and more difficult workout than the usual pavement run. Three of the four in our group are entered in a twelve mile obstacle course event in a few weeks. It’s a very brutal cross-country run with obstacles that include mud filled drain pipe swims and twelve foot walls to surmount. We aren’t exactly ready for the running distance or the obstacles, so we needed more practice in the field, literally. (If you want to learn more about the obstacle course, click this Tough Mudder link and have a look. You can decide if we’re crazy or just a whole lot of fun.)
Sometimes it’s hard for me to motivate myself to run as often or long as required to reach a goal like twelve miles of obstacles, but that day I was ready to run. In fact, I wanted to run longer than we did, which was a nice surprise. I’m the oldest of the group, old enough to be mom to any of the others (seriously, they are thirty and under to my forty-seven), so it surprised me that I wanted run farther. It also felt great to be motivated again after pushing myself all summer through the drudgery of running in the heat.
The two-track we followed around the ranch took us by fields and trees and was a satisfying respite from the pavement of town. Definitely the feeling of country played into my extra motivation, but it was the camaraderie as we ran and talked that energized me and made it fun. We made the loop once running (mostly) and when no wild animal came after us we decided to go a second time. We were out over an hour, with plenty of sweat and shortness of breath, yet it didn’t feel like an hour at all.
Today, I ran again. It was a completely different experience. This morning I worked hard to stick with my plan. The run felt like forever, but it was only thirty minutes. It seemed really hot and muggy, though in truth it was no different than usual. I played mind games with myself to keep on track and even broke up my intended long run into three interval runs. During one of my walks between intervals I realized why running today felt so different from last weekend.
Today I was by myself. My friends each run solo during the week, so they were missing from my run this morning. Working hard toward a difficult goal is simply more fun with friends. Friends energize each other, socializing distracts you from thinking about how hard the work is, and involving others inspires you to do more.
A few months ago, a speaking partner and I worked together to create an all day workshop. Once again, my motivation was much higher when we worked on it together than when I was on my own. We worked long days in the weeks leading to the event, but it never felt like it. The power of involving friends in a common goal is immense, whether your goal is a personal one or a professional goal.
“The power of involving friends in a common goal is immense”
Monica asked me tonight if I want to run together again this weekend. “Yes! Count me in!” We plan to run the loop at Enchanted Rock, which always wears me out. There is a lot of up and down, rocks to navigate, rivers to cross, and gravel that rolls underfoot on the steep parts. On my own, it’s a good disciplined run. Together, it’s a worthy challenge that feels like a social event, just something you do with friends. I’m already anticipating how fun it will be.
I’m going to put friendship in my toolbox of motivational techniques. Next time working toward a goal feels like drudgery, I will call a friend and find a way to team up on at least an action step or two.
We obstacle course contenders may not be ready for the challenge coming up in a few weeks, but we will train more often and harder by working together. With our commitment to run the loop at Enchanted Rock as a team, we will have one more trail run to our credit. There will be one big difference this week though – the pink rifle will stay at home. At Enchanted Rock, the Park Rangers have us covered.