Thoughts on Motivation


I’ve just listened to a lecture given by a running expert (a “Barbarian ultra-marathon runner” from Denmark) named Simon Grimstrup, who described his motivations for running.

He stressed these as being quite separate to being motivated to be ‘fit’ – he has zero motivation for that. Instead, his calling in life, and his formula for staying motivated, has always been a combination of the trails, the vistas, the mountain peaks, the comraderie, the adventure, the joy, the competition, and the “hunt” for achieving your once in a lifetime perfect race.

On Thursday next week he’ll enter as one of 10 international elite runners into a 403km Gobi Desert race. He thinks running that sort of distance is in fact utter madness, but he is driven to want to do it.

For those who’ve already sponsored me, and sent kind messages (thank you!!) – the reason for this Friday lecture is because Issy and I are up in Sapa (Northern Vietnam) taking part in the Vietnam Mountain Marathon 2017.


Issy is running in the 21km event tomorrow and I’m entered into the 70km one. So, just 12 hours from now, at 4am, I’ll head off into the darkness of the local villages of black hmong and red dao tribes, and attempt to complete the longest run of my life.

I’ve so far raised over £2,000 for a UK charity as part of this (and there’s still time to sponsor me for anyone interested: and I’ve run 2,360km this year as part of my training.

None of which is right now preventing me from feeling petrified about tomorrow.

However, as another experienced runner told us last night: “you need to think of the race as just a nice day out”. Easy.

Simon’s motivations seem well anchored and inspired by his childhood roots: running from the age of 10 years old – in “his back yard” – and enjoying the seasonal changes that Denmark conjures up in its forests and nature trails, that he came to know so well.

That he also recognises the element of “competition” and where that fits into his overall motivation, alongside and complementary to the joy and the hunt for completing his best race (not something he feels has been done, yet)….that recognition of all these ingredients blended together, to create this perfectly balanced culinary metaphor for ‘motivation’ was, I thought, worth sharing.

I expect for other people, the balance between drivers of motivation is different.

Perhaps for some you merely need one reason to spark your inner motivator? For me, an interesting nexus is also the relationship between motivation and purpose. Both can be mutually reinforcing and yet can also operate on their own.

Running 70km is something that has given me purpose, and has tested my sense of motivation and how to trigger, harness and control it.

However, overall, the whole experience of the last 9 months to get to today (typing these words right now, whilst furiously sipping water from an ecolodge surrounded by some of the country’s most isolated hills and rice terraces) has been mostly about that incredible release you can experience when you run – an escape from some of life’s necessary confines.

When you are running you are not reading or writing, nor debating or critiquing, you are not listening, complaining, you seldom even have to think. You are just running. There is a flow to it, there is an exquisite solitude, yet you feel very much connected at the same time.

And then, always, tantalizing in its inevitably, there is the finish.




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