Sometimes inspiration doesn’t just come out of the blue: you have to work for it.

By on January 21, 2022 | Leave a reply

Inspired. It’s a heck of a word. Sure, it’s not the most unique in the English language, but it’s definitely an important one — especially in running. Folks see a mountain and say they feel inspired to climb it. They watch the Olympic Games and get inspired to run a marathon. A friend runs an ultramarathon and they become inspired to follow suit.

Some might equate it to magic, but I find this to be unfair. True inspiration is more than just a tingling sensation in your gut that pushes you off your couch and into a pair of running shoes. It is a bit more complex than that; inspiration is a wonderful thing to have, a beautiful thing to give and, often, a difficult thing to find.

Some of you may be searching for it right now, at the beginning of a new year. You find it elusive and wait for it to strike, like a bolt from the blue. You scour maps, convinced that if you look hard enough, you’ll find something that calls your name. Or maybe it’s a race that you’re after, yet nothing seems to grab you. You look at 100 different races, but nothing pulls you in. You remain uninspired.

Runspired - Winter Mountain Landscape-1

A beautiful winter mountain landscape will help you run inspired. Photo: Zach Miller

Perhaps you’ve done this first part. Your goal has been set. Yet your motivation to train lags like an AOL dial-up connection straight out of 1998. Typically, goals help create motivation. So what do we do when they don’t and the bolt from the blue fails to strike? Could it be that this isn’t how inspiration works? What if inspiration isn’t a jolt from a magic wand, but a strike to the hand at the plow?

What if, as Rachel Held Evans writes in her book Inspired, “True inspiration comes not to the lucky or the charmed but to the faithful — to the writer who shows up at her keyboard each morning, even when she’s far too tired, to the guitarist whose fingers bleed after hours of practice, to the dancer who must first learn the traditional steps before she can freestyle with integrity?”

It’s interesting to think of inspiration in this way, not as something that hits us at random, but as something we must work for. When I think about my own life, I feel as though I’ve experienced this. I can’t say I always feel super inspired when I sign up for a race. Sure, I pick races that I want to do, or that make sense for the goals I have, but I don’t think that inspired is always the best word to describe how I feel.

As I train, however, things evolve. Amid the long hours of running, my mind drifts to what I might achieve on race day. In fact, every now and then, usually during an extra-long training session, I will find myself on the verge of tears as I push my body and dream about what I might achieve.

Perhaps my emotions are the result of being overly fatigued and undernourished, or maybe they are a sign of genuine inspiration. Maybe Evans is right — maybe inspiration really does come to the faithful, to those putting in the work, not to those sitting around waiting for lightning to strike. This isn’t to say that there isn’t any waiting involved, but it’s an active waiting, not a passive one. There is a big difference between the two.

As we look ahead to the 2022 race season, may we remember to actively pursue our inspiration. Set a goal, make a training plan, and get to work. Don’t worry if the inspiration doesn’t strike right away.

As Evans says, “Inspiration, on both the giving and receiving end, takes practice and patience. It means showing up even when you don’t feel like it, even when it seems as if no one else is there. It means waiting for wind to stir.”

So get to work, because chances are, somewhere along the way you’ll spark that bolt of lightning.

Call for Comments

  • What are some unconventional ways that you find inspiration in your daily life?
  • What do you do when your inspiration to run — or to do anything else — is lacking?
Runspired - Winter Mountain Landscape-2

Sometimes you need to change your surroundings to bring back the inspiration. Photo: Zach Miller

Zach Miller
Zach Miller lives in a school bus he outfitted himself. He competes for The North Face and Team Colorado. Additional sponsors/supporters include Clean-N-Jerky, GU Energy Labs, and Nathan Sports. Follow him on Instagram.