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Attitude is everything, especially when it comes to running. Without the right running attitude a runners will never reach his or her potential. The mind has a huge impact on running performance and runners must work hard to train their mental outlook, as well as their bodies.
According to psychological research, the best runners are those that are intrinsically motivated to train and race. “Intrinsic motivation” means to run solely for the pleasure of running and not for external rewards or praise. An intrinsically motivated runner does not measure running success with beating other runners, but whether running provides them with personal enjoyment and satisfaction.
Task v. Ego Orientation
In developing an intrinsic motivation for running, it is important to understand the difference between task orientation and ego orientation. A runner who is “task orientated” appreciates the process of learning about running. A bad race will not have a huge negative affect on a task orientated runner because he or she understands that bad races are part of the overall improvement process.
On the other hand, an “ego orientated” runner judges running success solely by comparing himself or herself against other runners. Ego orientated runners feel tremendous stress and nervousness before races because they will regard their entire running endeavor as a failure if they don’t win or beat other runners they feel they should beat. This kind of “win or else” attitude is very destructive to a runner’s image or his or herself and certainly does not lead to “intrinsic motivation” for running.
The Best Running Attitude
The most successful runners have a running attitude that mixes ego orientation and task orientation. These runners want to compete and beat other runners, but they also understand the danger of finding enjoyment only in winning a race. Although winning races is a goal, these runners are not solely motivated by external forces; rather, they understand that the best way to achieve the goal of winning is to view running as a learning process. Therefore, while they have a burning desire to obtain medals and win races, they also have a sincere appreciation for their individual improvement independent of their victories over other runners. The competitive drive is balanced with a long-term, sustainable outlook for running.