Run Like You’ll Never Run Again

I had a wonderful session with one of my mental game coaching athletes last week. She is a master’s track and field athlete specializing in the sprints. She also happens to be one of the top ranked sprinters in her age group in the country and a multiple-medalist at the Indoor Masters Track championships.

We wanted to tap into motivation and intensity that spawn peak performances. When I asked about what drives her; what makes her go one step further; one repeat faster; one weight heavier in the gym, etc. She paused. Then, she said, “I drive myself because I don’t know when the workout or race will be my last. I treat workouts like it might be the last time I get to do this and so I want to do my best.”

Profound actually isn’t it? We can all talk about how short life is. We can talk about how we should live life to the fullest. We can talk about how we should always do our best. But, how many of us actually pursue all of life in this way – sports, fitness, relationships, hobbies, work?

It brought me to ask even myself – what if today it were the last day I ever run? How would I like to remember it? How could I have it add meaning to my life?

Too often we leave the workout or race thinking “ok, next time I’ll do better/race smarter/complete the reps”. Though I believe this thought pattern afflicts almost all of us; I find it far more common in younger runners. There is a lifetime in front of them, with many seasons, races, workouts to do. Do you take for granted getting your workout done and looking to the next day?

It may sound philosophical which perhaps it is. But it is also motivational.

A phrase we used for running camp one year was: Potentially Brilliant. The message from its originator was one of having the opportunity to make every single day, every single workout potentially brilliant. I think this is his way to focus his intensity and motivation to make this one workout purposeful, the best it can be. It’s a way to focus on doing your best now and not wait for that “next” workout or race that may never come.

So here is some food for thought.

What drives you?

Are you guilty of falling into the thinking you’ll always have that next run or race?

What would make you get the most out of your workout today?

Before your next workout ask yourself – if this is my last workout or race – how do I want to remember it?


About Dean Hebert

I’m a mental game coach, author and speaker. I work with individual athletes, parents, coaches, and teams on sports performance enhancement. Beyond my academic post-graduate work in sports psychology - the psychology behind athlete performance – I am a certified Mental Games Coaching Professional (MGCP) and certified hypnotherapist. I’ve authored several books and hundreds of articles. “Coach, I didn’t run because…” (2008) is a seriously light-hearted look at making excuses not to workout and how to overcome them. “Focus for Fitness” (2009) and “Screw the Goals Give me the Donut” (2010) are two of my eBooks on mental game approaches for the everyday athlete. I wrote these because I believe that everyone can benefit from the powerful mental techniques that the world’s best athletes use. I have been cited in Runners World, Best Health magazine (CN), SWEAT Magazine, and the Washington Examiner amongst many other publications. I have been a featured mental games coach in Runner’s World and for the internationally acclaimed trail running resource - I also regularly appear on sports and fitness talk shows such as LTKFitness, Runnersroundtable and for more than three years I have co-hosted a weekly video series with Coach Joe English for I specialize in mental toughness training. My clients include tennis, synchronized swimming, golf, race-kart, soccer, motocross, volleyball, MMA, cycling (road, off-road, time-trialist), running, duathlon and triathlon, basketball, football and baseball athletes. I have coached world-class athletes and athletes internationally. I have a passion for working with youth athletes and helping them apply mental game skills and techniques to all areas of life. Most importantly, my aim is to have people enjoy sports and life to their fullest through peak performances.
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3 Responses to Run Like You’ll Never Run Again

  1. Daniela says:

    Hi Dean. First I want to thank you for the very useful articles you post on this blog. I’ve read them for a while but never commented. But this caught me in a tough time.

    It sounds very inspirational, “Run like you’ll never run again”, but taken literally it isn’t the wise thing to do. If I knew that run will be my last I would totally trash myself and refuse to stop. But if I do this in a workout, then, in the best case, next week I won’t be unable to train properly and in the worst I’d injure myself and spend the next month and a half hoping I could walk again. I know, I used to do it.

    So now, on the verge of overtraining, with too many races that I have to run, with some people telling me that the limits are all in my head and only because I’m lazy I don’t run 10km in 40 minutes today, when I can’t even do it in 50, I find this discuraging. There has to be balance in life. There has to be passion and enthusiasm and an enquiring mind taking the time to identify the weaknesses in technique and the means to solve them, not fear and despair. There have to be unrealistic dreams, broken down into not so unrealistic bits and totally realistic plans to get you there. There have to be the moments when you run till you feel like dieing and then up the pace for the last third of the race, but also there have to be moments when you take the time to correct the patterns in your movement. And moments when you don’t run at all, but train to correct some imbalance. There is a time to fight and a time to enjoy. And also there is a time to forgive yourself for a less than perfect run, or for not being as good as you would want to be and move on. We live in a society that loves winners and heroes, but also loves to tell people that they don’t have what it takes to make it. I think the secret is to take what ever you can turn into a motivation and block everything else. Joy, terror, the hunter’s instinct, euphory, aplauses, kind words and advices, unpolite remarks, hardships all can serve as motivation. But in the end, the only thing that counts, the only thing that always remains with me is the aknowledgement of the fact that life is just something that happens between the runs. When I run I am real. I can’t be myself and slacking, but I also have to be rational. I forgive myself for the reason that tells me when it’s enough, I forgive myself for the times when I fail to stop and injure myself, I enjoy the progress and I endure through the plateaus because there are moments when I can almost feel the new, more performant me, developing behind the apparent stagnation. And I like to believe that one day I will really run, run like the wind, run like the earth’s on fire. But of course I know it’s not going to happen, the wind it’s always at least 20 seconds faster 🙂

    • Dean Hebert says:

      It is wonderful to read your response. And you get to many points that are what my post is about. It is not about trying to trash yourself in some mythical final run. It is about living it, enjoying it and not dreading it, not fearing it, not complaining about it… You should enjoy the fast the slow the plateaus the days you ache and enjoy the dreams of some day running faster. Of course there are days we don’t run that is smart training. The point again is so, are you doing THAT to the best of your ability? Are you taking that day off like it is the last day of rest?

      And yes, use anything you can for your motivation. We’re all different. What ever gets you going or keeps you going. This is a sad comment to me: “So now, on the verge of overtraining, with too many races that I have to run, with some people telling me that the limits are all in my head and only because I’m lazy I don’t run 10km in 40 minutes today, when I can’t even do it in 50, I find this discouraging.” No one knows our limits. No one knows what is in our heads. And only you would truly know if you are lazy or not. The speed someone runs is not indicative of laziness, mental game issues, effort issues. There are far too many influences to performance. We do the best we can with what we got.

      Now you do say “But in the end, the only thing that counts, the only thing that always remains with me is the aknowledgement of the fact that life is just something that happens between the runs.” And what I would challenge you with is that the run is every bit a part of life. That is why we do it. It is integral to living (at least for runners). It adds spice to our life. It allows us to think more clearly and keep the REST of life in perspective ANd to live it better. And to your point… it IS the balance in our lives when we choose it to be so.

      Keep on keeping on!

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