Practicing Positivity and Staying Motivated with Trail Running

Written by Tommy McClellan for the Summer 2019 edition of our Trail Times newsletter.

“Running is 90 percent mental, and the other 10 percent is physical.”

Who knows if this quote’s math is correct, but I do know that thinking and acting positive has not only had a positive effect on my running, but my life as well.

I’ve had a loving relationship with running since I started at twelve years old. We’ve cared for each other, we’ve nurtured my mental health through tough times, and we’ve always enjoyed a quick pee break. Then I went to college and continued to run at the NCAA level.

While at college, I never stopped to ask myself ,“Why am I doing this,” or “What is my philosophy for running and for life.” I had times (more than I’d like to admit), where I lost focus, gave up, and actively practiced negativity. At the time, I would say things like “I suck,” or “I’m not going to be even close to winning.” Often times I meant this as a joke, but looking back, I realize that using negative language and having negative thoughts will only lead to negative results.

So, the big question is, “How do I stay motivated?” For me, it’s using positive language and focusing on the positive things in my life. Sure, negative thoughts still enter my brain, but I just let them pass and focus on the things I have and can do, rather than the things I can’t do. I also find races that excite me. Having a goal race can be one of the most important things to increase motivation.

Luckily, over the past year I’ve discovered my love for trail running. There’s something about trail running that I find to be wholesome, like I’m reconnecting with the earth. I enjoy the smell of the woods, the feel of the dirt beneath my feet, and the raging waters I sometimes have to run through. I also enjoy the rush of getting lost on the trail and thinking to myself, “I’m going to die out here.”

Tommy McClellan at the2017 USATF Mountain Running Championships. Photo by Michael Scott.

It’s cathartic in a way, and gives you a better perspective on life when you eventually find your way back (or in my case found living in a cave by a forest ranger). I’m once again training with a goal in mind, and that goal is to compete to the best of my ability on trails.

So, take a breath, think positive thoughts, and find your motivation for running. Whether it’s for a loved one, the love of the sport, or just to improve your health…find what keeps you focused.

About the Author: Tommy McClellan a runner and comedian who’s portrayed characters on The Late Show with Stephen Colbert, and whose debut stand-up album went to #1 on Amazon. He’s a former Division 1 collegiate runner at Iona College, and now runs for the Philadelphia Runner Track Club in Philadelphia, PA. McClellan will be attending La Salle University this summer to receive his Master’s Degree in Strategic Communication. He enjoys running, swimming, and neglecting his loved ones (just kidding).

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