Keeping the Pace: When the Going Gets Tough

The not-so-much what kind of ill-fated fortune could possibly befall us next and I’m just waiting for us to be struck down by a lightening bolt, don’t laugh, that really almost happened once Lucky 13’s have had our fair share of misfortune lately, or so it seems.  From injury to burnout to over-training to feeling depressed we’ve suffered through many heartaches and losses both on and off the running trails. It seems like for every victory we achieve or triumphant event that occurs, we get knocked back down the next time, even harder than before. One or more of us always seems to be struggling or downright hurting. Granted, it pulls us together as a team and has brought us closer than ever, but sometimes I just want to scream, “When is enough, enough already?!”

I’ve been thinking about why we seem to have so many problems
all right in a row and have concluded that, relatively speaking, we are all pretty “young” runners. I don’t think any of us have been running for more than three or four years. In the world of running – we might as well be newborns! In addition to that, I have only known these people for less than a year, yet I feel like I have known them all of my life. I forget that we just met in December of last year when something magical happened (truly) and we bonded like nothing I have ever seen before. One might surmise that God really does put people in your life for reasons you don’t understand until you need them. Just look at me. I wouldn’t have made it through these last few months without the support, encouragement, friendship and love of my running partners.

Yet, where does all of this leave us when the going gets tough? And believe me, it does and it will. With no truly veteran runners in our immediate group, it can be challenging to keep your head held high and set a good example when you’re struggling to get the miles in or keep the pace. It’s hard to tell someone else to keep it up when you feel like giving up yourself. It’s hard to find the energy to lead a group of 30 plus runners when you feel fatigued just thinking about running. I know I’ve been struggling this season, as well as several other leaders within our group.

Whether you are a novice runner or a runner who has been running for years, it can be difficult to stay motivated to run on a regular basis. It may start out slowly with skipping one or two runs here and there, but then progresses to rarely running at all. Factor in injury or strenuous life circumstances that prevent you from running and it can be downright disheartening to get back on your feet. We’ve all been there and if we haven’t, it’s only a matter of time before we are. Even professional athletes go through seasons in their running career and take periods of time to rest, reflect, relax and cross train. I remember my first training season I faced no burnout or injury or boredom – you mean there were others that did?! – and this season I seem to have struggled through more runs than not.

And it is precisely this struggle that makes us stronger – as runners and as human beings.

I like the way ultra-runner and bestselling author Dean Karnazes says it best:

Most people never get there. They’re afraid or unwilling to demand enough of themselves and take the easy road, the path of least resistance. But struggling and suffering, as I now saw it, were the essence of a life worth living. If you’re not pushing yourself beyond the comfort zone, if you’re not constantly demanding more from yourself—expanding and learning as you go—you’re choosing a numb existence. You’re denying yourself an extraordinary trip.


Dean has an impressive resume, to say the least. Heck, he’s even been dubbed the “Fittest Man on the Planet.” Dean has pushed his body and mind to inconceivable limits. He has raced and competed on all seven continents. Among his many accomplishments, he’s run a 135-mile ultra-marathon across Death Valley in 120-degree temperatures and a marathon to the South Pole in negative 40 degrees. He’s run a 200-mile relay solo, racing alongside teams of twelve, and has completed a 350-mile run. In 2006, he ran 50 marathons, in all 50 US states, in 50 consecutive days, finishing with the NYC Marathon, which he completed in three hours flat. And, all of that aside, Dean is passionate about healthy and active living and it is his compassion for helping others become the best that they can be that is his true gift.

So what makes him special? Besides the fact that he is super-human and has nothing to do all day but train. How can he run hundreds of miles at a time, but I fumble through 2.5 miles on any given day? Forget how his body holds up under so much stress, where is his brain when he is running hundreds upon hundreds of miles in less than ideal conditions?

When the going gets tough, Dean keeps going. 

And that is exactly what will make the Lucky 13’s stronger too.

We get out there and give it our best – and our best is always good enough. Whether it is one mile or 11 miles, we run what we can, we push through and we come out stronger on the other side. We support each other when we are down, ask for help and advice and know when to take it easy or when to persevere through the pain.

What I am learning is, for the Lucky 13’s right now, seeing the leaders of the group struggle and keep moving on – time on your feet, guys! – is exactly what a young group of runners need. It is not now and will not always be easy. We are not running Gods – far from it, in fact – and we have not reached some herculean level of athletic excellence. I for one know I never ever will! We are everyday people with jobs and families and stresses and problems and schedules and illness and injuries and groceries and cooking and cleaning and running errands and kids and school and projects and multiple passions.

Yet, we arerunners. We run because we can and even if we can for 5 hours one day and 5 minutes the next, we endure and we don’t give up. Because runner’s don’t give up, either. And when we see our leaders struggle and persevere and achieve great things, it inspires us to do the same.

And just like Dean, when the going gets tough, through the good times and the bad, the strength and the weaknesses, the fun and the pain, we keep going on this one, very extraordinary trip.

Until the next mile marker,



  1. Love this. Good thoughts for a 10:30er struggling with many of the things you described! Thanks!

  2. Thanks, Sara – an important and timely reminder! Love you!

  3. oh my goodness, this post totally motivated me! I’ve already done my workout for the day, but this makes me wanna go again 🙂 AWESOME POST! I AM A runner too. Although sometimes I don’t believe it, I AM! Half marathon training starts tomorrow for me, and I’m so happy that I read this. guess we all have major struggles huh? That’s something we all have in common that keeps us linked together through our words…

  4. Amen!

  5. runningperseverance says

    beautiful post as always Sara! thinking of you and the Lucky 13s. You all are lucky to have such a close-knit team to lean on and to stay strong together! Hang on to that…a bond like that can get through ANYTHING!

  6. Kimberly Turner Bouldin says

    Awesome post, Sara!

  7. Beautifully written! It’s so true. We all struggle. I have for the last year+ and running hasn’t been as fun as it once was. Thanks for the reminder that still getting out there and pushing through IS making us all stronger.

  8. Sara–What a great post! We all motivate in different ways, for different reasons, but the common bond is a love of running. That’s what gets us out the door in the end!

  9. Christie Bodner says

    I just came across your blog. I’m now a follower. I love this post. I’m training for my first ever 1/2 marathon and some days I just questions rather this is for me…..but I keep pushing on. Thanks for the inspiration!

  10. Christina Patterson says

    GREAT POST! I love Dean, and I think you’re pretty amazing, too. 🙂 I kind of burned out after my hardcore winter training, and having loads of homework didn’t help things. This spring I would run once or twice, not run for 10-20 days, and then repeat. Training for this marathon felt like starting from scratch. Burnout sucks big balls.

    There is a blog award waiting for you on my page. 🙂

  11. RunningMandy says

    Great post Sara!!! Love you!!!

Speak Your Mind


This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.