Finding Motivation For Running Despite Injury & Self Doubt

Finding Motivation For Running Despite Injury & Self Doubt

I’d like to welcome a new writer to The Smart Runner blog. Darren Horgan, like most of us, is a recreational runner yet no less serious about achieving his marathon goals than any professional runner.

Darren likes to write about some of his experiences out there on the road and share with others. He is a bit of a perfectionist and so likes to put a lot of work into his endeavours. In this piece Darren shares his story of trying to find Motivation For Running despite frustrating injury.

Welcome to the blog Darren and thanks for your contribution

Take it away!


We’ve all been there, a slight injury shows up, it get a little worse and a little worse and finally puts you out of action. Well I certainly have been in the past few months anyway.

Bruce Springsteen put it perfectly in a song I’ve rediscovered recently.

“I know you’ve got no reason to trust me. My confidence is a little rusty”

Like most things from The Boss it perfectly summed up the way I felt at the time; tired, emotional, sore, mentally and physically drained and if I’m 100% honest with myself struggling with finding my motivation for running.

Years ago, I did a self defence course, which was definitely something different for me. To use a dreaded cliche (I promise there won’t be many of these) it took me out of my ‘comfort zone’.

It was a bit like a mixture of the films Fight Club and the Bourne Identity. Smart, simple but effective moves to get you out of trouble if it arises. The guy who ran it gave a brilliant piece of advice;

“The majority of people who are victims of assault or mugging can almost sense something is up, they feel it in their gut. Their instinct warns them something is up, but they choose to ignore it.”

I think most runners are like that regarding injury.

Ignoring The Warning Signs

Usually we can sense something is up but we trudge along anyway, telling ourselves it’s nothing, it’s grand. However rarely do we find that it is, and trudge on often making things worse.

In my case things hurt and deep down I knew something was up. The pain was so bad it was keeping me awake at night. As such I became overtired (also over cranky but that’s another story for another day).

I was overcompensating and thus unknowingly created another problem. The right thing to do would have been to stop and get checked out, but I’m a big tough guy and I didn’t.

As a result I paid the price.

If I’m honest with myself, when the physio told me what was up, in a strange way I was relieved. The break was a welcome one because I had been pushing hard the past eighteen months.

I ran a lot of races including a few marathons in that period. I enjoyed it, more so because I was seeing improvement after being stagnant and frustrated for a long time.

This was thanks in large part to the help of a brilliant coach. But I knew deep down that I should take the foot off the gas a little before I got injured or burnt out.

Ironically both of these things happened. 

The Fear Of Going Backwards

Like most things there is a flip side and I figured it out chatting to a mate recently. We are both training for an upcoming marathon and I was just asking how the training was going.

He told me his training was ok but he cut a recent run short because he felt tightness in his hamstring. “I don’t run when I’m injured” he said. “I’m not stupid like you.”

Yes that was a dig and it annoyed me at the time. But like most things, when I gave it some thought, he did have a point (but I’d never let him know that 🙂 ) 

I know deep down there is a part of me that’s afraid if I stop I won’t get going again and I’ll make up some stupid excuse. Sometimes my mind can play tricks telling me that there is a niggle when it’s nada. So I take a day’s rest, skip that training session, then all of a sudden that day becomes a week, a month or more.

Then all of a sudden I’m 4 stone heavier and back into bad eating habits and xxl clothes. So in that sense I don’t think it’s a bad thing (not the bad food and xxl clothes), but ‘the fear’ as I call it – I should really give that a better title, that’s a bit general.

Conjuring Motivation For Running That First Time

Finding motivation for running can be a challenge sometimes. Although there are lots of things that motivate me to go out and run, like when I am training for a marathon.

I know what I have to do every day and I stick to it. My brilliant trainer has given me my entire plan all written out and easy to follow.

I do this because a marathon is a big deal. I’ve five of them under my belt to date so I know they are tough. No matter how hard I train and do everything right I know I still need that little bit of luck.

Sticking to a training plan inclusive of speed work, tempo and long runs helps me achieve that. But when I think back to what motivated me to run that very first time, it was a mixture of fear and the unknown.

I was unhappy being overweight and I didn’t know what to do about it. A mate asked me if I’d like to go for a run – he was in the same boat as me. I was a bit weary I gave it a shot.

I was not sure how long it would last or where it would take me, but something took hold.

Berlin & A Pursuit Of A Goal

Back to the present day, a lot of hard work later, physio, acupuncture and pilates and the pain is a lot more manageable. I’m thankful for finding the motivation for running again, and training for the Berlin marathon on 25 Sept is in full swing.

I’m feeling a bit bruised and battered but determined to give it my best shot. The training has been hard at times, both mentally and physically, especially as I feel like I’m playing catch up due to injury.

There are moments where I’m stretching, lying on the floor with my lovely pilates moves. Then I hear the voice; “what the fuck are you doing?” The inner critic telling me that I haven’t trained near enough to run a marathon.

And you know maybe I haven’t, maybe I have. What I do know is this; Marathon #6 for me will be in Berlin later in September and I’ll give it my very best shot at achieving that.

Following The Need To Run

I don’t want to sound like I’m being interviewed for Miss World here, but I have realised slowly but surely how important running is in my life. In particular I’ve realised it in my training for this marathon.

Finding the motivation for running and training again has been tough. I felt frustrated and sluggish starting back. Sometimes the universe seemed to throw challenges on my path no matter how much I tried to be positive.

I think we just have to deal with the challenges the best way we can. The fact that I can lace up my runners, do my groovy pilates stretches and get out there helps. It helps more than I can possibly comprehend in my stupid stubborn head.

Is that what motivates me to get up at some godawful hour on Sunday morning to do my long run? Or trudge around a slippy field in the rain to do my intervals? Maybe, probably.

I will always head out the door and run as long as I am physically able (even if sometimes I’m not). Because even if I temporarily believe myself to be useless, any run, even a bad run, tells me otherwise.

Thank you for reading 🙂

Reader Bonus: Download your free copy of the Mental Training For Athletes Guide


If you happen to be battling with self doubt or struggling to find motivation for running, check out the Mental Training For Athletes article. There you will find a process to help you move through your challenge and reach your marathon goal.

Have you had an experience similar to Darren? How did you overcome your challenge? Let us know in the comments.

3 thoughts on “Finding Motivation For Running Despite Injury & Self Doubt

  1. Thanks for your well-written and thoughtful essay. The “fear of going backwards” is widely shared but rarely expressed! And I, too, am trying to capture the feeling of running long distances for the first time: without precisely measured expectations, without the fear of failure. And “bruised and battered” – kudos on sneaking in a second Springsteen reference!


    1. Thanks for stopping by Philip. All the best to you in your running!

  2. Many thanks for your kind words Philip. I
    Delighted you like my piece and that it struck a chord with you. I greatly appreciate your kind words and you taking the time to write them. I’m also delighted someone got the second Springsteen reference 🙂 best of luck in your running and thanks again for your kind words.

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