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Mike Foote pondering motivation during a tough patch on the Three Col Loop, Nepal.

To say that we are living in interesting times would be an understatement. The current COVID-19 pandemic sweeping across the planet has been surprisingly disruptive to the majority of the planet’s way of life; classes cancelled, businesses mandated to close, employees working from home. A society forced to distance. As the crisis swept over our lives, the endurance and mountain communities were impacted in a way that few anticipated, races and climbs were cancelled. Initially, the events were few, but that number rapidly grew until the first half of the year was basically erased. Runners and climbers alike bemoaned the loss of goals. Many took to social media to express the remorse for all the work that had been done for nothing, now that the target had been removed. During a phone conversation with my Coach, Scott Johnston, the question of motivation was discussed. We talked about what we observed, on social media and elsewhere, that athletes had been reacting in various ways, some completely abandoning training, others no longer had the desire to do hard work. “What is the point,” many asked, if there is no race, no summit to chase. 

Over the following weeks, that phone conversation weighed on my mind and I thought of my own motivation. I, like many others, had an event cancel. I had put in a wonderful training block to prepare, and yet when it was canceled, I did not feel like anything was lost. Of course, I would have loved to toe the line, to have gauged the fitness and to have experienced the test, but I had no regret. On a subsequent conversation with Scott, he asked, “what should we do with the fitness from this block?” The answer, that came instantly to my lips, surprised me, “nothing”, I said. My desire was to simply continue to build. To continue to work on the craft I have chosen to dedicate a significant portion of my life to. I did not miss out or waste training simply because I could not race, I had made a better version of my athletic self. I had simply engaged in the process. While listening to a recent podcast one of the hosts asked, “are we trying to be an action or a result?” This struck me as the core of my motivation. I am trying to be the best version of me, not a place in a race or a person on a summit. Certainly, goals along the path can help gauge progress, but, for me, they do not define it. 

In these trying times, when many of us are limited with how we express our physical self, I see an opportunity to discover the core of motivation. Why do you practice the craft of moving in the mountains or running trails? What is it that gets you on the treadmill run intervals when you are forced to shelter in place? I know, that for me the motivation lies in the process. The constant, relentless pursuit of improvement. I choose to be action, not a result.