Get Fired Up

The secret to lasting motivation is burning inside you. You just have to stoke it—as these runners have—to be on your way to a lifetime of running.

Steven Sashen 48
Occupation: Creator and CEO, Invisible Shoes
Residence: Boulder, Colorado


Growing up and through early adulthood, Steven Sashen had always been athletic. If it was fun, competitive, and social, he was interested. He competed in gymnastics and experimented with circus arts. After several injuries, he gave up his high-flying pursuits and started looking for another sport to fill the void. A friend told him about masters' racing, and at age 45, he started running.

It took Sashen close to two years to figure out the sport: He tried different training routines and learned the value of recovery and listening to his body. Today, he's half a second away from being an All-American master's sprinter in his age group in the 100-meter dash. In August, he ran a 12.4 in the Rocky Mountain Masters Games in Fort Collins, Colorado. He needs to hit 11.9 to earn a coveted top-25 ranking in his age group. "That carrot is really tasty-looking," he says.

A former stand-up comic, software developer, and now entrepreneur in the running-sandal business, Sashen is a determined individualist, and running suits his personality perfectly. Training and racing satisfy his competitive drive, and he enjoys the camaraderie of other sprinters and the opportunity to meet people from all over the world. "There are a lot of interesting people who are smart and fun," he says. "But let's not leave out that I love being on the track and beating some high school kid and then saying to him, 'Dude, I'm older than your dad.'"

Why Racing Works

Racing fulfills Sashen's need for competence—there's always a time goal to chase or a higher ranking to achieve, says motivational expert Philip M. Wilson, Ph.D., associate professor of physical education and kinesiology at Brock University in Ontario. He has control over his running because he devises his own training plan and executes his own racing strategy, but the group dynamic of the track allows him to feel part of a bigger community.

Make It Work for You

Find a foe. Healthy competition can make you a stronger, more competent runner, says Edwin Locke, Ph.D., emeritus professor of leadership and motivation at the University of Maryland. Make bets, set up weekly races with friends, or participate in training races sponsored by local running clubs. Or if you run alone, set mini-goals like picking off the runner ahead of you. Engaging in friendly rivalries puts you in charge of your performance (autonomy) while fostering a sense of community (relatedness).

John Lintner 32
Occupation: Owner, Rockin' Running Tours
Residence: Memphis, Tennessee


John Lintner was working 12-hour shifts as a nurse when he developed an addiction to painkillers. It eventually cost him his job and his first marriage and led to six car accidents. After his last wreck—one in which he walked away after hitting a small tree and light pole going 100 miles per hour—he went to jail. He was fitted with an ankle bracelet and sentenced to house arrest.

After that, Lintner says he was ready to change his ways. "I was on the phone with a friend who said he felt the best he had ever felt in his life," says Lintner. "From running." The friend was preparing for a marathon. "He said training was a big adventure and a test of will and that there was no feeling like crossing the finish line. I knew at that point I wanted to run a marathon."

Unable to run outside, Lintner bought a treadmill for his house and set goals for himself: Run five miles. Run 10. "Running helped me deal with the enormous amount of anger I had built up inside over my downfall," he says. "It allowed me to channel my anger into something awesome. I always felt good about myself after running."

Lintner ran his first 26.2, the Mississippi Blues Marathon in Jackson, Mississippi, in January 2008—with an ankle bracelet and approval from his corrections officer

Lintner completed his house arrest in September 2008. He's since finished a total of four marathons and started his own business—Rockin' Running Tours, a guide service in Memphis. "Running has been therapeutic for me," he says. "Whenever I'm feeling toxic, frustrated, angry, or down, my wife will tell me, 'Look, John, you need to go for a run.' I don't take pills anymore. Running is my valium."

Why Seizing Control Works

"The whole idea of being on house arrest is the antithesis of autonomy," Wilson says. For Lintner, running became something over which he had control. He also used running to fulfill his strong need for competence, which was obviously limited by his confinement, says Wilson. "He met incremental challenges and moved on from them—run five miles, then 10, then a marathon, then build a company."

Make It Work for You

We're all constrained by something—demanding jobs, busy kids, endless home repairs. It's common to get caught up and feel like you're not making progress. In order to feel like you're improving (becoming more competent), you need to set clear goals—ones that are specific and challenging rather than vague and openended, says Locke. For example, "Run five miles by December 31" is a more effective goal than, "Lose weight next year."