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Weekend Agenda: Taking in Views with Trail Runner Grayson Murphy

Of all the anticipated peaks to climb and challenges to overcome, Grayson Murphy wasn't planning on the surprises 2020 would throw her way. In today's Weekend Agenda, Grayson — a Montana-based trail runner and the 2019 World Mountain Running Champion — shares her perspective on finding intrinsic motivation and appreciating the little things. 

Whatever mountains you have to climb this year, make sure you are nice and hydrated, you have a good plan, and you take time to slow down and enjoy the views. 

Follow along with Grayson's journey on her Instagram.

Among the many things that the global pandemic has taught us, one of the most valuable personal level lessons is that we really need to understand and foster intrinsic motivation when pursuing goals. As a professional runner, I get paid to compete against others and to run races and sometimes the motivation for running gets lost in that sense of commitment and obligation. I initially started running in college as a way to meet new friends and build a new community all while staying active; my perfect world! I love the sense of adventure that running brings with it, particularly trail running. There is no greater feeling than being out exploring a new trail and making it to the top of a mountain peak all on your own two feet. The sense of accomplishment combined with the epic views along the way have you exploding with gratitude for nature and self-love. But in the face of a global pandemic, it is easy to lose sight of why you run and compete. With most of my races this year canceled, I struggled to find the motivation on some days to keep working hard with no big goals ahead to shoot for and no competitions that I was obliged to be in top shape for. After asking myself several times “Why am I doing this?” and “Why should I keep running anyways, it doesn’t seem like this even matters?” I decided it was time to try and answer those questions.

Eventually, after some soul searching, I came to the conclusion that I do like running for the intrinsic values that it offers. I love that running can bring a profound sense of adventure and gratitude to my life and that it allows me to explore the world through movement which can be so healing and fun. I love that running gives me time to be with my friends and make long-lasting memories with them. So while I do love racing, that doesn’t need to be what compels me or motivates me to run anymore since I have a deeper level of intrinsic motivation to keep running in my life even if races aren’t happening. I think that this lesson can be applied to a lot of what we do in life, especially in uncertain times like those of COVID-19. We need to find what motivates us on a deeply and firmly rooted level to keep us grounded and moving forward, even in the face of adversity and change. 

This mindset shift of 2020 has also changed the way that I see goals. Big races used to be my benchmark goals and the reason that worked hard and what I came back to when the times got tough. I used to write down all of my race goals in my training log and look at them frequently to remind myself of what I was doing and how many days I had left until each race. But with no races on the calendar I had to look to smaller goals to set this year. I decided to instead focus on goals of consistency like a new personal record in total miles run this year or a new best in total hours run in one month. While these goals are a lot less Instagram worthy than winning a race is, I am realizing that they may be even more important to my success as an athlete helping me to appreciate and enjoy the process over just being results oriented. These goals serve as a kind of foundational building block for my training that will set me up well to go after big race results when races do return (hopefully soon!). 

A lot of this self exploration, mindset shifting, and goal setting was done in my training log/journal which is one of the best tools I have in my toolkit for overcoming challenges. Being able to write my training down alongside my other daily life obligations and stressors allows me to really reflect on everything from a holistic viewpoint. In fact, my training log is so important to me that I decided to design and sell my own in the hopes that I can offer to others the tool that has brought me so much reflection and growth; check them out and shop here!

You may not be a runner, but I hope that you can see that these life lessons can be applied to many life pursuits. While the pandemic has brought many challenges and stresses our way, one thing we can take away from this experience is that we can and should enjoy the process and focus on smaller goals leading to bigger accomplishments. We should appreciate the intrinsic value of things because we never know when they will be taken away. And lastly, we are so much more than what we do in life and we are incredibly resilient we just need to look up once in a while and take in those epic views. 

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