With winter almost in the rearview mirror, Daniel Rowden takes stock on his motivations ahead of busy summer of racing.

January is always an interesting month. Christmas and new year are over. Normal life is resumed. For me, the change in the year means the track season is coming into view.

I very rarely compete over the winter months. I’m not very good at cross country. It’s too muddy for my long stride to be of any use and races are regularly over 20 times my usual race distance.

I’ve never had a proper indoor season. Firstly because the weather and university make it difficult to get in the necessary speed work but, more importantly, my main weakness in the summer is usually my endurance. So for me, it’s more important to keep the consistent mileage and endurance work going for the whole of winter before transitioning to the faster sessions when the temperature rises.

The downside of this is that I very rarely have any competitions to break up the, sometimes monotonous, winter training. And January is usually the month that I find toughest. The fuel and desire from the past season is fading, the coming season is still many months away, and it’s very often disturbingly cold. It’s usually a battle of will to keep grinding out the sessions.

A quick update on my training

This January started pretty poorly. I’d been struggling with an inflamed tendon in my foot throughout December and the pain was only starting to ease. And I’d been suffering with stomach cramping during hard sessions.

But while it started poorly, the end picked up quite nicely. The miles are ticking over and I’m back on the track once or so a week now, after months of tempo runs.

As I alluded to earlier, January is always the time of year when my real reasons for running become most important. During the summer months when I’m flying around the track at race pace and everything is rosy it’s easy to push every session.

But right now when I have university to keep on top of and I’m struggling to understand the dynamics of vibration, it’s much more challenging.

Athletics alongside university

I’m currently studying mechanical engineering at Imperial College London. The course is pretty tough and time consuming, but thankfully, this year the powers that be have allowed me to spread my second year of studies over two years, to allow me to train more effectively. But it’s still proving to be very demanding.

So back to my motivation. What is it that helps me stay focussed and to keep pushing even though the mornings are early, the weather is depressing, the training is tough and the remaining hours of my day are usually spent trying to keep on top of university work?

Well, to be honest, there’s no definitive answer. I wish it were as simple as one main motivation or one main reason that I put in so much work over these frosty months. But that’s not the case. I can however put them all into three main categories.

Competitions, people who have invested in me, and my faith

My first motivation is upcoming competitions. This year I’m working towards the British Championships, the European U23s and the World Championships right at the end of the year.

I’m a competitive guy. I want to be the best of the Brits and to do that I need to work hard. I don’t want to get beaten, and I definitely don’t want to get to the start line of the biggest events of my year and realise that I should’ve and could’ve worked harder.

Secondly, I do it for the people that have invested heavily in my career. My coach, my parents, my grandparents and many others have sacrificed a lot to support me and give me the best chance of success.

They’ve given up their time and their money. They’ve travelled all over the continent to watch me race and even driven me across multiple countries to get me to the competitions that will best aid my development. I want to make them proud.

My last motivation comes from my faith. I became a Christian when I was 15 years old and my beliefs play a huge role in all areas of my life, including my athletics.

I came to the conclusion that God has given me the ability that I have and that he’s had a hand in my journey to this day. I don’t want to waste the what he’s given me. Instead, I want to use it to give myself a platform to help to change people’s lives. For me, this vision goes far beyond athletics.

Even now as I’m sitting here typing this, dreading the Sunday long run that I’m about to embark on, it’s been useful to remember why I do what I do, and why I don’t just pick an easier career path.

Summer is just around the corner, and I’ve got to make every moment count.

Daniel Rowden features in the ‘Fast 10: class of 2019’ and over the course of the year will share his running journey. You can follow Daniel on Instagram, while further information about the ‘class of 2019’ can be found here.

Are you a fan of Fast Running? Then please support us. For as little as the price of a monthly magazine you can support Fast Running – and it only takes a minute. Thank you.