4 and 40: Deriving Motivation from Meaningless Numbers

Spiekermann House NumbersImage by Stewf via Flickr

I had absolutely no desire to run today. After 14 miles on the road yesterday (including a 10 mile race), 2 hours of canoe paddling, dinner and kid-play with friends, and the mental anguish associated with seeing my wife and 3yo daughter head off to emergency room at 9:00 last night with what turned out to be a broken finger for my little girl, I was physically and emotionally spent. I was so tired today that I nearly fell asleep on a park bench while the kids were playing on a jungle gym – thankfully, my wife and sister were there to keep a watchful eye. To say that I am exhausted would be an understatement, and you can see why my desire to run was at an all-time low.

Despite my lethargy, two numbers have been circling around in my head since I woke up this morning – 4 & 40, 4 & 40, 4& 40, over and over. To most people, these two numbers probably have no meaning whatsoever. But if you’re a runner on the last day of your running week, you can probably figure out what they meant to me – it would only require a 4-mile run for me to have my first 40-mile week ever, and for me that is a fairly significant milestone. Two years ago, running 40 miles in one week would have sounded like pure insanity, and the fact that I was so close today gave me the motivation I needed to get out the door and get it done. After a day visiting with my sister (and splurging on pizza and ice cream), we arrived home around dinnertime, I grabbed the dog, and knocked out 4.80 miles. It wasn’t my best run ever, but neither was it the torture that I had expected it to be. The important thing is that I got out there and set a new milestone. I’m still tired, but after yesterday’s excitement, I’m feeling quite fine – on to 50!

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About Peter Larson

This post was authored by Peter Larson. Pete is a recovering academic who currently works as an exercise physiologist, running coach, and writer. He's also a father of three and a fanatical runner with a bit of a shoe obsession. In addition to writing and editing this site, he is co-author of the book Tread Lightly, and writes a personal blog called The Blogologist. Follow Pete on Twitter, Facebook, Google+, and via email.


  1. Great job and hanks for sharing! I feel inspired to reach my goals for the week, as soon as I am given the clearance from my surgeon.

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