OK, I admit it. I need a deadline. It is entirely possible that if I'd entered a profession without deadlines, I might be the most underachieving 39-year-old on the planet. I am constantly trying to figure out how I can accomplish what I need to do in a day, most of the time at the last possible moment.

This is relevant to understand my thinking, and why, if I am going to accomplish my goal of running at least four marathons next year, I need to change it.

I didn't come close to sticking to the running schedule. I did do my weight workouts, but when it came to running, I was a master at finding more important things to do. In defense of myself, it is the busiest time of year for us prep writers — state tournament season.

But, as my father constantly reminds me, everyone's got an excuse, and no one wants to hear mine. I actually went four days without running, unless, of course, you count chasing my stepdaughter's puppy through my neighborhood in the middle of the night or sprinting across Lagoon to take my nephew's ticket to him so he could go into a haunted house.

Yes, this last week was so meager, when it came to physical activity, that I even thought about counting carrying groceries into the house as a sprint workout. (But those of us who've done this in a hurry know it can leave you breathless.)

So, I planned to write about how to stay motivated in the colder, darker weather. Well, it turns out I had to ask around because I was everything BUT motivated.

Here's some of the advice I got:

Run with someone(s) else. Peer pressure continues to motivate us throughout life, it seems, and if you commit to a friend or group of friends that you'll rise and shuffle, then you're more likely to do so.

Run later in the day, if possible. Some of us don't do well in the dark, and it's not (just) because we're scared. It's colder, and for women running alone it can be dangerous (which is why I run with my dog). Also, I had to run at night twice last week, and it's tough to see the roadway if you run on dimly lit streets.

Lay your running clothes out the night before so that you don't have to go searching for your favorite running shirt in the chilly morning air. Also, make sure you don't dress too warm, especially on longer runs. It's cold standing in your kitchen, but once you get moving, this is actually perfect running weather.

Take your running clothes with you if you fail to get up early and then, when you have some spare time, hit the gym or a new trail.

My problem isn't that running in the morning is difficult. I prefer to run at the beginning of my day. I feel better; I have more energy; I can focus on all of the other tasks I've left until the last minute.

But when I, for many reasons, can't get that morning workout in, I do have trouble putting something else off so I can squeeze in a workout and the always required post-workout shower.

I don't feel the deadline pressure of my marathons yet. I know I have plenty of time to train. And yet, I feel that if I don't find some consistency early, I might be able to finish one or two marathons, but I won't have the foundation to run them all. This training isn't just about being able to run 26 miles once. I know I can do that.

This training is about forming habits that will keep me involved in endurance events long after I've celebrated my milestone birthday next year.

If you have any other suggestions about how to get or stay motivated, send them my way. Otherwise, I may have to change my calendars and pretend it's already December. Merry Christmas!

Next: Does the food you eat make a difference? How do you change 39 years of finding nutrition at a drive-though window — especially when you're schedule won't allow for many sit-down meals?

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