It's been a long and exciting summer, and I hope that when we complete that final race on Sept. 23, I'll find I'm naturally motivated to keep on running. But to be honest, I'm skeptical of myself. I've never been a fitness enthusiast, and I guess I still fear that a piece of me - the couch potato that I was back in March - will find it easy to give up when I don't have the immediate goal of the Akron Marathon Race Series in front of me.

That's where discipline comes in. A couple of times during this very busy week, I wanted to shut off the alarm clock, roll over and go back to sleep. But I also know that's a slippery slope. Missing one day of my routine will make it easy for me to excuse the next. So far, I've resisted. I want my morning run to be as second nature as brushing my teeth.

Anyway, I was looking for inspiration on the Internet and came across a story with some good advice: https://www.runnersworld.com/for-beginners-only/7-surefire-ways-to-mess-up-your-morning-workout. It's really about how to get the most of your morning run, but there were some great tips for my situation as well.

First, the writer suggests working with your natural clock. I've been fighting that all summer because I'm not a morning person, but I was running early to beat the heat. Now that the days are getting cooler, I can probably start doing some runs in the evening. I think I'd enjoy that. Meanwhile, keeping my Saturday morning routine with Blue Line Beginners assures me of at least one early run per week, in keeping with the time of day I would expect to race.

Tip two: Lay out your running clothes and gear before you go to bed. I like this one, and do it often. It helps not to have to fumble about half asleep, looking for my sports watch, earbuds and clean socks. The less I have to think about it, the less likely I am to think there's too much work involved and I should just crawl back under the sheets.

This advice is probably my favorite: Never, ever go to bed saying "I'll see how I feel in the morning." I know myself very well, and this attitude is perilous. Before I go to bed, I know exactly what trailhead I'm going to go to and what distance I'm going to complete. I don't change it, question it, waffle on it. I just do it. Again, less is more when it comes to thinking at that early hour.

Here's another idea from the writer that I discovered on my own a couple of weeks ago: I started walking my first half mile. Before, each time I began a run I knew the first 10-15 minutes were going to be awful. I found myself in a grin-and-bear-it state as if I was waiting for the dentist to give me Novocaine. Turns out, a speedy walk, for me, just naturally turns into a run when I'm ready, and I'm no longer dreading the start of my workout.

And if I'm not dreading the start of my run, then I've put yet another excuse to bed - instead of myself!

-- Paula