Tuesday Topics | How do you stay mentally motivated during a long run?

This week, I am jumping back on the bandwagon and link up with  Kookyrunner and Zenaida  for Tuesday Topics. We’re talking about how we stay mentally motivated during a long run.

I’ve never trained for – or run – a marathon, so I can’t really speak to these really long runs, but I am not a stranger to the double digit runs (although I will admit that its been a while since I ran more than 8 or 9 miles).

I have definitely been asked how I – aside from the physical aspect – get through long runs and I am not sure I have a secret. Running is as much a physical activity for me as it is a mental activity. I do my best thinking when I run. I usually have a gazillion things to think about when I run, so my mind is mostly occupied and if it isn’t, then I really enjoy just being outside. 

I have a few tips though:

+ Okay, first up, this is really a pre-run mental strategy, but I often plan a long run as an out-and-back run because, you know, if you make it out to a certain point, you also have to make it back… so there’s no way of cutting the run short.

+ I always joke that I run because I like to eat, but that is partially true. The thought of a nice post-run meal definitely keeps me going and makes me feel like I earned that meal.

+ I keep reminding myself that I get to do this, nobody is forcing me to run. I choose to run and I am thankful for the ability to do it. 

+ I allow myself to walk. I know, that seems dramatic, but when I started out running, I had a hard time letting myself take walking breaks. I always thought I failed if I took a walking break when I was building mileage. But you know what? This is my run and I can walk if I want to. A mile is a mile regardless of pace, and I am getting them done.

+ I mentally break up my run into smaller chunks. I can make myself believe that I am not actually running 12 miles if I am thinking of it as four 3-milers. It helps if I know the route and know how much more I have to go when I hit a certain location during my run. I often tell myself “if you made it to here, you can make it to this next spot”.

+ I try to hit places during my run that I enjoy (a bridge, a spot along the river, the park, a pretty neighborhood street) where I can make a brief stop and take a picture. It gives my run a purpose and I love documenting my runs this way.

Long runs aren’t easy but there are definitely some mental strategies to help accomplish them. Most of the time, the anticipation of the long run is much more stressful than the execution.

What are your best tips to stay motivated during a long run? Do you employ some of the same strategies?


  1. Planning an out and back is always so smart. Once you know you have no other choice but to run back to get home, it makes it easier to complete the run, lol.

    Thanks for linking up with us this week!

    1. Thanks for hosting :)

  2. You highlighted all of the coping strategies that work for me as well ;-) We’re definitely in sync on this LOL I forgot to mention, in my post, the trick of breaking up the distance into smaller increments. That works wonders!!

    1. Glad we’re on the same page :)

  3. I also prefer out and backs! But most of us, I think about how awful race day will be if I don’t put in the training. I have been undertrained for a half marathon and it was HORRIBLE. I will never do that again. But it was during grad school and I underestimated how difficult it would be to balance work, exercise and grad school.

    1. Yes, race day will be awful if you don’t put in the training… it’s hard to ‘wing’ a half marathon ;)

  4. Hitting places that you enjoy is a nice one!
    I have a few places like that (a bridge, a mountain top, a fountain and… does a toilet count?) and it’s nice to stop. If it’s scenic, it also makes for a good photo opportunity for the blog.

  5. As I said to Zenaida, I rarely break up my runs into smaller chunks — even though I know a lot of runners do. I don’t even mind running past my car.

    I have relied on run/walk intervals for most of the time I’ve been running — although not always. I think I actually tend to run a bit faster when I only stop to walk at the end of each mile, but right now I really don’t care!

    1. You do you – there’s no shame in walking breaks!

  6. I like the point about giving your run a purpose. It’s a fun way to break up the miles, and gives you little bursts of accomplishment along the way.
    I agree that an out-and-back is probably better than a series of short loops- if you loop around close to your starting point, it would be easy to stop. For my last long run, I had my husband drop me off 14 miles away and I ran back- that worked GREAT because every step was taking me closer to home.

    1. Oh, great idea… have your husband drop you off somewhere and run back! Thanks for stopping by, Jenny.

  7. Great minds think alike! The long run can be done and it is figuring out how to get it done. The long run is not a competition and should not feel pressured.

    1. Yes! There is not one way to get the long run done, everybody needs to figure out a system :)

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