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?