Updated: March 2nd, 2022
How to mentally prepare and get through the longer runs: top 10 tips.

As someone who has ran 10 marathons in 10 consecutive days, from London to the Eiffel Tower; I can tel you I would never have gotten there if it wasn’t for a robust mindset (and the amazing support team that made sure I didn’t lose it). Here are my Top 10 mental tactics to make sure you can get out there.

Lets face it, any distance can feel intimidating at the start. At half marathon, or marathon training can often feel like the summit of Everest on the first go. Your training plan will soon ask you to complete 20 miles as a training run… scary when you think 5 Miles is the furthest you can cope with right now! That is until you read to the end of this article!

  1. Stop looking ahead
  2. I mean this is two contexts:

    1. Stop freaking yourself out looking at week 9 of your training plan when you are on day four, week one. These plans are made to build you up slowly (and they’re magnificent at it) so no need to jump ahead, stay disciplined on what is in-front of you this week and take it from there – and don’t forget to celebrate all the milestones that come with the plan, don’t dwell on the upcoming distances.

    2. I find this useful on hill work – DO NOT LOOK UP AT THE HILL. Hold a natural effortless angle towards your feet. Focus on the space for your next step. And the next one. And the next one. Until Surprise! You’re at the top. If you look at how high the hill is, how much further you have to go, or even worse; watching other runners suffer on the same hill! Witnessing that will take A LOT of mental energy to keep going so ignorance is bliss here. Just focus on your next steps.

    Man running down a mountain

  3. Make sure you’re prepared
  4. First things first, okay second – make sure your running in the appropriate kit (eliminate that internal mental battle right away! Being too hot or cold will make any task feel impossible). The night before your run ensure your kit is ready and laid out, pack any medication, tape and blister pads, hydration pack and snacks galore!

    Ensure you know exactly how far you need to run, pre-plan a route somewhat (make use someone knows roughly where you will be running). Stay safe whilst you run, and please dress for the weather!

    dog with snow hat

  5. Play the numbers game
  6. Okay so if counting games are your thing it is said on average a mile takes 1500 steps. A 12 minute mile would take 1951 steps, and an 8 minute mile would take 1400 steps, roughly. How many steps is YOUR mile? Count and find out. Might come in handy in those final miles when all you can do is count down the steps until the finish line!

    Also instead of thinking “I’m running for 15 miles today” you could say, “I’m running continuously for three hours today” – it sounds more and so an instant confidence boost especially if you tell others. Not everyone knows what 15 mies feels like but we all know what 3 hours does!

  7. Talk to yourself
  8. Self pep-talks are the bomb. Reason, barter and support yourself like you would a friend to is trying to take on this challenge. Repeat to yourself any mantras or confidence boosting phrases such as “your mind gives up way before your body does” (yeah that’s mine I use it far too much -but it works a treat!) Remember to be nice to yourself, this is no easy feat your attempting here; so if you need a break simply “okay get to that tree then you can walk for a minute, keep pushing though.” Or “that hill was difficult and I smashed it, Okay slow down now so I can get some fluids onboard, then lets go attack another hill”.

    A friend of mine suggested ‘gratitude miles’ it’s something she does when the pain starts to kick in. She simply spends a mile or so just talking to herself, thanking her body for enabling her to run such as “Thank you for the sun shining on my face today” “thank you for my controlled breathing” “thank you for my relaxed shoulders” “thank you for a strong knees today”. She says it really puts a smile on her face and the pain seems to dissipate.

    woman running smiling

  9. Get lost
  10. I mean it. Training for hours on end can feel boring If our doing laps of a route, your mind is so used to the surroundings that it switches off. So go find a new route and get yourself (safely) lost before google-mapping your way home (yep, we’ve all done it). You’ve got a couple hours to spare so just keep running until your back to the car. I love the AHA! Moments when you find your bearings again.

    If you’re not sure, you can always join a running club. They were fantastic for me to find new routes to attack during my training. They’re often limited to an hour session, but you could always run to the meeting place, complete group run and then run home to get your miles in.

    Running team women

  11. Embrace the feat
  12. The challenge of running a marathon is huge. Statistics in the US say there are 1.1 million registered participants for marathon distance events, that’s 1% of the US population. You are one of the 1%. Woo! That is a clear indication of how tough this challenge is, if it was easy everyone would do it! So give yourself a break – it’s all about endurance not speed.

  13. Splits and chunks
  14. Take the long run and decide how to break it down. On a race day, or on the multiple-marathon event I had to ‘just get to the next checkpoint’ every 10k, and so instead of 26 miles it was 4 checkpoints. Re-tagging a 20 miles run into 4x 5 mile runs, perhaps even use a familiar 5 mile circuit to start and end with for comfort (might be a good idea as a reminder to fuel every 5 miles too!)

    Runner eating

  15. Entertain yourself
  16. Sometimes running is blissfully peaceful, a time to reflect and put the world to right. However after a few hours, I’d rather hear some comedy. Tuning into an audiobook or podcast is my favourite thing to do on a run. (Sometimes I even schedule a run because I know a new episode of my fave is released). After-all, you’d do the same for the kids if you had a long car ride, right?

  17. Run to the store first
  18. Potentially my favourite tactic (and one I use far too often if you ask my partner). If you’re really struggling to get the motivation to leave the house for this weekends long run. Go and buy a new running top, socks, kit, anything. Because you will want to wear it. It’s a new influx of motivation and ill probably do it around every 4-6 weeks when training effects take their toll.

    Sport store

  19. Have a chat
  20. If you haven’t joined a running club and are training alone, it certainly doesn’t mean you have to race alone! No matter where you are in the world, I have found the running community an incredibly friendly bunch – there will always be someone wanting to chat (especially the folks who race in fancy dress!)
    Running and talking is a great way to just relax, take the stress out of racing the clock and enjoy the route, and fruits of all your months of graft.

    Fancy dress runner

    Running to Paris, people always wanted to chat about what we were doing, and about the charity etc, throughout the UK leg. Although reaching France… I should’ve brushed up on my French, we’ll leave it at that!

    That’s my top 10, what mental games do you play to tackle your longer runs?

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