Thursday, December 18, 2014

How to Mentally Prepare for a Long Run

To me a long run is anything more than 6 miles. I am not sure why I came up with that number but that's what a long run is to me. I've come to the realization that whenever I run more than 6 miles, my brain starts to think differently. I can be in the best of shape but if I am not mentally prepared for a long run, I am useless. 

Yesterday I ran 10 miles...the most miles I've ran since my last half marathon in June. I knew I was increasing my mileage this week. I knew that 10 miles was in the schedule for Wednesday. But when it came down to the actual day, every fiber in my being wanted to find a reason/excuse not to run. I kept telling myself that I could just do hills instead or that I could do some sprints. I know...crazy right? Who willingly wants to do sprints or hills? But in my mind, it just sounded so much better than the 10 miles.

When I woke up in the morning it was still dark. Yet another reason I didn't want to go outside and run. All I wanted was to sleep in and stay bundled in my warm blankets. Going outside in the cold just didn't sound appealing. Something inside of me told me I needed to just get out there and get my feet wet. I am glad that I did but man was it a lot of work to motivate myself to finish.

I will admit that by the first mile, I was debating about turning back and going to the gym instead. Then I came across this view and it was like I was awakened. My attitude changed from that point on. I went from dreading the run to "okay I can do this" run. I can't say that I ever enjoyed it but I finished. One of best things about running in the morning are the beautiful sunrises. This photo was taken at 1.5 miles into my run. The clouds were so peaceful and calming.

I kept repeating my favorite running mantra to motivate myself to finish. Every mile, up until the bitter end, I kept repeating this over and over until it got engrained in me. I ended up getting an OK pace. It wasn't my goal pace but at least I did it...all sweat and tears. I felt super happy and proud of myself for sticking with it. I could've easily given up and called my husband to pick me up somewhere along the way, but I kept at it. 

So some tips to get you mentally prepared before and during a long run:

  • FIND YOUR RUNNING MANTRA. You can use mine if you'd like but there are so many out there to choose from. Pick one that best suits you.
  • REMIND YOURSELF IT ISN'T GOING TO BE EASY. Be realistic about your long runs. It's going to be tough, but you will feel better after you finish.
  • DON'T OVER STRESS ABOUT TIME. Long runs are meant to test your endurance so don't expect your first long run to be the same pace as your shorter runs. Unless you are incredibly fast and then my hats off to you!
  • VISUALIZE YOUR RUN. Some people do better if they visualize the course of their upcoming race. I did this for this long run and it did help me out on the last three miles.
  • GOOD MUSIC. Not everyone likes to listen to music when they run but music is always one of my best motivators. The day before set up a jam packed playlist with some of the best songs to run to. Crank up the tunes and get lost in the moment. 
  • PEP TALKS.  It's okay to have a little mental pep talk with yourself before you head out the door. Remind yourself that what you are doing is amazing! Remind yourself that you can do this! 
  • TREAT YOURSELF.  Can't think of a better way to motivate myself than by treating myself post long run. Maybe it's a pedicure, new workout clothes, maybe even just some frozen yogurt? Whatever it is make sure it is enough to keep you motivated during your run.

How do you mentally prepare for a long run?
Do you have a running mantra?

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I am linking up with Amanda from Running with Spoons


  1. I've got a long run on Saturday - the longest I've done in a few months, and I'm not really looking forward to it. This post was very timely - thanks! :)

  2. It's funny how our mind has such power over our training. Glad I could help!

  3. Great tips! I have a hard time getting motivated to run long especially when it is cold out. -L

    1. Thanks...long runs are definitely hard for me. I am getting better but man I really have to force myself out of bed sometimes!

  4. Love the tips. For me, I have to schedule my runs, or they definitely aren't going to happen.

    I often tell myself: "You just have to do 3 miles". And by mile 3, my legs feel so good, I want to complete the other 3, 4, 5, or however many more miles.

    1. Yeah I try to schedule my runs but sometimes I just don't want to do them :)

  5. Long distance running is one of the best form of endurance training. While it may sound easy, but, trust me the author is absolutely correct in stating that mentally one has to prepare for the course before physically starting the run. It is true that before starting a run or during the course of running, you will come up with hundreds of excuses to give up in the middle. Unless you have an indomitable spirit running long distances is not your cup of tea. You can adopt various techniques to keep yourself motivated to complete the run. The reality is that long distance running of 6 miles or more are tough, and your reason for running that sort of distance should be so strong that the distance doesn't get to dominate your mind.
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