Motivation for Long Training Runs


Running long distances can be as much of a mental challenge as a physical one. Anyone who has trained for a long race knows that it can be easy to get psyched out and even easier to not start a run at all. Every runner has their own secrets to getting the miles down and using these little tricks can seriously ease the mind when you just can’t seem to fathom the motivation for that long training run.

Getting started can be the biggest challenge when faced with a longer run. Don’t think about the long run itself. Instead, think of simply getting ready for a run. After all, getting ready to run is easy—the concept of running 18 miles isn’t. In order to do a run all you need is your shoes, your gear and maybe a watch. Get dressed. Eventually you will start to feel pretty silly just sitting around in workout gear and do something about it.

Many athletes use music to get pumped up before a workout. Finding a song or a playlist that’s gets you motivated can be difficult, but when you find that one that’s just right it can work wonders.

“I listen to my perfect jams on my way out the door,” says Katie Fueller, who is training for a half marathon in May. “There is nothing better to get pumped up with than music. You can take yourself to a different place and mindset in seconds.”

Many runners also use a mantra to get through difficult periods in their runs. A mantra is an expression or idea that is repeated, often without thinking about it. A popular one is to repeat “Just one more step” while pushing through rough patches.

Mental imagery can be a valuable tool for the distance runner as well. Envision your running form as smooth, graceful, and relaxed. Think of a runner whom you really admire and imagine running just like them. Or imagine a pack of zombies on your tail.

“I pretend I’m running from all of my problems at home and work and school,” says Tyler Shultz, who is also training for a half marathon in the spring. “I can just let everything go.”

Playing little mind games with yourself can be a big help as well. Simple math can be a great distraction. Try breaking up a long workout into smaller sections in your head. Instead of saying that you still have 15 miles to go, say you only have three 5-mile sections left. It can get overwhelming if you think about the larger picture, so focusing on a smaller goal makes it easier to get through a long run.

Sometimes the best incentive to get on the trail is the goal itself. Amanda Lefeber, who ran her first marathon last spring, says that just signing up for a race was her best motivation.

“You can’t go out there and wing 26 miles,” she says. “Having a goal and knowing how much prep is necessary was the best incentive to get out there.”

Long runs are one of the most important parts of training for a race, but they are not always the most fun. Sometimes knowing what is at stake can be a perfect jumpstart.

“There is no bigger sense of accomplishment than when you finish,” says Lefeber. “That’s what kept me going out there.”

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One Comment on “Motivation for Long Training Runs”

  1. April 17, 2012 at 5:00 am #

    Yeah. Focus on the goal of the race -the finish line will enable any runner to reach it. Thanks for this blog!

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