Long runs take a lot of mental toughness.
If you are a marathon runner or aspiring marathon runner, the thought of running 15-20 miles at once can seem daunting.
When I first started running about 8 years ago at the University of Iowa, I was quite content with 5 miles. Actually, I vividly remember thinking “Boston… that is never going to be a goal of mine because I am too slow, and can’t run over 5 miles.” It is funny how things change. Now, the only thing on my mind in regards to running is Boston. I have gotten much faster and stronger (with a LOT of hard work and dedication) and feel like I have a good chance to BQ this year.
However, I still look at those 20 mile runs and think.. really?!
Having run 3 marathons and many, many half marathons, anything under 12 miles is considered easy. However, I consider 15-20 miles a good, long run. Okay, so what about 13-14 miles? I consider those medium distance runs.
I have a few tricks to get myself “excited” about the long runs.
I often break my longer runs into smaller portions. For me, it allows me to look at the run as several “short runs”, instead of one insanely long run. If I have a 15 or 20 mile run, I will do 3 or 4 loops of 5 miles. I know I can easily run 5 miles, so I mentally trick myself that I am running 3-4 “easy” 5 mile loops. For me it greatly helps. If I am running 16 miles, I will break it into 4 4-mile loops. You just have to get creative on how you break up your running.
It may sound weird, but I often tell myself the night before how fun my run will be. I’ve found that if I pump myself up and tell myself that I will enjoy my run and it will be great, I actually enjoy the run much more and look forward to it. Try it!
If I run in the morning (usually around 5 am) I will lay my clothes out the night before. It helps me in the morning (I know it saves only 1-2 minutes) but I feel more prepared. I don’t know if it is the OCD mind that I have, but I have to run if my clothes are laid out.
I usually run my long runs on Sunday’s (this is the most common long run day, due to 99% of all marathons being on Sunday’s). I often reward myself after a long run. It gives me something to look forward to. Rewards can be non-monetary (most of mine are!) I love to come home after a long run and make whole whole pancakes with chocolate chips. I often reward myself with lounging on the couch and reading a good book. Whatever works for you, go for it!
I’ve said before, but I am a huge motivational quote junkie. I will often read one of my favorite running quotes, or look through one of my “Runner’s World” magazines.
I often tell people that I am training for a marathon, and more specifically that I have a long run coming up. It holds me accountable for my training. The more people that know about your training, the more people will ask you about it.
I can’t stress how much a running buddy helps. I usually do not have a problem getting out the door for a run. However, having a running buddy makes my runs extra fun, and give me something to look forward to. Whenever my twin sister and I are together we go for a run. We have so much fun! I don’t run with someone for every run, but having a running buddy once a week can give you something to look forward to. Sometimes my husband will ride his bike next to me during longer runs and carry my water bottle. Even though I don’t usually chat with him during the run, it makes my runs easier and more enjoyable.
Through my marathons, I have learned that mental toughness is just as important (if not more) as physical toughness. You just need to find what really works for you.