The Best Advice for Long Distance Running
How to Develop a Perseverance Mindset
The thought of long distance running as a hobby or recreational activity seems to put off a lot of people. I think it’s because running is thought of as (and can be) a painful activity that one must suffer through rather than enjoy. When I tell people that I look forward to my longer weekend runs, I often get bewildered looks. Is this negative perception due to memories of the “gym class mile” in middle school, running-as-punishment in high school sports, or some other running=bad experience?
Certainly, running can be painful. Running when injured or trying to run a 5-minute mile with no training will hurt. However, long distance running can absolutely be relaxing. It can be meditative, a way to enjoy natural beauty or see a city, or a very social activity. For example, my husband and I have awesome conversations on long runs and use running as a way to see what’s going on in our community.
So, how to bridge mental the gap between thinking of running as hard and painful vs. an enjoyable and healthy habit? There’s no shortage of tips and tricks on how to psych yourself up for a run or suggested gear to buy for making runs more comfortable. These are all fine and good – who doesn’t love a rockin’ playlist or chafe-free running shorts? For me, external motivators like these only get me so far (pun intended). I need an attitude or mindset that is consistent and can override outside factors (like the prospect of running a marathon in the rain).
When I was training for my second marathon, I came across a single piece of advice that has been the most effective way for me to embrace long distances:
“Just make it to the next mile.”
In other words, think about the single mile you’re running. When starting the first mile, focus only on making it to mile #2, rather than stressing over whether you’ll finish the half-marathon you planned.
This “next mile mindset” has several key aspects and benefits:
It prevents me from feeling overwhelmed or discouraged by the distance ahead
This is the main benefit to thinking only about the mile ahead. For example, I know that I can finish the mile I’m on – I’m confident and ready to do it. If I apply that to every mile, then my psyche relaxes, knowing I am capable of the distance ahead. It’s just one mile.
I am more attuned to my body
When we are not worried about the future, we can feel the present. If I’m only focused on the mile at hand, I find that I’m more likely to notice feelings of well-being, strength in my stride, and exercise-induced endorphins. I’m also more likely to feel subtle discomforts (like a shoe laced too tight) and can address them before they become big problems (painful or numb toes).
Enjoy the moment
So many times, I have ignored my immediate surroundings in favor of over-thinking about my run! Whether jogging through a fascinating city or running on a single-track mountain trail, give yourself the gift of absorbing the sights and sounds of the present.
Celebrate every mile
Whether it’s one or 51, each mile is an achievement! I often think something like, “Yes! Another mile done!” or even sillier, “Another one [mile] bites the dust.” It’s weird but fun to get excited over running a mile. I also enjoy playing with math when I finish every mile – fractions, percentages, time – they can all be motivational if you think in terms of “I’m halfway to halfway” or “Only 20% left to go.” Again – weird but fun, at least for me.
Perhaps reading this gets you fired up for your next run – I admit, it does for me! I can’t wait to hit the road and think about one mile at a time, enjoy running strong, and take in the beauty of nature (even if it’s snowing). Maybe I’ll even do a little fist pump after each mile!
Let me know if the “next mile mindset” resonates with or works for you. If not, what does motivate you to run mile after mile? I look forward to learning about what works for you!