The Long Run

Long runs are tough.

Especially when you aren’t used to doing them. Or when the distance is further than you’ve gone before.

There can be many factors – both mental and physical – as to why you might struggle on a long run.

That’s why it helps to plan ahead if possible when a long run is coming up in your training plan.

There are things you can do before the run to help you prepare physically.

Plan your route. Eat properly the day (or days) before and the morning of. Get a good night’s sleep. Hydrate.

Plan for an easier effort or rest day the day before and after.

But this post isn’t about the physical side of the long run. It’s about the mental side.

So, you’re ready to go, you get out the door and you start your run, now what?

Here are some ways to help keep yourself motivated during your long runs:

Treat It Like A Normal Run

Easier said than done, I know.

Obviously, there are different things to consider about a long run, but almost all of them are from a preparation standpoint (fueling, sleeping, hydrating, etc.).

The run itself isn’t much different – it’s just a longer distance!

So, once it comes time to run – don’t overthink it. Just run!

Find Your Groove

While this isn’t exactly a motivator, the sooner you find your groove, the better this run will feel at the end. Going out too fast could wear you out and make it really tough in the final minutes or miles.

In the last year especially, I have really tried to focus on starting out a little slower on long training runs or in races. After a few miles, when my body is warmed up, I’ve found it’s much easier to get into a groove and run the rest of my miles the way I set out to.

Play Mind Games

My favorite one as of late is to count down the miles.

Maybe everyone else has been doing this one for years, but I have just started doing this in the last couple of years.

I used to say to myself I was done with x miles rather than I have x miles left. This particularly helps when you get to the halfway point in your run!

Remember Your Goal

If this long run is a planned training run for an upcoming race, try to remember exactly what it is you are preparing for or why you have entered the race in the first place.

Whether it’s a personal best you’re going for or you’re just trying to complete the distance on race day, keep in mind that this training run is helping you to prepare for the race day.

And these long runs in training are part of the process of helping make race day feel easier.

Reward Yourself

To me, there’s nothing better than the feeling of finishing a long run or race and then eating something that I haven’t been able to eat in the days or weeks before because of training or other preparations.

When you are done with the run, reward yourself. Go get a donut, a beer, some pizza or whatever your favorite is. Some runners like to end their run at the place where they can indulge in their go-to reward immediately.

Just don’t get in the habit of doing this for every run because then it’s not really a reward or anything special.

Change Your Routine

Here are a few more things you can try to help motivate yourself:

  • Run with someone: This one will work best if you have a similar target pace as your friend.
  • Listen to something different: some new music or a new podcast or book can help keep you going if it gets tough at the end.
  • Change up your route: one idea is to run an out-and-back that will require you to complete the distance once you reach the halfway point and turn around.

Every one of these things has helped me at some point on a long training run. Obviously, sometimes one or several of them don’t work. So, then I just try something new and add it to my list of potential motivators should they be necessary in the future.

The more long runs you have done, the more you will learn about what works for you and what doesn’t.

Have you used any of these to motivate you during a long run? Have I missed your go-to motivator? Let me know in the comments!


More From RunPatRun:

  • Over the past couple of weeks, it’s been very cold in my part of the world. If you need a refresher about running in the colder temperatures, check out Running in the Cold for some tips.
  • Speaking of colder temperatures…when it’s colder outside you might be looking for something to read or watch to motivate you for your spring running. Books To Get You Running, Running Documentaries to Watch or Movies and Books That Inspire might help you with this.
  • The next parts of my Race Series are still in the works but I’m hoping to have one of them for you soon.

6 thoughts on “The Long Run

  1. Long runs can definitely be a challenge, especially if you don’t have the correct mindset. I make sure I know that I’ll be running (usually nonstop) for several hours and it is what it is. I also add up the miles as I go, but at my halfway mark I count down the miles. I do a lot of math in my head by calculating the fraction of my run that I have completed or need to finish. It helps keep my mind busy. I like your idea of mixing it up. Doing a trail run is helpful for me, as long as I know the area well. Don’t want to get lost! I need to do a better job of eating well before a long run, but during a long run I usually have a gel and/or a power bar. I always carry a handheld water bottle. Lastly, the beer (or two) after a long run keeps me motivated! 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thanks Jeremy! Math is definitely a good distraction during a long run! Eating before a long run is something that a lot of people can be better at, myself included. A lot of times it just ends up being whatever worked last time! And the reward at the end is always great to help keep you going!

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  2. I really like the glass half full vs half empty tip on counting down your miles. I’m gonna have to use that.

    When I get closer to the end of a race, I also like to think of what I have left to run in terms of race distances that I have done before. For instance, if I have ❤ miles left and things are getting tough, I’ll keep telling myself, “I only have less than a 5K to go. I can totally do a 5K!” That’s always gives me a nice boost.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thanks Jason! I kind of combined these during my races last year. Counting down the miles allowed me to say to myself “I only have 5k left. I’ve done that hundreds (or thousands) of times in the last few years!” Makes it more manageable!

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