Five Mental Tricks for Distance Running

Like everyone else, I have heard that running is mostly mental rather than physical. I understood this concept a little bit before as the length of my runs increase, I completely agree.

running mental

This weekend, I did my longest run ever, 16 miles. The total time to complete the run was 3 hours. When I say that out loud I’m actually astounded. I ran for 3 hours! Who am I?

richard simmons

Time is often what impresses others the most about running. You can tell them how far you are running but they always want to know how long that takes. You tell them and it’s almost always followed by, What! I could never run that long. The thing I realized on my latest long run though was that I don’t even notice the time. If you think about the time, the task seems daunting so I have a few tricks that I use to trick my mind into believing my run is shorter than it is.

Five Mental Tricks for Distance Running:

  1. Don’t look at the time. I focus on my time for my mile intervals but I don’t look at the overall time that I’ve been running (except during a race).
  2. Run out and back courses. While some people like to run loops so that they don’t double back and get to see different scenery, I actually like running out and back because then I have reference for how much further I have to go on my way back.
  3. Break down the miles. I like to break my mileage into smaller chunks. For example, for my 16 mile run I ran out and back twice so that I could focus on 4 mile chunks of running which seemed way more doable than the full distance.
  4. Use positive mantras. Previously I haven’t been much of a positive mantra person but on my latest run as I was struggling with a side stitch during my last 2 miles, I really realized the power of them. Telling yourself that you can go further, be stronger and better really works!
  5. Daydream. The best part about distance running is you have hours to think. Letting your mind wander can take your mind off the task at hand. And near the end when I’m struggling to finish a run I dream of the finish line and of all the food that I can eat once I’m finished!

mental running

What mental tricks do you use for long runs?


  1. says

    Great tips for sure!! I love out and back courses and I definitely like to break up the mileage so it doesn’t seem so long and overwhelming!! Congratulations on your miles!! You’re amazing!! XOXO!!
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  2. says

    Great tips! I am going on my long run tomo and will be zoning out and daydreaming along with chanting some positive mantras to myself. Most of the time I just yell to myself that it is all mind over matter and that I’m not going to die, haha!
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  3. says

    Thanks for sharing your tricks! I’m with you on looking at the time…it definitely makes things seem more daunting! However due to IT band problems I’ve been limited to the types of terrain I can run on (no downhill, no slants, etc) so I’ve been doing a lot of out and backs and I can’t stand them! I feel like they make the time drag on so much. Kudos to you for enjoying them!
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