Amazed at impact of the mind on running

I am training for a marathon next year with a 10k and a half marathon along the way. Yesterday I found my run a real struggle. A couple of days before the same run flew by. I don't think the difference was physical - I think it was all in my head. I was truly amazed at the difference the mind can make on your physical capabilities. So my question is, how do you train your mind for long distance running? Any books, tips or web links would be hugely appreciated.


  • Can't be of any help myself, but also currently struggling so eager to see the responses!


  • I haven't been running for a long time, so view my thoughts accordingly, but IMHO experience is how to train the mind for long periods of running.  When I've ran through that stitch, kept the legs going when they've been aching, and generally ignored the demons in my head telling me to stop, thats all money in the bank as far as the mental part of running is concerned.  The more long runs you do, the more you will take them in your stride, the main thing is to run slow enough to not put too much pressure on your body and get injured.

    Personaly, I find what and when I last ate has a big impact on my running.  Have you considered this?


  • Did you allow yourself enough recovery time between the two runs ? If you've trainined  all week It may be that you were just tired.

  • A positive frame of  mind is important.

    I believe that the mind has more power than we think. If you are feeling optmistic and believe you can do it, then your body will follow.

    I have just run my first marathon (edinburgh) and i was ok. I told myself that i am going to do it and I am going to enjoy it!

    I deleted from my mind concepts like "the wall".......(is only in your mind), and tiredness and all that, and decided the enjoy the scenery, and concentrate in feeling good and a slow steady run/jog,

    I made it to the finish line (5:18:43), feeling good.

    Of course I was tired, one is human, but nothing mayor,

    So i tell myself is all in the mind. If you are positive about it all, you'll enjoy it and you'll do it.


  • Tim R2-T2Tim R2-T2 ✭✭✭
    Break the run into sections. For me the first three miles can often be hard. So I'll break them down into one mile sections. Once three are out of the way then think about the 6 mile marker. Then 12 and finally? 18. If you're doing 20 that's hard and break the last 2 down into 2 single or even 4 half miles.

    The marathon is a 20 mile warm up followed by a 10k race.

    Have fun, look around and see things, don't get your head stuck down.
  • This something I struggle with, and I find that breaking it down helps a lot.  I count up the miles to halfway through my run and then count down how many I have left to the end.  I often break it down into small sections that than though, sometimes maybe even such small steps as 'I'll just get to that tree/lamppost/road junction, then I'll have a little walk' or whatever.  Then just before I get to the target I move it along one so I never reach the place I will take my little walk!  I also like to listen to the radio while I'm out as I find the chat of the dj will keep me occupied rather than just having music, for example, Vernon Kay's maths question on his Saturday morning show has kept me going for ages while I try and work it all out in my head!  Never got it right yet, but I have a bit of fun trying to remember the question whilst working out the answer! 

    Something else that helps is the routes I run.  I'm not sure where you are, but I'm lucky enough that I can get out to the countryside for my runs, although I still find I have some routes that I favour over others because I think they are prettier.  Doesn't matter how often I run them, or what time of year it is, but I always look forward to running them as it cheers me up going past the pretty church or the chocolate box cottages on the route.  One thing I never do is the same route two runs in a row though.

    I think everyone has their own way of adapting though and you have to try different things and see what works for you.  image

  • same!! I posted on here the other day and had some great tips from other runners.  I tend to struggle with zoning out and then all of a sudden I'll have the angel on one shoulder telling me I am doing great and on the other shoulder telling me otherwise....have a look at my post and see if there is anything on there that may be of help.

  • A good book that deals with 'mind' in running is 'Running Within' by Jerry Lynch Warren Scott; I'm sure it'll be available from Amazon, but it deals with the limitations we put on ourselves by our thinking and lots of other stuff.  It's worth a read; some of it I find a bit cheesy, but it's well worth a read.

    And when we're running, it's not really our bodies that we're struggling with, it's our minds.

  • KhanivoreKhanivore ✭✭✭

    Some great tips here - i hope they keep coming. Rachel I will check out your thread in a mo. I think the reason I was feeling a bit rough on this run was because I was running down a country road that I have never even driven down and I had no idea where it was going. I had my gps set to tell me to turn around half way through my run plan for that session. As it turns out the road popped out in to an area I know well and from then on in the run was much easier - but it definitely got me to thinking that the mind plays a massive role in our ability to run distance.

    Two-stroke - I also avoid running the same route twice in a row. What's that about? I just do it because I know I will feel better doing that but I don't know why image

  • I found a similar impact on recovery before a race. I had a race on Saturday, an olympic triathlon, that would normally take me 3 or 4 days to recover from. That wasn't an option though as I had another sprint triathlon the next day! On Saturday, even though I had Sundays race in mind, I did well recording a PB. I felt great after the race but expected the worse once the adrenaline wore off. No problems though. I got up Sunday and did well in Sundays race. Of course I was fairly juiced after the second race! 

    Obviously recovery time is crucial, but I think just knowing that I had another race the next day helped me to stay fit and focused after the first race. That or I was just lucky image As they say, if you believe you can, you're half way there!

  • WiBWiB ✭✭✭

    I just find enjoying it helps... If I am enjoying my running no session is a grind no matter how hard I push myself. Be flexible with your training sessions too. If you really are run down then just go for an easy run and enjoy it, rest is just as important as the tough sessions.

    If I don't even feel like going out the door then I just remind myself someone I could racing shortly is probably training. If I miss a session and play xbox instead thats an advantage to them! image

  • I always remember - if i run badly and give up then I have to live with that for the rest of the day but if I can keep going through the pain then later I will be so pleased wit h myself.

  • Ah Amir, you are training for a marathon.

    If next year, youve got loads of time to build.

    As Minnie says, you may have been tired doing back to back runs.

    Recovery, rest are equally important,.. Sleep, good food.

    Don't try and increase your mileage too quickly.

    As for positive mental attitude, there are days you will find tough. Stop, have a breather, do some stretches.. It's not all about running continuously.

    And in terms of how to cope once running,, I blogged about it on last race, Edinburgh see link here like Fatima was fairly tough.
  • Amir I have looked at another post in which you said as of today you have only been running one month.

    You want to run a marathon next year and a HM and 10k in between and you want to find out how you create the right "mental attitude" to cope with the running.

    Well to be honest you have to be honest about why you are running.Often the original reasons can be extrinsic. Reasons that have their basis in external forces. If they stay extrinsic we are never in the right frame of mind. We are always seeing our runs in terms that we have not set. When they become instrisic, when the goal we set are personal when the the reason for running is to run and get better, while we may struggle the struggle is ours and ours alone.

    At the moment you want to run a marathon , a HM and a 10k yet I think you have yet to fully decide if running is for you. The way to do this is not to race but to run. Feel free to look at my profile and times. I have done  one 10k and one HM in over 3 years of running, and my times are respectable and while I would like to do more I feel no rush. As for doing a marathon, well why? I do a 5k every couple of months to see if im improving but the reason I run is I like the effort. I like that feeling of running at speed over distance and I can get that just from training. I enjoying running.

    So I would advise you to forget races,( I was running for over 2-3 years before I did anykind of race) just see if running "fits" you first. I say give it a year. Get a few miles in your legs and see.


  • KhanivoreKhanivore ✭✭✭
    Stephen the reason for the marathon is for the sense of achievement. It is something I have wanted to do since I was about 7 years old when someone who had run the London Marathon came to our school to tell us about it. I am now 40 and i decided it's time I fulfilled that ambition. The 10k and half marathon are simply yardsticks to give me mini goals I can hit on the way to the marathon. They will ensure I do not try and leave training to the last minute.

    Another reason I want to run is that as a part of a lifestyle change, i.e. something that is an ongoing part of my life forever, it will help me to lose weight and keep weight off. I am overweight and I have a history of heart disease in my family. I want to be round long enough to see my two daughters grow up and that was not going to happen with the lifestyle I was leading.

    I should also point out that 15 years ago when I lived in the US I used to run an hour a day 5 days a week. I enjoyed it and kept it up for about a year. When I moved back to the uk I gave up on all exercise and ended up overweight...

    Completing the marathon will mark the START of my lifestyle change...
  • KhanivoreKhanivore ✭✭✭
    Fit-cat I just read your bog post. Wow... What s read. Absolutely brilliant and inspiring. I am very sorry for your loss. It was clear from you writing how much Maddie meant / means to you.
  • You've already started Amir! Made that decision,

    15 years is a long time ago, body has changed, heart rate different too.

    Presume you have also changed your diet too?

    Anyway, Take it slow. Think I did 8 halfs before doing a full marathon, lost the weight before doing it.. That by itself is a lot to take in

    It's a big jump half to a full.
  • KhanivoreKhanivore ✭✭✭
    Yup been eating healthy. I have lost 11lbs in the last 4 weeks. That gets me down to just over 15 stones. I want to hit 12 stones by the 10k and then keep going to 11 stones by the end of the year. Having said that I think I was 12 stone even at my very fittest so maybe that is where I will end up. Wherever I end though - I plan to STAY there... Come hell or high water. I don't see what I am doing as dieting. I have just made a lifestyle change. I eat healthy in the week and then go a bit mad one or two days on the weekend. I am finding that even my going mad is in relative moderation now though as I am always thinking about the impact it will have on my running and riding. In fact .. I seem to be thinking about running pretty much all the time.. Not about the marathon or any kind of fear, they are positive thoughts and a desire to excel.
  • Thanks Amir. Yes part of the family, from before we got married. Went through a lot, operations, all sorts, 16-17 years is a long time.

    I was actually talking more about the positive mental side though.. That little word exercise. No negatives were allowed. Amazing what your brain can do when pushed.

    Would recommend you do first marathon for charity, name on your shirt. Brilliant feeling & help motivate you.

    Blogging helped me too, if you go further back you will see it's got my first marathon, and all the training too.
  • KhanivoreKhanivore ✭✭✭
    I will definitely check out the blog and the point about the mental attitude in the post you made was not lost on me. However, the entire post was simply fantastic and inspiring and EXCITING to read as well as full of emotion so I had to comment on that image

    I am running for Phab Kids charity. In fact I have raised over ??300 already with a target of ??1650. I am also keeping a blog at where I have countdown timers for my various events as well as a log of all my activities.

    One thing I did not mention is that I have a fairly epic off road bike ride in September image It is 75 miles off road from London to Brighton - hence all the cycling I am doing. That is going to be very very hard as I am doing it with some seasoned riders who won't take prisoners. It's organised by the British Heart Foundation.

    Once the marathon is done I plan to settle in to 10k running for a while focussing on improving my time. In addition to this I want to get in to riding technical trails on my mountain bike as a cheaper alternative to snowboarding which I love but can't really do now that I have my twin daughters. The cycling training will certainly help me get up those trails so I can enjoy coming down them image I want to do the south downs way ride in the second half of next year too. That will be very very hard image
  • Sounds like you're pushing really hard but that's a lot to be aiming for.

    No chance to recover, no slack.

    You really will need time to just maintain and get your head together... Even just the losing weight is enough to do that.

    So at moment you're doing

    75 mile bike ride




    South down ride

    And probably others you've forgotten?
  • KhanivoreKhanivore ✭✭✭

    haha - nah - the south down ride is not on the list and if it is then i am not talking about doing that until the back end of 2013... I have definitely not forgotten about anything else image 

    I have confirmed spaces in the bike ride in september. the 10k in october and the marathon next year in April.

    I want to do a half marathon between the 10k in October and the marathon in April and the only one I could find that is a suitable date is in November - much earlier than when I wanted to do it ideally but it seems there are no suitable marathons in January when I wanted to do it. After January it is getting closer to the full marathon and I would prefer not to do the half at that time. I am not going to commit to the half marathon until after I have finished the 10k at which point I can see how I feel and make the decision then. 

    So as you can see my actual confirmed events are reasonably spread out. The half marathon is the only fly in the ointment but only because I can't find one in January that I can get to. I hope you don't think I am completely mad now image

  • KhanivoreKhanivore ✭✭✭

    ps. I think I found a more suitably timed half marathon. The Brighton one is closer to me and is not until February 17th. That is still a couple of months before the big one and gives me much longer to go from 10k to half marathon. I think I will target that one.

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