The Best Mental Tips For Distance And Marathon Running

NYC Marathon | Courtesy MTA
NYC Marathon | Courtesy MTA
Photo of Esme Benjamin
Wellness Editor2 November 2016

Successfully completing a marathon is about mental preparedness as well as physical training, so Culture Trip asked seasoned marathoners to share the psychological tactics in their personal arsenal. When you hit a wall on mile 20 these techniques will help power you to the finish line.

Commit to the distance

Robin Arzon, a 35-year-old trainer/fitness personality is running her sixth NYC Marathon on Sunday. “Training is just the beginning. The race starts and ends when you commit in your mind,” she told Culture Trip.

“My mantra is ‘mind over miles.’ You can mentally dedicate to any distance, whether it’s a mile or a 100-mile race, which I completed in May. You have to make the mental commitment to make that happen. Our willpower is a muscle worth strengthening every day.”

Keep yourself entertained

Mile High Run Club coach Corinne Fitzgerald is a big proponent of shifting your focus. “Have you ever been running and your favorite song comes on, or perhaps you see a cute girl/guy in front of you, and all of a sudden your effort doesn’t seem to hard anymore?” she said. “Nothing has changed within you — you are running at the same pace — but you’ve shifted your focus to something other than the pain your body is feeling. The more you teach yourself to tune the pain out, the easier it will get. Don’t agonize over the hard parts and always think towards the end goal. Remember pain is temporary, but pride (and online finish times) are forever.”

“I try to find someone who doesn’t look like they’re going to be really fast and if I pass them I look for the next person,” said Aja Carter, a 29-year-old from Queens who is running her first marathon Sunday. “A lot of times it’s the people who have crazy outfits or an inspiring shirt and I stick with them until either I can’t see them or I pass them. Then I find someone else. Always look ahead, for sure.”

ING NYC Marathon | Courtesy of Tom Thai / Flickr

Be your own cheerleader

“It is up to you to be your own best advocate,” Arzon said. “I tell people, speak to yourself the way you would your best friend or someone you want to inspire. Sometimes we are so critical and don’t realize it – ‘I’m so slow. I’m so new.’ Use whatever qualifier you want to string together. Those can be empowering or disempowering, and obviously you want to chose the former.”

“Positive self-talk is important in long distance racing,” Fitzgerald said. “You have a ton of time to be stuck in your head. One minute you might feel great, the next minute you want to pull over to the next McDonald’s you see to grab a hamburger and call it a day. When you feel like you want to quit, rely on your one go-to phrase that will push you through, such as ‘I’ve got this,’ ‘The faster I run, the faster I’m done,’ or ‘Must earn my pizza.’

Turn it into a moving meditation

“Running releases endorphins in my brain and gives me serenity, especially long distance,” said Ray Choy, 65, about to run his 19th consecutive NYC Marathon. “It’s peace I can attain just by doing this movement and it’s available to me just by putting on a pair of sneakers and going out the door.”

NYC Marathon | Courtesy Martineric / Flickr

Dedicate your run to someone

“Run each mile with a purpose,” Fitzgerald said. “When you get close to the end, dedicate those miles to a person who has helped you or supported you in some way, or even someone you admire like a running icon (Steve Prefontane and Paula Radcliffe are my go-tos). This will also help take your mind off of that uncomfortable feeling and focus you on a greater purpose.”

Make a motivational playlist

“Music can be a great distraction. If you’re the type of person that likes to run with headphones, gather up all those songs that get your heart pumping with adrenaline,” Fitzgerald said. “Following some fitness instructors on SoundCloud or Spotify will help you find inspiring new beats.”

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