Do you watch endurance events and wonder how people find the strength to keep going when they’re hurting so badly? If you talk to them they say it’s all about what goes on in their head. I think this is something we all learn about running, whatever distance or time we’re aspiring to, so much of our success depends on our internal conversations.  

I once had a question from a follower who completed a Couch to 5k and had a 10k race coming up. Whenever she got to six or seven kilometres, her head told her to stop running and she just couldn’t get beyond it. Obviously she was worried about how she’d manage her 10k event but because of what was going on in her mind, rather than her body. She wanted some help. 

I put together some tips. I haven’t completed the Barkley Marathons (all hail Queen Jasmine!) but I have had some crazy mind battles during my runs! The tips apply to you whatever distance you are challenging yourself with. What goes on in your mind can completely rule what goes on in your running so it’s really important to crack it. Here are my strategies to keep you going when you REALLY want to stop: 

Know that it’s normal. Every run is a roller coaster. There are always lows and highs, troughs and peaks. You just need to learn how to get through the dips because they are always followed by a rise. It’s learning to hang on in there in those tough moments that makes running so transformational in other areas of your life. You learn you are much stronger than you think. 

Trust your training. Do your physical preparation, gradually working up the miles. If you’ve done that then you can have confidence in yourself and it’s easier to ignore the doubting voices that appear. There’s always more left in your tank than you think. If someone started chasing you, you would be able to sprint, even if you’re tired. Your body warns you much earlier than it needs to. It’s like the petrol light in the car – you’ve got loads left, even when it pings as zero! Always remember that. 

Put in the work. We train our body to run the distance we want to achieve and we have to train our mind too. We need to work and strengthen our mental muscle. It’s so often overlooked but it can be the key to success. We need to make time for it in our training plans. 

Practice mind tricks

  • Visualisation. Imagine yourself finishing. Build up a clear picture in your mind of you crossing the finish, raising your arms as you cross the line and someone coming towards you with a medal to hang around your neck. Close your eyes and really concentrate. How does it feel? Joyous, accomplished, successful. What can you see? – Are your family there to watch? What can you hear? – Are the crowds roaring? Do this multiple times a day just for a minute or two here and there. You’re convincing your brain that you’ve already succeeded so it’s less likely to tell you that you can’t do it. When you hit that dip on your run, go back to this visualisation, see it, feel it, hear it and it will spark happiness and emotion and help you out of your trough. 
  • Mantras. Find a short phrase that you can repeat over and over again that makes you feel invincible and empowered. Mine is, ‘I am strong. I am fearless’. It fits with my footfall too which helps me to keep a running rhythm. Practice these in your training runs. This helps to occupy your mind and keep it away from the doubts. It replaces negative thoughts with positive ones. Say it convincingly to yourself so your mind believes it. 
  • Distraction techniques. Keep your mind busy so there’s no room for the downward spiral telling you to stop. Count your steps or use a maths challenge of some sort such as counting backwards from 100 subtracting three each time. I like to work out how I will spend every pound of a multi-million pound lottery win – it keeps me busy for ages. 
  • Get emotional. A good tip when you are doubting yourself is to think about people who believe in you. Imagine family and friends running at your side or standing beside the route. They’re cheering you on and telling you that you can do it. Remember why you are running and how you want to make them and yourself proud. Start smiling as you think about it, the endorphins will be triggered to flow which will ease the pain and give you a boost. The satisfaction you will feel when you achieve your goal is so huge and worth fighting for.  

I hope these tips help you to keep going when it gets hard and you want to stop. Shout back and drown out those negative voices because you CAN do it. I believe in you. 

Tag me in social media or comment here if these tips help you to get through your next challenge. 

Featured image: Gerd Altmann from Pixabay 

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