Staying Motivated for Marathon Running

Updated on March 8, 2018
Inter Jonny Wills profile image

Jonny has been a fitness and mental well-being enthusiast for more than twenty years, documenting his progress for published projects.

Marathon Motivation Is All in the Mind

Completing a marathon or a long distance run is 90% mental. Unless you become very injured, your body will take care of the other 10%. Why? Because you've prepared it to do so.

If we agree that most of our success is related to our mindset, it makes sense to train the mind, too. This article shares tactics to not only keep up your momentum but ensure you're on the right track to achieving the dream of running a marathon. Regular runners may also find something of use here too, especially if motivation often crops up as an issue.

One stride at a time and staying in the now of the event is the key to finishing well.
One stride at a time and staying in the now of the event is the key to finishing well.

Don't Worry, You'll Improve With Distance

Remember that we are talking about extreme running. What you're attempting is a big challenge, so give yourself a break.

First, you need to reduce your anxiety—worrying too much about the future can be demotivating. The trick is to stay in the moment while you run, putting one foot in front of the other. Just think about completing the next ten yards. You will improve the more you run and the more distance you put in.

Preparation makes confidence, so here's some motivation: Finish each distance even if you walk.
Preparation makes confidence, so here's some motivation: Finish each distance even if you walk.

You Can Do Things at Your Own Pace

Being "in training" means you have ample time to focus on the present moment and practice getting things right, slowing it down, or getting into gear. It's not going to happen overnight, and yes, there will be times when you feel like you're on top of the world and other moments when you feel like you just can't seem to run fast enough. Remember that it's your marathon preparation.

You don't have to run at a fast pace; walking during training is not a crime when the goal is to just finish your run. You need to get your mind used to running long distances, so finishing every time is crucial. In the end, it's the feeling of completing long distances and owning your local streets that makes it all worthwhile.

When you've finished a long run, try taking the bus back home. The ride back will be euphoric as you see the distance you've achieved. You'll never see your streets the same way again, and it will give you a triumphant boost. Yes, you'll have a nagging thought that there is work to do, but it's great to see all you've accomplished so far.

Source

Earn Respect From Friends and Family

There will be some friends and family members who like to hold you accountable and others that will be the first to shoot you down, either in a joking manner or unintentionally. Make it your goal to prove these people wrong—and embrace those who are actively supporting you. It's important that you set boundaries with people who aren't supportive and keep them separate from your training by not discussing it with them. However, the longer you run, the more their respect for you will grow. But if they aren't there to cheer you on come marathon day, they weren't really there for you in the first place.

Bond More with Fitness Friends

Running with a pal or training buddy can be used as motivation or competition. What's important to realize is that your respect and understanding for each other will increase, especially if they are a more experienced runner. They will be impressed by your effort, and you will be inspired by their dedication.

Finding an empathetic and supportive running companion can motivate you to do better.
Finding an empathetic and supportive running companion can motivate you to do better.

Get Out of Your Comfort Zone

It's important to understand the hard work that comes with training for a marathon and to learn how to continue even when you're exhausted. Every week you should be increasing your distance, even if you don't feel ready. How do you keep going even when you feel like giving up?

Remember that it's similar to learning and implementing new training techniques such as pacing and stamina or interval fast/slow fartlek sessions. Or the psychological ups and downs you experience: one day you are feeling defeated and the next you're ecstatic.

The common thread is that you're out of your comfort zone, and when you recognize that this is where you learn the most about yourself, then it can be a source of great inspiration to push yourself farther or harder. An arduous task becomes yet another day's discovery of new wonder.

Even the infamous 'wall' at mile 20 can be overcome with mental grit and mental practice.
Even the infamous 'wall' at mile 20 can be overcome with mental grit and mental practice.

Choose a Dream Event Location

Running a marathon in a part of the world you've always wanted to visit is an excellent motivational goal. There are many cities (i.e. Paris or Jerusalem) and picturesque locations (i.e. Loch Ness in Scotland) that host annual marathons. Or how about one of the 30 top marathons in the world? Just make sure you research the course and its surface and climate, so you can prepare yourself.

You can also stick to taking part in a local marathon. There is nothing like seeing the streets for the first time as a competitor and being cheered on by friends and family. It's something you'll remember for the rest of your life. It's also nearby and more convenient.

There are hundreds of marathons around the world to choose from.
There are hundreds of marathons around the world to choose from.

Raise Money and Awareness for Charity

Most marathon events work with charities to facilitate sponsorship, which can be a brilliant motivator, especially if it's a cause that is close to your heart. Many charities hold events prior to the race to encourage unity and fraternity. It's a good idea to go to these events and practice in event day conditions.

Having to ask for sponsorship is an important responsibility that makes you take training more seriously. To keep up interest, it's a good idea to update your followers on how things are going. This, in turn, helps you analyse your performance and forces you to be honest about your progress.

Doing good makes you feel good, and you'll be supported by an experienced organisation.
Doing good makes you feel good, and you'll be supported by an experienced organisation. | Source

Access an Addictive Nature With Awareness

Some people with addictive personalities swap drugs or drinking with going to the gym. They recognize that they still need to fill a void, so they become addicted to something more positive, like working out. It's one way of staying motivated, and it's worth mentioning.

Although it's ill-advised to encourage being overly obsessive, becoming addicted to getting healthier through running can result in finding a new passion. A problem only arises if there is a lack of balance or you find yourself too thin or relying on medication. If we agree with Johann Hari's finding that "the opposite of addiction is connection," then we must ensure our running obsession still leaves room for connecting with others and focusing on our end goal of self-improvement.

Conversely, you'll notice critics and haters–who essentially aren't dealing with their own well-being—repeat stock phrases like "that's not for me," "you're mad," and "how can you do it?" But because of your newly impassioned and motivated spirit, you are already fired up.

Is going all out and becoming obsessed replacing one issue with another? Be aware.
Is going all out and becoming obsessed replacing one issue with another? Be aware.

Make a Motivation List

Your marathon training becomes a motivating force, as you start to notice tangible results. But in addition to the health benefits—like a better body, improved circulation and energy, and weight-loss—there are also a number of other positive side effects that can become motivators. Make a list of the things that motivate you to keep running. Try referring them before every run. Also, try reciting them in your head as you train and on the day of the event.

And that big day? It's just another day's training. There's always running to get done. So best of luck and enjoy yourself living from stride-to-stride, mile-to-mile, and in each real-life magic moment.

This content is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge and is not meant to substitute for formal and individualized advice from a qualified professional.

© 2018 Jonny Wills

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