For some people, a 5K is a pretty long run. Others participate in marathons, while truly devoted runners join races that span the course of multiple days and hundreds of miles.
Whatever you're interested in when it comes to long-distance running, you could be pushed to both your physical and mental limits. In other words, you may find it difficult to maintain your motivation when your mind is numb and your body is screaming at you to stop and take a break.
Just think about the Self-Transcendence race held annually in Queens, NY. Participants have 52 days to complete this 3100-mile race. The caveat: the race course is one city block which runners must circle a tedious 5,649 times.
It's an extreme example, but the point is that boredom can kill your motivation just as easily as fatigue or physical discomfort when it comes to long-distance running. How can you stay motivated when the miles are limping by? Here are a few tips and tricks to keep you on track.
Treat it Like Any Other Run
It's easy to build a long run or race in your mind as some gargantuan obstacle, but this isn't how you approach your daily practice. It's just something you fit into your average day, and it's generally an activity you enjoy.
By placing undue psychological importance on a specific long-distance run, you're virtually shooting yourself in the foot and making a mountain out of a molehill. The best way to avoid psyching yourself out is to treat your long-distance run just like any other day of jogging.
Prepare in the same way, with the same routine you'd normally employ. Focus on preparations and you'll fall into a familiar groove that helps you relax and calm your mind for the task ahead.
Break it Down
Whenever people undertake seemingly insurmountable challenges, the advice from experts is often to break them down into smaller, more manageable chunks. People losing weight are told to focus on five or ten pound goals that will eventually lead to losing fifty or a hundred pounds, for example.
When you tackle new projects at work, you certainly have the end goal in mind, but along the way you have to finish specific tasks and hit milestones leading up to achieving your goal. Even keeping your house clean and tidy requires that you complete chores, which most households break up over the course of days or weeks.
You can take the same approach to running. Whether you're running laps or you're on a point-A-to-point-B kind of course, there are bound to be demarcations that allow you to accomplish small goals on the way to completing your larger goal (i.e. finishing the race or simply running a set distance). By focusing on smaller goals you can make your task more manageable, increase confidence, boost your spirits, and maintain motivation along the way.
Tracking can be a major boon here, thanks to fitness devices and apps that help you to track time and distance.
Running can be a solo activity - many runners enjoy the solitude of this sport. However, you don't necessarily have to go it alone. You can also choose to run with a friend or even a group.
Whether you're training or participating in races, running with friends can offer all kinds of physical and mental benefits. For one thing, it could help you to pace yourself (running at a speed that allows for conversation) or increase your competitive edge if you and your running partners like to push each other.
It can also be a great way to distract yourself from the monotony of a course or the aches and fatigue you might face during a long run. Best of all, you'll provide the same benefits for your friends.
Plan to Pass the Time
Any time you elect to undertake a difficult task, you need to plan for success. In terms of running a great distance, this starts with a schedule of training that prepares your body for the physical stresses involved.
However, you also need to plan for how you're going to pass the time mentally. A long warm up is a good way to start. You should also take time throughout your run to focus on your form and how your body feels when you change your pace, your posture, and so on.
Finally, plan what you might want to think about. Many runners enjoy the opportunity a long run allows to clear mental clutter. If you have issues weighing on your mind, work them out. You could also think about what you're going to do for the rest of the day, and most importantly, imagine how good you'll feel when you finish your run.