Training for and running a 26-mile race gives you a lot of time to think. In my opinion, it’s a distance that trains for mental toughness far more than physical toughness. When I set out to train for a marathon, my weekly training commitment is to take on three key runs: my favorite track Tuesday, the tempo run where pace is developed, and the real “game changer” long run where mental toughness is really built.

Going into a long run my focus is not on the actually mileage, but more on endurance and the opportunity to take on another run. I take on the first few miles by feel. Not looking at my watch, the mileage, or dwelling on the task at hand. It’s a sneaky way of tricking my brain into just enjoying the day and how the run feels. I’ve noticed that if I focus on my mileage too soon into the run, I become too focused on the mileage and loose the enjoyment of the run. So, I choose to refocus.

Strategies like this one have helped me take on the challenge of running and training for the marathon race. Here are a few other key things that training and running has taught me:

  1. Embrace the mind games that will come up throughout training to try to deter you from your goal. They are there to test you, distract you and get you off course. See them for what they are and say “no thank you, I have a bigger mission.”
  2. Challenge your comfort zone. Yes, running further each week will be challenging, but know that your training and preparation is intentional. If you do the work and stick with your training plan, you will be ready to increase mileage.
  3. Make mini-goals for every run. This helps break a long run into mini-segments, making what can be daunting mileage, much more doable.
  4. Do a body check. To do a body check, as questions like, “Am I breathing correctly? How is my posture? Do I feel real pain or is this temporary pain?” Body checks are great to observe what sensations are showing up in your body and keep you in a steady place.
  5. Give yourself grace. Not every run will feel the same. Give yourself grace and know that you are still getting stronger. Trust your training plan.
  6. Let your mind run. The long run is a great opportunity to let your mind run, dream up new ideas, plan your day, or get creative with the beautiful world around you.
  7. Mix it up. Tempo, Speed Work, Long Run, Hills, Trails – Keep your body guessing with workouts using slow twitch and fast twitch muscles.
  8. Don’t forget to cross train. Deadlifts and Squats can be your new best friend and help you crush new PR’s.
  9. Listen to your body. When you need a rest day, take one. One run will not make or break your training. Practice self-love and self-respect throughout your training.
  10. Practice gratitude for how far you have come. Make a gratitude list to focus on for each long run. This will help keep your mind in check and make you smile when you see the accomplishments you have achieved.

I hope these tips allow you to take on your next big goal even if it’s not a marathon. Stay focused on your goal. Know that you can do anything you put your mind to. Go crush it!!