If you find yourself hitting a wall during a long (or short) run, you're not alone. While I've run a handful of half marathons in my life, some days I find it tough to run even 2 miles. That's where the mental tricks come in.
And you shouldn't just take my word for it. Believe it or not, even people who have crushed multiple marathons have "bad" running days when they feel like they'll pass out if they take even one more step.
I asked six runners what mental tricks they use when running feels impossible. Here's what they had to say.
1. Jordan Younger:
"I always just repeat to myself when it gets tough, 'one foot in front of the other. One foot in front of the other,' and eventually...one foot in front of the other can allow you to finish a full marathon! Another thing I say to myself that my boyfriend, aka the best running coach there is, taught me is, 'slow is smooth. Smooth is fast.' That helps me a lot with long-distance running." —Jordan Younger, founder of The Balanced Blonde.
2. Brock Cannon:
"I have several mantras that I use when I feel like I can't take another step while I'm running, such as 'it's better to walk for a bit then to stop altogether,' and 'I will just run to the next tree, sign post, rock, or telephone pole, then I'll walk for a few minutes.'
Another one I use is 'a slow mile is better than no mile. It's OK to slow myself down for a bit. This is a long run and it's OK to pace myself.' Lastly, if I have someone that is supporting me on the sidelines—my partner, siblings, a friend, whomever—I imagine how nice it will be to see them and I try to feel the feelings in that moment of what that support and a few words of encouragement will feel like. It really gives me a boost and gives me something to look forward to, thus getting me through tough periods of the run." —Brock Cannon, vegan ultra-endurance athlete and author of The Switchback Approach.
3. Skyler Mosenthal:
"I set smaller goals such as, 'I can make it to that tree right up there, then we'll see what happens.' I also focus my mind on my form: Am I lifting my knees? Are my footsteps light and quick? Are my hands relaxed? Is my spine elongated upward? Am I leaning slightly forward to help keep momentum?
Another trick I use is focusing my mind on something good in my life, or something that's been weighing on my mind. Sometimes running is the best thinking zone, and taking my mind off of the task at hand allows you to relax and just run and be." Skyler Mosenthal, runner and SWERVE fitness instructor.
4. Krista Stryker:
"When you're so tired that you don't want to take another step, just think of the reason why you're running in the first place and how proud of yourself you'll feel when you're done. And don't think of the overall distance, just take it one step at a time." —Krista Stryker, founder of The 12-Minute Athlete.
5. Anna Gannon:
"I look outside of myself. I zoom in on the beauty around me and how lucky I am to be able witness life as a runner. It sounds a little strange, but when I chose to realize how fortunate I am, I can run any length." —Anna Gannon, yoga instructor and runner.
6. Chinae Alexander:
"I use this one trick in running (and life for that matter). I try to reduce my larger goal into tiny wins to make everything more digestible. Run to this next stoplight. One more block. 30 more seconds. It helps me feel motivated by having a series of small successes. On the other hand, I’m a big believer in doing what feels right. If today is your day to walk, that’s really OK. Grace for yourself is a big part of making fitness a long-term lifestyle that you love, not dread." —Chinae Alexander, runner and fitness lover.