Mental tricks for your long run.

On Friday I talked about how much marathon training has messed with and created a roller coaster out of my moods. I go from being stoked on life and having a fantastic run to enduring shin pain, stomach cramps, and sore arches the next run. It comes with the sport of running. I am happy to report that I successfully completed my peak week TWENTY MILER on Friday morning!

I did my long run on Friday morning instead of on the weekend for a few reasons:

  • I was able to go to school at noon after my run and stay later as I didn’t have class.
  • I was giving two nutrition presentations to a weight loss clinic on Saturday morning.
  • I was registered to run the Edmonton Night Race 5K Saturday night.
  • I wanted to be done it before Sunday so I had that day to go to barre class and recover.


twenty miles

I have grown to love the long run. When I first started running long distances the long run days would STRESS ME OUT. It felt like a nerve-wracking race day every single Sunday morning and it was really hard on me mentally to get out the door and know I was going to be running for HOURS. I was stressed about pace and timing and making sure I knew my route perfectly and making sure was exactly 60 seconds slower than race pace, blah blah blah. Now long runs are my favourite days.

I run whatever pace feels comfortable. Some days it’s 8:30min/mile and other days it’s 9:30 min/mile. There are runs that are meant to push your boundaries and increase your speed and feel uncomfortable but for me, that’s not the goal of my long run. I’m not saying long runs are easy, but when I took stress out of the long run, I found it quite enjoyable. It was a few hours to myself to listen to music and podcasts and get some fresh air and take the scenic route around my city.


One thing that I do for a long run is make sure I have enough time to get it done, enough time to properly prepare, eat, and warm up, and enough time to walk a bit after my goal distance, stretch, and lie on the ground for a few minutes if that’s what I need. I had A LOT of time to think on my long run on Friday (3+ hours of it!!) so I came up with a few mental tricks that I just habitually started doing during my long run.


Mental tricks for your long run:

1. Take your mind away from the run. Listen to podcasts.

A few of my favourites are: (1) The Jay & Dan Podcast, which comes out on Thursdays but I save for the weekend long run, (2) TSN 1050 Leafs Lunch, which is the audio from the TSN Toronto-based hockey radio show with Bryan Hayes, Jamie Mclennan, and Jeff O’Neill, all hockey and sports talk with hilarious hosts, (3) Serial, a popular series about a criminal investigation of murder case, and I flew through that series, and (4) Science Vs, which is a fact-based myth-busting nerdy podcast that pits science against popular trends like the Paleo diet or E Cigarettes.

2. Save your music for the last few miles or the last hour.

Yesterday I listened to TSN 1050 Leafs Lunch and Jay & Dan for the first 2.5 hours and then listened to music for the last 40 minutes. I picked my favourite songs that would give me a burst of energy for the final few miles and it was great!

3. Time your fuelling and breaks.

I am a steady-state runner and have never been a fan of the 10:1 method but this is a great way to focus simply on one interval at a time and not get intimidated or stressed out by the large number of miles you have left. One thing I MUST do is time my fuelling and water intake. I don’t get hungry or thirsty until it’s too late and I’m already dehydrated and out of glycogen so I have to time my fuelling very carefully. Everyone is different when it comes to during-run fuelling but here’s a look at how I broke down my fuel intake on my 20-miler.

Miles 2, 4, 6, 8, 10, 12, 14, 15, 16, 17, 18, 19, 20 = WATER.

Miles 6, 8, 10, 12, 14, 16, 18 = 2 Honey Stinger energy chews

Essentially every 2 miles I take in either just water or water and chews. I tried gels once and did not like them at all so I have stuck with energy chews since then. I eat two at a time, take a sip of water, and then repeat that every two miles starting at mile 6. As I get closer to the end of my run I drink water every mile. It lets me focus on the mile or two miles I’m in and not the full 20 miles.


4. Plan a big, scenic loop for your run.

On Friday I did a big loop of the city I live in, including some dirt roads, some river-side trail, and some residential streets. I kept the turn-by-turn directions simple so I wouldn’t forget where I had planned my route but it was so awesome to explore my city on foot and enjoy the fall weather. The leaves are already changing and falling and it was the perfect temperature for a long run!


5. Throw in some mind games or body checks.

Every second mile count your cadence or every mile do a form check and make sure you aren’t slouching or leaning forward. I do a “shoulder check” every few miles to make sure I’m not leaning forward too much. One thing that passes the time a little more is doing a full body check, starting with your feet and assessing how they feel. Any pain? Any stiffness? Blisters? Then move up to your calves and your hamstrings, and finally all the way to your neck and head. It really gives you a chance to assess where you’re feeling tired and where you might need to stretch.


It might be very obvious but I am a total numbers girl so by breaking up my long run into smaller parts and taking it one part at a time it seems to fly by! I really enjoyed my Friday long run even though I ran out of water at mile 17 and didn’t quite feel my shins warm up until mile 6. It was a great day for a run and I even ran into a fellow marathon-runner who was training for Kelowna the same weekend I’m doing Chicago! #creepershot


How was YOUR running this weekend? 

What are some tricks you do on your long run to make it go by faster/smoother?


  1. Good work on the long run. I’ve also come to love that part of training. Funny how that happens! I’m also a fan of the podcasts for the first half and saving my music for the final bit. It helps pass the time!

  2. This was a great article! I have difficulty staying motivated on long runs as well. And my long runs are short compared to yours haha but everyone starts somewhere! I love listening to personal development podcasts and Tim Ferris interviews but find that my energy can lag so I have to mix in up beat music as well. Have you heard of DJ RoleModel podcasts? He puts out a new upbeat workout mix every month, usually about an hour or longer! You might like that.

    I never even thought to count miles against water breaks! GENIUS! haha That sip of water is like a reward to motivate yourself towards and probably makes the miles fly by faster. I will definitely be trying that technique out and looking for some energy chews.

    Thanks for the great tips!

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