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Mental Toughness: How to Stay Motivated During Marathon Training

When it comes to training for a marathon, a lot of runners focus on getting through the miles. Truth be told, 26.2 miles is an intimidating number, so runners train to get their bodies used to the discomfort that comes with pushing your body to its limit.

And while increasing your mileage every week, adding weights and eating right are all important to preparing for the big race, there’s another muscle people may forget to train that is crucial to making it to the finish line.

The brain.

Mental perseverance is a big part of accomplishing your goals. Regardless of how ready you are physically, when it’s you and the road, how tough you are mentally is what will get you to the finish line when everything in your body is telling you to stop.

Hoag Sports Medicine physician, Seethal Motamarri, D.O., explains how runners can train for mental toughness to stay motivated on race day.

  1. Self-talk: What runners say to themselves while on mile 16 or even mile 2, can make a difference in performance. It’s important for runners to rehearse self-talk, how will you speak to yourself when struggling? How will you stay focused and positive when you aren’t performing as expected? As important as it is to learn how to go from sprints to jobs, runners can increase their miles with positive self-talk.
  2. Break up the run-into segments: After training for a marathon, running 6 miles may be considered an ‘easy day’, so when mentally preparing for the commitment that comes with a full 26.2 marathon, it may be easier to break it up into segments. Making it more manageable to focus on 6 mile run until the donut shop on Pacific Coast Highway, a four-mile jog along the ocean, a hilly 10k through a neighborhood and then a 10-mile downhill run until the finish line and a hug from your loved one.
  3. Focus on the moment: Mindful running? Yes. It’s useful for runners to learn how to focus on the moment instead of the finish. You should count your rhythm, focus on the sound of your footsteps, take a look at your surroundings, and tell yourself ‘You can do this.’
  4. Know your why: Everyone who signs up for a marathon has a reason. Maybe it’s a personal goal, a fitness journey, fundraiser for a charity or a memorial run. Whatever the reason is, know it, remember it and make it a mantra come race day.