10 Tips to Survive a Tough Run

This week I completed my 15 mile training run for the Big Sur Marathon. It was a challenging, hilly course in windy, cold conditions. It was tough. The foot pain I experienced from my bunions (embarrassing) could have been enough to keep me from completing it. But I was able to persevere. I’m no expert. Just an average mom and an average runner, but I have learned a lot from my mistakes over the past few years. Here are some tips I keep in mind while I’m running long distances (sometimes even short ones) that help me meet my goals.

1. Be prepared. Fuel up properly. Get a good night’s sleep the night before. Map out your route. Be sure your watch and your music player or phone are charged up the night before, so you’re not left in the dark for your last 5 miles or when you need it most. Make a new playlist ahead of time for back up. I’ve learned the hard way that Pandora reception is spotty. When I ran the Big Sur Relay last year I virtually listened to the same three songs on repeat for all 16 miles because I didn’t consider that Pandora wouldn’t work on the remote oceanside cliffs of California. My iTunes playlist was stuck on repeat and I didn’t want to stop to figure out how to fix it. I was preoccupied and annoyed and it kept me from doing my best and took away from my enjoyment of the beautiful scenery around me.

2. Don’t judge how good or bad your run is going to be in the first few miles. I almost always overthink things the first few miles like how my knees or my feet or my breathing feel. The number of miles ahead are daunting to think about. Around mile 4 I get into my “zone” where my faster breathing regulates and feels more normal. That’s when I feel more confident. In some ways those first miles can be the most challenging mentally. Don’t let them psych you out.

3. Split the run in half in your head (or quarters or thirds.) Tell yourself you can take a break there to pause or walk for a minute, get a good drink and have a gel. Then power through the next part.

4. Don’t think too much about your speed, especially during long runs. Just focus on getting in the miles no matter how slow they are.

5. Don’t forget to refuel. Make sure you have something to eat (a gel or energy chews) and drink every 30 minutes or every 4 miles. I carry my water and food in a belt for training and for races so I can eat and drink whenever I need to.

6. Focus on NOW, not the miles ahead. Just keep putting one foot in front of the other. If you’re telling yourself you still have 10 miles left and you are already struggling, you will bring yourself down.

7. Think about the positives. When you are struggling with a cramp or just feeling sluggish, try to think about something that feels GOOD. For example when I feel like my breathing is off I try to focus on how good my knees feel. Soon the trouble spot subsides and I’ve gotten through another mile.

8. Don’t introduce more than one new thing per run. If you’re trying new insoles in your shoes, don’t change anything else. That way you can clearly understand whether they helped or not. Or, if they are causing discomfort or annoyance, you don’t want too many different things causing you problems. You will sabotage your run.

9. Think about how you will feel if you don’t reach your goal and how you will feel if you do. Tell yourself this, “When you stop running, the discomfort will stop too, but as soon as you do stop you will wish you had kept going to meet your goal.”

10. This is your chance. You already ran 13 out of your 15 mile goal. You can do 2 more miles. You are out here. Get it done.

These are some tips that help me meet my goals. I hope they help you too.

Please share your tips here too! 

4 thoughts on “10 Tips to Survive a Tough Run

  1. Edele

    when the going gets tough I find a mantra can help – usually mine is the word ‘dig’.
    The last few miles of my one and only marathon ( to date!) i had a very rude word that I normally hate which I repeated 🙂 I also had the words head and heart written on my arms I glanced at them every so often to remind myself if its in the head and the heart it’s in the legs too. Great blog!


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