• Helen Phillips

10 Kick-Ass Tricks to Keep Running (When You Want to Stop)



Running a marathon is 50% physical and 50% mental.  Lot's is written about training but much less is discussed about managing the mental side of running a marathon.

Running a marathon is an epic endurance event.  At some point your brain will "ask questions", you'll want to stop so you need to find ways to calm your brain and keep going.


Here are my 10 Kick-Ass Tricks to Keep Running (When You Want to Stop).


1.  Are you Really Tired?

Is it your legs that are tired, a niggle beginning to appear or your mind that's just had enough?  At the first signs of fatigue I do a mental total body scan to check which parts of me are actually feeling fatigued, or whether it's my brain playing tricks with me.


2.  Focus on your Breathing

From your total body scan you should check how your breathing and heart rate feel. Are you pushing it too hard, so your heart rate is high and you're getting out of breath?  If so, the best thing to do is to pull the pace back a bit, especially if you've just run up a big hill!

Also focus on your breathing.  Take long deep breaths to get oxygen deep into your lungs.  Breathing from your diaphragm, long and deep really works wonders both with relaxing your body and mind and taking your mind off your fatigue.


3.  Listen to Music

Listening to music can distract you and really take your mind off your running.  If you don't run with music sing a song, out loud or in your head.  Make sure what you listen to or sing is motivational and uplifting to keep you pressing for home.  I love hearing bands and music playing along the routes of big marathons, "We are the Champions" or "Chariots of Fire" are always great crowd pleasers!


4.  Eat Something

If you're out for a long run and tiring it's very often a signal that your body is running low on fuel.  Your body burns carbohydrate as fuel (along with fat) and when it starts to get low on carbs it becomes a bit cranky.

The biggest user of carbs as fuel is our brain.  So if carbs are running low during your run the first to feel it is the brain.  And guess what ... that's when our brain decides we need to quit, even if our body is still going strong.

So to stop your brain playing tricks on you take onboard some carbohydrate, whether that's a gel, some sweets or a sports drink.  Feed your brain and your body will be strong!


5.  Count Down

I'm a bit of a numbers and data nerd.  When I'm feeling tired i start to count down, both time and kilometres I've still got to go.  I realise that won't work for everyone (it might make you want to have a hissy fit strop and quit, realising that you've still got 24 minutes running to go).  But knowing that I have 24 minutes left, I say to myself "24 minutes, great!  Next time i look at my watch ... when i get to that lamp-post in the distance, I'll be closer".  I then start working out fractions of time ... and when you're tired and your brain isn't working on accelerate that tactic can distract for quite some time!


6.  Run Tall

When we get tired it's natural for our running form to go to pot.  We start to hunch our shoulders and shuffle along, which isn't great for your body and can lead to injury.

You're going to have to think hard about this one when you're running, but when you find yourself tiring start to consciously run tall.  Tuck your tailbone under, shoulders back, grow and run tall.  You'll find your breathing becomes easier, your running becomes more fluid and feels easier.

Check yourself every few minutes and refocus on running tall, strong and with good form.


7.  Take in Your Surroundings

Whether you run in the city, local park or in deepest wilderness there's always something to look at.  Distract yourself with people, buildings, the landscape and the nature around you.  If it's a familiar route, make yourself look for new sights and sounds.  Our countryside and cities are truly amazing.  There's always something to see and something new to learn.


8.  Remember Why you Started

Did you start running to lose weight and get fit?  Are you running the race for a particular goal or for a charity dear to your heart?  Are you inspired to achieve something for yourself or running to support others?

Having a strong WHY, especially when you're training for and running a marathon, can really help when the going get's tough.

Think about all the people who aren't able to be running with you and give thanks that your legs let you experience the joy and freedom of running.  Running is a gift, cherish and value it!


9.  You're  being Watched

Do you use a sports watch and have followers on Garmin or Strava?  Are you running a race, where your results will be published or your every step tracked by friends on afar?

Believe me, I have used the power of "Oh no, if I go out too fast and then burn out Simon'll bollock me next week" and "I know Emma is screaming at her phone 'she's going to do it, she's going to do it' so I'd better keep going" more than once to keep me going in a marathon.  Knowing you have friends and family tracking you can be a massive motivator to not stop!


10.  Follow a Nice Bum

Whilst running is an individual sport runners are a very supportive lot.  Life friendships have been made during marathons with strangers supporting and helping each other through the final miles.

And if all else fails, the scenery is dull and you're about to give in, find a nice bum to follow ... or at least remember that this was my final tip ... it'll bring a smile to your face when you're in pain!


If you're running a marathon this spring and you're terrified about taper, confused about carb loading and nervous about the day join my Prepare to Run Your Marathon group coaching calls.  I'll be holding these call through March and April, timed to get you ready and prepared to run your spring race.


Click here to save your spot now.

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