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Long Run Mental Block

Long runs have always intimated me.  When I was first starting running for my colleges cross country team, my long run was 7 miles.  The night before for my first scheduled 7 mile run, I remember being nervous, scared and didn’t know if I could do it.  I was psyching myself out before the run started.

The morning before I ate breakfast, motivated myself and set out.  I was doing an out and back (out 3.5 for the local YMCA and back).  I made it the first half.  The second half really flew by.  Despite being terribly nervous beforehand, I finished my long run.  I had been nervous for nothing, I did it.

Fast forward to my first 10 mile long run.  I knew dad was going to do a 10 mile on Christmas Day in 2010.  I had never done ten miles before.  I remember hearing stories about how dad would just run for 10…15…even 20 miles!  Oh my stars!  I decided I was going to run this ten miles with dad.  On Christmas morning we set out together (for a typical run for him and my longest run).  Once again, I was nervous beforehand.  I psyched myself out and almost didn’t go.  Then I motivated myself.  The run itself went by quickly and before I knew it we were back at our driveway.  Once again, I had conquered the long run.

In April 2011, I ran my first half marathon (My first run over 10 miles).  I remember being terribly nervous.  I remember not knowing how it would go.  I had run 3, 10 mile runs beforehand (including the one previously mentioned).  I psyched myself out.  My mind raced with, what if I can’t?  What if my legs collapse?  How will I do this?

The answer was…just keep running.  I just kept running and eventually I finished.  I finished with a huge smile on my face.  13 miles of smiling.

After my half marathon I had a huge mental block with long runs.  I thought if I ran over a certain amount of time, I might peel over and just collapse.  For a while I had those feelings towards running more than 2 hours.  For a long time, I feared I just collapse on spot at 2:00.01.  There was never a need for me to run that long so I didn’t.  I stayed happy with training for half marathons.

Then I broke 1:25 in a half marathon and I decided to train for a full marathon.  I began running longer and further.  It was scary.  I had a huge mental block with running 20 miles.  I knew my marathon would take over 2 hours and knew I must conquer it. Once again, I knew it was a threshold I must cross to complete a marathon.  The night before my first 20 miler, I allowed myself to be nervous but I knew I was ready.

Toeing the line at NYCM, I knew I was going to run further than I ever had before. I was ready to run. Nerves got the bests of me the night before but I knew I was ready to run. I didn’t sleep a lot the night before (granted I also had to be up at 3:30) but I knew I was ready to run. The last few miles were questionable but I finished with the biggest smile on my face. I had completed my longest long run.

It was 100% mental.  Running itself is at least half mental.  Even if your body is physically ready to run, if you are not mentally, then you won’t go anywhere.  You could psych yourself out of a great run, race or life moment.

I guess now you could say I have that same mental block about running an ultra marathon.  Will I peel over at 26.3 miles?  Who knows, but there isn’t a need or a want for me to run that far right now.

Question for you: What mental blocks have you gotten over with running or with life?

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33 responses

  1. I always get nervous before the long runs. Even distances I’ve done before. Even my stomach gets in on the jitters and I hit the bathroom countless times before heading out, just in case. I hate that I get so nervous, but what’s that quote…if your dreams don’t scare you, they’re not big enough?

  2. It’s funny how the biggest obstacle is often not physical limitations but the mental limitations we put on ourselves. I used to have similar issues, but now that I’ve done all of those distances and lived, it’s no big thing. Except for ultras…that’s just crazy. 🙂

  3. Oh, long runs still always freak me out! I am more of a distance kind of person, and I still can’t get used to the idea of a 20 miler. And they always suck, IMO.

  4. When I was training for my first half marathon, my first “long run” of 8 miles seemed daunting. But I did it and after that my 10, 11, or 12 mile runs seemed so easy, second nature. It’s interesting to see what mental blocks we have with distances. We’ll see how I feel about those 15+ mile long runs when I’m training for my first marathon next spring 😛

  5. Oh the long run, I actually get pretty excited for them, but I’m so not trying to go fast. I do remember the night before one of my first runs (2 MILES!!) as part of a sports camp in 7th or 8th grade. I was terrified. I couldn’t sleep – totally been there! But although long runs aren’t my downfall, my mental game is TERRIBLE. Mine comes from trying to go faster or make a certain time. I need to get over it, it’s bad.

  6. You know, it’s crazy to me after how many I’ve done, but I still always have pre-long run anxiety. It’s often the worst the night before, and usually goes away once I start running, but if I think too much about it, I get worried! Although this might not be the best way to deal with it, I usually try to avoid thinking about it more than necessary. I make sure I have the fuel/hydration and get to be in time, and then distract myself! I also think that my definition has changed too – so I might not be anxious about a 12-miler, but still am about anything over 3 hours.

  7. Sometimes I have a mental block (aka fear) of long runs, although I haven’t challenged a new distance in some time. I guess it depends on the day? If the weather’s crappy, I have some obligation directly after or if I’m not feeling 100% then I’ll usually be a bit scared. To get over it I try to tell myself that I get to do what I love for X number of miles/km/minutes and I should feel happy about it. Sometimes it helps to plot out a route beforehand and run without a watch, then I won’t be focused on my pace or the time and can just go out and enjoy the run.

  8. Long runs were a mental block for me last year. Running 20 miles is so daunting and it’s easy to talk yourself out of it. Now I just do it. It’s almost like I am in auto-pilot.

  9. Are you planning on trying and ultra marathon or is this just a finishing statement? Cause that is FAR! You’ve come such a long way in running! It’s awesome to think that just 3 years ago, you were thinking that 10 miles was long and have already gone 26.2!

  10. I definitely mental block lots during a long run – it just seems never ending! BUT I also tend to think in the negative during 5K races as well. I keep thinking that I can’t run faster, but then the end of the race comes quickly and I realize that I’m not totally tired.

  11. I have never had a mental block over long runs. My time to get nervous is before every 5k! I think because they’re all over in a flash giving me no time to think I almost feel like it’s out of control. I’m a big fan of the long run, marathon (and ultra!) distances.
    Also, 3:30AM?! Here in the UK our marathons don’t start until 10-11am, so we just get up at a regular time. I’m very glad of our cooler climate sometimes!

  12. From running standpoint when I was training for my marathon I had a mental block with my 20 mile training runs. They were torture and I didn’t want to do them. It was until I got over the time limit factor that they became manageable run. Once I bought into the fact that I’m going to be out here for the next 2-3 hours I might as wel make the most of it things got easier and I was able to break the runs up into sections instead of viewing as whole, one big daunting looooong run

  13. It’s funny, but I totally get what you’re saying – my thing was more that I needed to have run longer than my upcoming race. So before my first half I had run 14+ miles several times … and before my first full marathon I did a run of nearly 28 miles. It took SO MUCH of the worry off my shoulders. Even though it was silly I ‘had to know’. Now it depends on what I am planning for a run … but it isn’t distance specifically that I fear.

  14. I have psyched myself out of more long runs than I can count. Before I actually ran a marathon I was so excited to do them…then once I completed a marathon for some reason when I trained for the next I would get way too obsessive over it. I am still working on that. Some times I just need to remember to get out there and just run, no pressure.

  15. It was so interesting to read this post because this is exactly what I am going through right now. Last Sunday I did my first ever 10 mile run. If you would have told me a year ago, I would have laughed in your face. I could barely do 15 minutes on a treadmill without stopping. I totally agree with you, it’s 100% mental. Right now I am really intimidated by the Spartan Beast that awaits for me in 4 weeks (20+ km with obstacles in mountains), but I know I can do it. I love how I feel after. I feel empowered by the notion that my body is capable of so much more than my mind assumes. Thanks for sharing! xoxo Olena

  16. I have a bit of a mental block over long runs but for me it is more of a fear of speed. Like can I maintain a certain pace for x number of miles. I feel like as long as I run slow enough, I can go the distance. But the thought of trying to hit a certain pace makes me nervous and anxious! 🙂

  17. I’m a first time commenter but a long time reader, so hello! I wanted to say that I 100% get what you mean. It’s odd, but I’m still nervous about a long run of anywhere from 10-15 miles, even though I’ve finished a Grand Canyon R2R2R and a 50K! It’s pretty amazing how the body is generally a lot stronger than what we give it credit for!

  18. I still get psyched out by long, 20 milers even more than the marathon itself. Something about being out there-mostly alone-just having to prove yourself to the road. I’ve got a 50k in less than 48 hrs…convinced my feet are gonna just strop at mile 27 and be like “Uh, excuse me? No.” Just gotta keep it going…trust training and know put one foot in front of the other.

  19. Yes. Yes. Yes. Yes. Yes. Yes. Yes!

    I have always said that running is 70% mental! Honestly, if I skip out on a long run for a bad reason, for the next few weeks, the thought of a long run intimidates me. It’s literally stupid because I have run that distance many times, but when my mental strength lapses I feel entirely impaired.
    That’s one reason I think it’s so important to keep cross training when your injured! Mental strength is everything!

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