It’s So Mental

On Saturday morning, I ran eight miles.

Going into the run, I wasn’t sure how it would go. My friend Merri is training for the Hamptons Marathon at the end of September and, after running 18 miles last Saturday, her training plan called for an eight mile run over the weekend. She asked me to join her and since Merri is one of my favorite running buddies and I don’t have the opportunity to run with her often, I agreed.

Merri was only in town for three days from New York City and I wanted to spend all the time with her that I could. Our running pace is very similar and Sadie is basically obsessed with her, so on Saturday morning, Sadie and I met up with Merri at 7 a.m. for a long run. Long for me… not so much for Merri.

Running with Dog

On Friday night, I went to bed thinking the run the following morning would be kind of miserable. And then something odd happened.

I woke up on Saturday morning and felt totally committed. I felt the way I do when I wake up to conquer a long run when I am training for a half marathon: It’s non-negotiable and I’m going to get through it. I was actually excited. (Long runs are actually my favorite part of half marathon training.)

Merri told me she wasn’t worried about our pace since she just wanted to get in the miles. She matched my pace and let me run at a pace that made me feel comfortable. Merri mapped out an out-and-back course and told me to just think of it as two four-mile runs. Mentally, this made things so much easier for me. Two four-mile runs? I can do that! 

We took off and ran around Sarasota. Running new routes when I am traveling is always fun for me because there’s so much to look at and take in. During our run we saw a manatee! We talked the entire time which made the miles pass by so much faster than they do when I run on my own.


Once we reached the turn-around point, I felt great. I knew I’d finish and that I’d finish strong. Merri said that after each mile we reached during the second half of our run, she wanted to take a 10 second walking break to sip on water and mirror the water breaks that occur during a race. I always thought I preferred to run straight through, but these fast mini-breaks helped keep me going because I just focused on the mile we were running, not the miles we had left. I just had to make it through one mile at a time to make it to a super-short walking break.

Despite the heat and humidity and the fact that Merri and I looked like we had jumped in a pool at the end of our run, it was one of the best runs I’ve had all year.


It’s also the farthest I’ve run since the ZOOMA half marathon in January. It’s three miles over my “magic mile number” and I finished with a feeling of accomplishment that I seem to only get from running.

After our run, I thought about just how mental running is for me.

  • Part of me knew I could run all eight miles, but I had a mental block up that made me doubt myself. It wasn’t until I mentally committed to the run on Saturday morning that I knew I could do it.
  • Running an out and back course and telling myself it was just two four-mile runs helped me wrap my head around the eight-mile distance.
  • Allowing myself to take 10-second walking breaks after miles five, six and seven helped me work through the final few miles and focus on individual miles rather than the chunk of miles I had remaining.

So many little mental mind games went into this run and helped me finish feeling strong and proud. Now I’m on the lookout for a fall half marathon!

Question of the Afternoon

  • Do you play any mind games with yourself during workouts that help you make it through harder workouts?


  1. says

    I really need to try more mind games. Right now I just remind myself how awesome I will feel after completing the race and I chant I rock I’m awesome. 🙂
    Music is also really helpful for me.


  2. says

    Isn’t that the best when you surprise yourself with a WAY better run than you expected? I’m due for another one of those soon.

    I definitely play the mind games, especially with running since for me it is just the worst. Breaking it up into smaller increments in my mind always helps. I’m always afraid to take mini walk breaks because I feel like a) I won’t want to run again, and b) the mileage “doesn’t count” because I didn’t run it straight. It’s so encouraging to hear serious runners take quickie walk breaks, I may have to try it!


  3. says

    I was JUST thinking how mental running is this past weekend too! I ran my long run last Saturday to train my mind mentally more than train my legs for my upcoming race. It’s so mental, its crazy.


  4. says

    I like to try to “trick” myself into how far I’m running. I tell myself I’ll just go one more mile and once I’ve reached it I keep running. It gives me a stopping point if I REALLY need it but if I’m doing ok I just let myself keep running. It helps me get through the miles when I’m struggling. Thinking about the run in chunks is definitely easier than looking at it as a whole and doubting yourself. Great job on the eight miles! The most I’ve ever ran at once is a 10K a long time ago. I’m hoping to do a half marathon sometime in the coming year!


  5. says

    Running can be so mental for me too. I try not to think too far ahead or count the miles and just enjoy my surroundings, the music, and the glorious fact that I can put one foot in front of the other. Eventually you hit that blissful stride.


  6. says

    The only mindgame I’ve learned to play with myself is to just focus on the mile I’m in. I wish I had some other magical game, but I don’t…yet! I kinda like running the 8 mile markers. I have a half next month though and need to get some long runs in!


  7. Alli says

    I am training for my first marathon in October and have a similar mindset that Merri seems to have. I usually tackle my long runs (and even my shorter ones) by running essentially two runs of equal distance in an out and back manner. This helps to split the run in half, and doesn’t give me the overwhelming feeling of having such a large amount of miles to accomplish. I now also look forward to my long run Saturdays like you do! 🙂


  8. Sheri says

    I ride in the MS150 Houston to Austin bike ride annually. Believe it or not, we have a few hills in Texas. After the first 35 miles of the route, the miles in between rest stops are shorter. Instead of 14 to 20 miles in between, there are 7-10 miles due to difficulty, weather, traffice, etc. On Saturday when the ride begins I do much better thinking “I have 14 miles to the first rest stop”, as opposed to “I have 88 miles until the half-way point”! It makes a HUGE difference. I drove the course this weekend and commented how crazy it was that I actually pedalled my little self all this distance!


  9. Erin says

    I can totally relate to this post! Running is SO mental for me. I’m running my first half next weekend (but have done a few 12-13mile long runs in my training) and I have been playing mind games with myself the whole time. Most of the time I feel like I’m counting down in terms of how many miles/how much time I have left, but that can be really daunting on long runs and sometimes makes me enjoy the run less. I’ve started grouping my miles together, like you said (i.e. thinking of three 4mile runs is much easier to handle than one 12miler). Having a running buddy is key, too, I think…and something I’ve really missed in my recent training! Congrats on your first long run in awhile, that must’ve felt good!


  10. De says

    I had this happen yesterday. During my crossfit WOD which involved running and a current heat index of 105 in MN (this is so not normal for us) I was mentally prepared to be dropping at some point. But I got halfway through and knew I could finish. My mindset when I get to that point and am struggling is “it may not be pretty, fast or heavy, but it’s getting it done and that is all I need right now.”


  11. says

    I feel the same way! When I was training for my recent half marathon, I found that I could run just as much as I set out to run – one day I would be fine with 15km, and the next 30mins was my breaking point! You can literally do anything you set your mind to 😉


  12. says

    I am totally the same way. Once I get it in my head that I can run a distance, I am fine but until I reach that point I have serious self doubt. I love the feeling when you have a great run that you thought might be a disaster. It’s the best! Way to push past that mental block Julie!


  13. says

    Great job! Running is totally mental for me too and I always use the out-and-back half distance trick… I tell myself that I just have to run 4 miles out, then “go home.” Nothing beats the feeling of accomplishment after a great run!


  14. heathyr says

    I consistently run about 28-30 miles a week. Even though I consider myself a “runner,” each of my runs requires mind games- regardless of the distance. You’d think after a while it’d get easier, but running has a way… it never seems to be easy!

    My mind game I play is knowing I need to hit at least the 28 mile mark every week. I like to try to start out my week with one long and a second semi-long run. My mind starts playing games with me at the 3 mile mark and usually I want to quit… but I never do because I know that if I quit today then it just means I’ll have to prepare myself mentally AGAIN later into the week for these long runs. If I just get them over with at the beginning it should be smooth sailing for the remainder, right? This is what I tell myself, and this is what works. But each week I play the games… 🙂

    BTW – “5” is my magic mile number too 🙂


  15. says

    Sounds like a great run!!! When I have a challenging run or think it will be challenging, I tell myself no pressure on pace. Just enjoy being out in nature. When I take the pace constraint off of myself, I generally end up happier and actually going faster!


  16. Kathryn says

    I had an unexpected 6 mile run this morning. It was just what I needed to give me a push for a fall 1/2 marathon. Run the Outback 1/2 in Jax on Thanksgiving day!



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