It is not uncommon for new runners as well as veterans to fear the long run. Anxiety of whether or not one can finish the distance can remain whether it is the first time you are running long or the 100th time. Long, being relative to the individual, may mean you worry about an 8 mile run or it may mean the mental stress is coming from those important 20 milers leading up to a marathon.
In order to keep fear at bay and enjoy distances up to 20 miles and beyond I’ve started to run the one I’m with. What I mean by this is that I run the mile I am in and focus only on that mile. It scares my mind if I am on mile 2 of a 20 mile run and think about the 18 more I have to go. If I focus on finishing mile 2 strong and getting to mile 3 then I am working on manageable distances that my mind can wrap itself around.
Often during long runs one can experience a multitude of emotions as well as a range of how the body feels. One mile you are cruising along thinking about how fit you are and 10 minutes later your legs feel like they are filled with lead weights and you question if finishing this run is going to be realistic. Focusing on the mile you are in, whether you are feeling good or feeling bad, allows you to get through it and on to the next one. One hard mile doesn’t mean that they will all be hard. One good mile doesn’t mean they will all be good.
For some, a mile might even seem like an impossible distance to push through. I break down the mile into quarters. When you are at .25 of a mile you are only .25 away from being half way finished. At the half way mark you are only .25 away from being 75 percent finished. Once 75 percent of the way through a mile you can certainly push through another .25. When that mile is over ask yourself if you have a little bit more. The answer will most likely be yes. Begin the mile process over again if need be. Tell yourself I only have to do this for .25 more and then asses how you feel.
As a veteran of 20 marathons I can not tell you how many times I have had to break down long runs of 20 miles into quarters of a mile just to finish.
Focus on the moment, mile by mile, and you will find that the long run isn’t as hard mentally as you once thought.
Long runs are part fitness, part heart. Make your mind run your body; you are in control of your running destiny.