(Picture: Getty)The average time it takes to run the London Marathon is three hours and 48 minutes for men, four hours and 23 minutes for women.
That’s a long old time.
And once the nerves and the buzz of the starting gun have worn off, all that’s left in front of you is the pavement and your own mind.
I don’t care if you’re Paula Radcliffe, if you’re doing nothing but running for four hours, your mind will wander and boredom is definitely going to creep in.
So how do you keep yourself motivated? And, importantly, how do you keep yourself distracted from the incessant pain in your lungs and your legs?
We spoke to Saucony UK athlete, James Williams, for his top tips to keep your mind focused when you’re on a long run.
Be goal orientated
One of the best ways to stay motivated is to keep your main goals at the front of your mind. No matter how difficult a run seems, having a clear focus on your end goal is a great motivation.
To do this, you need to clearly define your goal.
Writing it down is one of the best ways to do this. Are you struggling to think of a goal? Once you’ve defined your goal, you can then focus on breaking it down into all of the processes that will help you achieve it.
For example, I’m attempting to break the record for running from a Land’s End to John o’ Groats. To do that I need to run 100 miles a day repeatedly. So I need to practice running big back-to-back days. That means I need to get up at 4am to do long runs before work.
My second tip is to use visualisation.
Recently, I’ve been visualising the end of my world record attempt – the John o’ Groats signpost. And specifically seeing my wife and two daughters there. This has been a huge positive image for me to use during long runs.
Run with friends
There was one huge learning that I have taken from my training – there is no better distraction from running miles and miles than having someone next to you.
I do practically 100% of my training alone. After all, there aren’t many people who want to get up at 4 am to go running.
But it was amazing how quickly the miles passed by when there was someone next to me.
If you can train with someone else, even for short sections of a long run, it will make it a lot easier.
There are various ways to find other people to run with. Look at past results, check local clubs for fellow runners, check Instagram using the relevant social tags, or simply just pick four or five people on race day to go with and chat to.
(Picture: Getty)Use podcasts and music
My preference during long runs is to listen to podcasts.
I find that you can concentrate on them a lot more than listening to music. So they take your mind away from the fairly monotonous act of running.
I also feel that I’m making better use of my time than when I just listen to music, as I’m learning something new or hearing something inspirational.
When it comes to podcasts there are a lot of shows out there, and in my experience, a lot of them are terrible.
But by doing a bit of googling on ‘best podcasts in the genre that interests you, you’ll find a bunch.
James’ favourite running podcasts
If you need inspiration, here are some of my current favourites:
Rich Roll – Get insights into the life of high achievers across a number of different areas. One of my favourites was Ross Edgley, who swam around the entire coast of the UK.
30 for 30 – Documentary style episodes on some great topics. Start with the ‘Six who Sat’ for two iconic stories about women’s running.
Choiceology – An insight into how to make small changes in our everyday lives that have big impacts. Start with ‘The big impact of small changes’ episode.
Endurance Planet – Some very specific advice for training for endurance athletes. Start with any topic that takes your fancy.
Hurdle – Stories of successful people and businesses and how they got there. Start with the episode with Kirsty Godso, a Nike ‘Master Trainer’.
The second trick is to download a bunch of shows and stick them in a playlist.
Downloading them means you don’t have to rely on 3G or 4G connections when you’re out and about. It also means that you can queue up shows that actually interest you. Otherwise, you’ll go into auto-play and end up listening to podcasts that are pointless and not interesting.
Once you’ve downloaded lots of shows, mix up the order so that you don’t have multiple episodes from the same podcasts.
More: London Marathon
This is a nice psychological boost for a few reasons.
First, you don’t get bored by hearing the same voices over and over. Second, it’s often a nice surprise when a new episode comes on that you weren’t expecting.
It’s a small win. But a good one.
I rarely listen to music, but I do have a secret weapon when I need a psychological boost specifically in races.
I have created a playlist on Spotify called the ‘Ultra Running Motivational Playlist’. This is an embarrassing collection of the cheesiest, happiest tunes that I’ve ever heard.
There are classics from Steps, S Club 7, Busted and many songs from Disney films.
This playlist only comes out when I’m at my deepest and darkest points during a race. But it’s incredibly effective at raising motivation.And I’ve often found myself singing aloud at the top of my voice in the middle of the night in a race!
I highly encourage you to have this secret weapon in your back pocket. But make sure that it only ever comes out as a last resort. Overuse of this will mean it becomes ineffective very quickly.
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