The mental game: Running mantras to get you through marathon training

TORONTO August 22nd. Digital Champion Christopher Doyle is a father of four running his first marathon at STWM. A 15-year sports marketing executive with past experience working at media companies TSN and Insight Sports, he presently works at CBC Sports (including Hockey Night in Canada, the Olympics, FIFA and more). Connect with Christopher on Twitter @ChrisDoyle.

The mental game: Running mantras to get you through marathon training.
By Christopher Doyle.

My first marathon is fast approaching, and my training runs are getting longer. Running distances I’ve never done before, this is where the mental game comes into play.

I’ve noticed that the right state of mind before and during a long run is just as important as being physically ready. For me this means blocking out a lot of negative mental messages that pop up, especially on long runs. It also means having to deal with a lot of…well, extra “stuff” that pops into my mind while out running.

Here are some running mantras I’ve been using that help, or hinder, me on long training runs.

1) “You’ve got plenty of time.” This reminds me not to go out too fast and save some kick for the back half of the run. Also, this serves as a good reminder to not worry as much about time on the long runs, just to make sure I get the endurance in. Too often I’ve gone out faster than necessary and paid the price.

2) “Mmm…donuts.” Sometimes I wonder if my new addiction to running long distances is really just a way to justify eating something sweet once a week. In my mind this is always said in a Homer Simpson voice.

3) “Stop now and never start running again.” This lovely thought crossed my mind when I hit the wall on a recent 39k training run. In my wisdom, the last 2k of my run had very long and steep hills. My answer to this was to keep repeating mantra #2 to get through it.

4) “RPG” This one is from Olympic marathoner and coach Jeff Galloway and I’m really finding it works for me. He uses RPG to remember the key phrases “Relax, Power, Glide” when he gets into trouble spots during long runs or races.

5) (If you do not have young children, please skip immediately to Number 6. DO NOT READ THIS.)

Just keep swimming, just keep swimming.” This little ditty pops into my head all the time on long runs and I honestly wish it would go away. This is because while it’s from a great movie (Finding Nemo), I’ve seen it way too many times and I’m never actually swimming when I’m repeating it to myself. I blame my two young sons who always have me read this story to them at bedtime…over and over and over again…just keep swimming…just keep…

6) “That person is kicking your butt.” On long runs, my mind will often tell me that a random runner I come across is not only a rookie runner out for the first time, but that they are absolutely obliterating me with a better pace and form. This is a negative message that pops up from time to time, that in a reverse way motivates me to pick it up a bit.

7) “This is easy.” I actually had this thought at the 28k mark of a recent long run. I could feel how my previous endurance training and shorter speed sessions were working together to get me through what was previously a tough stretch. After this positive experience, I try and tell myself “this is easy”–even when it’s not–to erase any creeping negative messages. Or more annoying songs from kid’s movies…

8 ) “You’re getting better each week.” Training for my first marathon, it’s easy to see the progression from week to week. It’s also been really motivating to be part of the #STWM Digital Champions team. Reading their posts, having some laughs, and getting advice from a group of experienced runners has been invaluable.

9) “It’s getting closer.” Nothing motivates like an impending deadline. Knowing that each long run means another week has passed and you’re that much closer to your goal race, sure helps you to stay focused before or during a long run.

10) “This is awesome.” This is the one that really gets me through. It’s hard for those that don’t run to understand how great it feels out on a long run. I’m just grateful to be out there working towards a marathon goal and getting it done. Add a few thousand fellow runners and the amazing atmosphere at the Scotiabank Toronto Waterfront Marathon and the final mantra will be “I did it.”

What are your running mantras? Share them on Twitter using #STWM and let @ChrisDoyle know.

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5 Responses to The mental game: Running mantras to get you through marathon training

  1. Myron says:

    “mmm Portuguese Tarts” is a useful mantra as well, especially on… well, weekdays…
    Great post, Chris, keep on swimming!!

  2. Nice job, Chris! Our physical strength gets us out there, but it is our ability to perform Jedi Mind Tricks on ourselves that gets us to the end of those long runs!

  3. Pranada says:

    As mantras go, I like “gate gate para gate parasamgate bodhi swaha”, but for those in search of something less esoteric, there’s “Forget that you think you can’t do this.”

  4. says:

    My current mantra:
    “Each step makes me stronger”. During difficult parts of the run I repeat it over and over in beat with my steps.
    In two days I will be running 29 k for the first time. I have a feeling I will repeating that phrase more than ever!

  5. Simone B says:

    When I feel like I am at my max and there isn’t anything left, I repeat, “I am strong”. It gets me through the rough spots.

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