Staying focused - tips for long runs and marathons

We live in a life full of distractions, and most of us spend it multi-tasking. Sometimes even following the plot of Homeland requires the concentration of a neurosurgeon.

Similarly, staying focused during long runs can be tough. I asked my rugby-nut 8-year old for advice: although he finds every grain in the table fascinating when it’s time for homework, his – and his teammates’ – concentration during a match is phenomenal. 

I wondered how he stays focused during the howling winds and driving rain. “It’s easy,” he said. “Whether we win or not, I think how proud I’ll be at the end”. 

He’s right, of course (I say through gritted teeth). Think how proud you’ll be at the end of your longest-ever run, whether a race or training. 

Here are a few tips I’ve found useful:

Set little goals – to the next tree, the nearest lamppost.

Take the longer way round – you’re out now, you may as well. 

Remember why you’re doing this. Is it for a charity? Someone you’ve loved and lost? Or just because you can? Because you can – you know you can. Your body is fit and healthy, and it’s capable of more than you could ever imagine. 

Reward yourself for each section – jelly babies are a pretty good incentive. Especially the blackcurrant ones. 

If someone gives you praise, take it graciously. Smile. Thank them. I regularly encounter an elderly chap on my training runs who calls out “Well done! Keep going!” and “Well done again – it’s what I said to you yesterday!”. I don’t know who he is, but this gent has no idea of the power of his words, and how much they incentivise me not to give up and take the short cut home. 

Talk to yourself. Not the “Whoop whoop you can do this” but just a little personal pep-talk – “Come on”. “Keep going” etc. In a very understated British way of course. 

Plan what will happen when you overtake you-know-who to become the next Prime Minister or President. What will you do first? Or plan what you’ll do when you become boss – maybe try whichever is the more realistic. 

Decide what to spend your lottery winnings on: One of my friends (you know who you are) swears by this on long runs. 

Beat other runners. Seriously. Not competitive at all. I did this yesterday. I served a fellow runner a mighty can of whoopass as I skipped up a beast of a hill right past him. It felt great. Until I realised I had to put up with a grunting, puffing heavy breather right behind me. I let him overtake me on the next hill. 

Plot new routes so you don’t get bored. Use an app – Run Walk Jog is amazing. 

Count. Paula Radcliffe does it and if it worked for her…

Visualise. Picture yourself when you’ve finished the run. How pleased will you be? What will you eat? Who’ll be there? How nice will that bath feel? How many glasses of prosecco will you have? Depending on the time of day of course. 

Most importantly, believe in yourself. Because no other bugger will. No, really. No-one else is going to run this for you. Keep going. You know you can do it.

Fancy taking on your own Marathon Challenge?

Good luck to all of our Team Incredible runners including Anne this weekend - we can't wait to see you all on the course. Remember to run your own race, enjoy it and keep hydrated as it's going to be warm!

A challenge doesn't have to just be 26.2 miles - why not take a look at our other events and join Team Incredible this year? From muddy obstacle runs to a swimming series or one of our terrific treks, we've got something for everyone.

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Anne Amlot
Anne Amlot