I’m almost halfway through marathon training—can you believe it? (My hamstrings certainly can.) As I mark off each week on my training schedule, the race is starting to seem less like a pipe dream and more like a real possibility…one that I might actually achieve! In this lifetime! Without a team of medics! It feels crazy and exciting and exhausting.

Since I’m spending a lot of my waking hours running or thinking about running or feeling the effects of running, I thought I’d spend some time each Monday sharing some of my experiences with you. First up: my tricks for overcoming the mental block of running a long distance.

Although I’ve run a couple of half marathons and know that my body can physically make it through a long run, sometimes I have trouble coming to terms with them mentally. I’ll start thinking “That’s way too long,” or “My body can’t do that,” or “I’m too tired,” and then it becomes a self-fulfilling prophecy that ends in me sitting on the couch. So I’ve come up with a few tricks for avoiding this trap of negative thinking:

  1. Don’t overthink it. Although I certainly try to prepare for long runs by planning my routes and eating a good meal the night before, I try not to think too much about the actual distance I’ll be running. Instead, I think about the scenery I’ll be running through, or the great meal I’m going to have after. If I start to think about the distance too much during the run, I find a way to distract myself by making a mental to-do list or daydreaming. Focusing on the distance too much scares me, so I just avoid it.
  2. Argue with yourself. If you start making up excuses for why you can’t achieve a long run, take a second and play devil’s advocate with yourself. Why CAN you do it? When I was training for the half marathon, I confided my long-distance worries to a running friend who told me “If you can run a 5K, you can run a half marathon.” They said it with such confidence that I couldn’t help but believe him, and now I use this same logic on myself with every increase in distance. If I can run 10 miles, I can run 13. If I can run 13, I can run 15. If I can run 15, I can run 18, and so on. The incremental increases in my training really help with this! (Note: if you follow this tip, I advise that you do it in private so you aren’t walking through Target talking to yourself, as I have been known to do!)
  3. When all else fails, rely on your running buddies. I’m lucky to have a great training group for the marathon, and I don’t want to let them down. Even when I’m not in the mood to run, I want to catch up with them and that makes getting out there a lot easier. Usually once I’m out and running, it’s not so hard to keep going. (When I didn’t have running buddies I’d tell myself that I could go as slow as I wanted when I was running, as long as I got out there and ran. Once I was out there, I would end up picking up the pace. It was a great mental trick to get me going.)

I find that these three little tricks help me to stay confident about my training. What tricks do you use to overcome workout hurdles? I’d love to hear.