As a runner, sometimes long run motivation or the desire to go out for an hour or longer run is low. Either you confess to this or you are an owner of a shirt like this one from Sarah Marie Design Studio…
Long runs often take place on the weekend or at a time outside of our busy schedules when the motivation to sleep in or relax can be higher, especially during the colder winter months.
Perhaps you are building a training base or training for your first half marathon, have a training plan ready and know what to do, but are feeling intimidating by those double digit numbers on your plan. You are looking for motivation during the long run, which may also seem monotonous as a beginner or someone new to longer distance runs.
As someone transitioning to more consistent long(er) runs myself, here are some tips I have used that may help you too if you are looking for motivation to complete your long runs. More advanced runners can refer to this for extra motivation too from time to time.
#1. Listen to Music or Podcast
Wearing headphones to listen to your favorite music playlist or a podcast or audiobook can help you to think less about the long distance and get into a more comfortable groove.
Just be careful of any cars, cyclists or other hazards you may not be able to hear approaching along your running route!
Listening to music helped me so much while training for my first half marathon in 2015. I ran most of my long runs alone on the weekends on an empty college campus and the music was a big motivator. I have since stopped wearing headphones on runs, but likely will take it up again when training for my first marathon.
A study among college students showed that running while listening to music does not improve perceived exertion, but can improve performance by making the run more enjoyable:
The Effect of Music Listening on Running Performance and Rating of Perceived Exertion of College Students – The Sport Journal
If you are looking for podcast recommendations, here is the best post I have found on the topic:
TOP PODCASTS FOR VEGAN RUNNERS – Jill Runs On Plants
#2. Run with a Partner or Group
Running with a partner or a group, like a running club, can boost your motivation to complete the run by offering the additional benefit of accountability. When you RSVP to a run with a partner or group, you may be more likely to attend and complete the run if you don’t want to let others down or miss your scheduled run.
Running alongside others also offers the opportunity to chat along the way and can make the miles seem to fly by fast. You can learn new things related to running or other topics and build connections. “What happens and is said on the run stays on the run!”
Another option to to ask a family member or friend to join you on your long run, either the whole way or part of the way.
You may discover whether you prefer solo running or social running or having a balance between the two. It’s up to you.
In my overall running schedule, I run my harder pace and intensity-focused runs alone (with the exception of group coached workouts) and some of my cover the distance-focused easy runs and long runs with others.
#3. Plan a Favorite or New Route
Choose your favorite route or change things up by running a new route every so often. Visiting and exploring a new trail or area of town can make the run more exciting and adventurous.You will likely see things you otherwise would not see along your usual routes.
Just pay attention where you step to avoid tripping over a root, rock or crack while looking up at the scenery, which I have done in the past!
It can help to vary the surfaces you run on too from time to time. If you usually run on asphalt road or concrete sidewalk, try running on unpaved trail or grass.
It has been suggested, though no study has proven yet, that varying your running surface can reduce your chance of overuse injuries, common to runners (if wearing proper shoes). Irregular surfaces cause variation in your biomechanics and the impact on your tissues, in contrast to the repetitive nature of running on hard flat surfaces:
Running surface and injuries: The role of leg stiffness in running injuries – John Davis, Runner’s Connect
I run most of my runs on the pavement since I train for road races, but sometimes run my long runs on an unpaved trail for a pleasant change.
#4. Look Forward to Something
Have something to look forward to during or after completing your long run. During the run, maybe it’s one or more of the previous 3 tips. After the run, maybe you don’t eat out often and there’s a great brunch spot nearby your long run route that you decide to treat yourself to each week. It can be anything other than food too and can even be something you normally look forward to during or after your shorter runs during the week.
These rewards are forms of extrinsic motivation, or outside factors that can motivate you to do something, in this case completing your long run.
Don’t think of it as if you are completing the long run only for that reward. Instead, you should think of it as something additional to look forward to that will make the day of your long run more exciting, or feel just like any other run, and make you more likely to look forward to the long run itself.
Research has shown that relying only on extrinsic motivation can often take focus away from the fun of the activity and more towards the reward. Removing the reward may even cause you to lose motivation, which is why you should also find motivation from within yourself, as explained next.
#5. Remember Your Goal and Purpose
Ask yourself: Why do I run? What do I enjoy about running? How do I feel during and after a run?
Your answers are forms of intrinsic motivation, or internal factors that can motivate you to do something, in this case completing the long run.
Internal motivators can sometimes be beneficially connected to your external motivators. For example, your intrinsic reward can be how you feel when running with a friend or the feeling of endorphins you get during or after a run.
A study from Iowa State University showed that intrinsic rewards, which are different for each person, can help to turn exercise into a habit and a combination of external cues and intrinsic rewards is key to developing long-lasting habits:
More than just a cue, intrinsic reward helps make exercise a habit – L. Alison Phillips, Iowa State University
It can help to think of as combining what you like about running (external cues) with why you like those things and how they make you feel (intrinsic rewards). As mentioned, it can simply involve applying what you enjoy about your shorter runs over to your long run.
If your goal is to build a base or train for a long race, your long run has a purpose and certainly will help you at the next race. Following a training plan can help you to keep yourself accountable to complete the long run too.
Follow your plan, use some strategies to stay motivated, think of your long-term goal and purpose and start with small steps to slowly and gradually build up to that larger goal, which in this case is being able to complete those double digit runs and eventually a longer than ever before race.
I talked about why I run and some of my future goals in this post:
MY RUNNING JOURNEY FROM BALLER TO RUNNER