How to Stay Motivated When Training for a Marathon

Author profile image of Ben Fraser
Author: Ben Fraser
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How to stay motivated training for marathon

Marathon training is one of the biggest commitments any runner can take on.

In recognition of this challenge, we’ve outlined 9-simple-tips you can use to stay motivated when training for a marathon. 

Plant Visual Reminders

Setting those strategic SMART goals – as developed in our training for a marathon as a beginner article – is a big step towards setting a realistic marathon running target. Like many things we do with good intentions, there is a tendency to set it and forget about it. 

To avoid this pitfall we recommend that you make that SMART target as visible as possible. For example, think about objects you see everyday:

  • Car dashboard
  • Fridge
  • Front door
  • Laptop

Take a post-it note, and put your goals in these often seen places.

Put running goals on the fridge

When you feel motivation slipping you’ll see that goal reminder staring you in the face. At that point you can ask yourself: “how much do I want this today?”. 

Your response to this question will tell you all you need to know about your motivation towards achieving your marathon running goal. 

Ignore your running times

It’s natural for any runner to think about ‘time’ during marathon training. When you signed up for the marathon event, you were probably asked what your expected marathon finish time would be. This is so you’re put in the right wave of runners on the start line. 

As important as time is – it gets us up in the morning after all; we believe that to make the most from your marathon training, you need to avoid getting bogged down in the timings. 

Running times do not matter

Instead, focus on running consistently. Pick a number of days you are going to run per week and stick to it. Then reflect on the inevitable improvement this has on your fitness levels. 

We have found that when thinking about your marathon race day mileage, link it to people you care about. Dedicate each one of the 26.2 miles to somebody important to you. Instead of measuring the time of each one, you could spend that mile thinking about why that person is important to you. 

Switch up the Environment – Prevent Boredom!

On average a new marathon runner will take around 16-weeks to suitably train for 26.2 miles of running. Within a training regime like this you can expect to get out running over 50-times in that 4-month period. Strip this back and that’s a lot of different route distances. 

Having this much running factored into your weekly and monthly schedule can make things a little repetitive – familiarity is a motivation killer! A way to prevent this from affecting your training is to use a bank of routes that take you to new environments. This change of scenery will keep things fresh. Use our route finder for ideas.  

Prime Your Environment

Before you find yourself running outdoors, your running motivation usually starts at home; the place you start and finish the ritual of running. In comparison to the outdoors, the home environment is one we can assert more control over.

Folded running clothes

With this in mind let’s consider how we can create a better system of running by priming your home environment. Small things like preparing your kit the night before; laying out your running gear, will help you get up and go as soon as you wake. Or if you’re planning on running straight after work, have your long run pack ready. Simply put:  make the process of going for a run as automatic as possible!

Use a Quote to Inspire and Motivate 

When the going gets tough, the tough needs a little literary perspective. The words of those that have run long distances can be comforting when you need a motivational lift, or a little material for your visualisation techniques

Run when you can, walk if you have to, crawl if you must; just never give up. Dean Karnazes 

As said by one of the most successful Ultramarathon runners of all time. Get inspired and motivated with this Marathon Handbook motivational running quote list

Who are your running role models? And we don’t just mean people in the public eye; it could be those everyday people that inspire us to do more. Their journeys taken and stories told are fuel for your motivation levels. 

Trial Race Day

In the build up to a marathon there’s nothing quite like testing out your legs by running another race. A trial race day could come in the form of entering a half-marathon event. Timed in the months leading up to the marathon race day; this is a perfect opportunity to test your marathon training schedule and routine, to see what works and what doesn’t. 

Try out what to wear, eat and do before a race and see what the results are like. With experience comes necessary adjustment and an even better outcome.     

Create a Motivational Social Media Feed

Social media is a bit of a paradox. It contains some of the best and worst of what people have to offer. But in the case of motivating you to run more, social media can play a part in helping you to stay motivated when training for a marathon. 

A way of avoiding some of the clickbait spam on social media is to set up a specific running account, and simply add or follow runners. It doesn’t matter what level or experience the runners are. What it will do is give you running content to feed off. And in turn – if you wish – you can post your running progress for others to see. The benefit of this is it will motivate you and others to run better. 

Run Mindfully

Yoga for running

It’s proven that mindfulness has been shown to improve motivation, calm the mind and give you a stronger sense of purpose. 

The Headspace mindfulness app has partnered with Nike Run Club to produce 15-recorded-meditations for running. Delivered by mindfulness coaches, this combines calming conversation and guidance. It brings the full body and mind experience together to make you a more motivated runner.   

Yoga can also be an additional benefit when aiming to stay a little more mindful. Running is sometimes described as a type of meditation, and yoga can further enhance this aspect. Yoga has been found to reduce the levels of cortisol – a stress hormone – in your body. We have written a whole piece on how ‘yoga can be beneficial to running’.

Remember the Health Benefits

Keep one crucial thing in mind: running is good for you! Whatever your goal and purpose; running is true to form in what you put into it, it gives you equally back. We’ll leave you with this one…

Have you ever felt worse after a run?

Coupled with a good marathon race recovery plan. Here’s to you reaping the health benefits of becoming a marathon runner! 

Author profile image of Ben Fraser
Ben Fraser

Ben is an experienced runner and fitness enthusiast who has been working in the sport and fitness industry for over 10 years. His passion for running began when he founded the Run Leeds project, while working for England Athletics. Ben is passionate about the sport of running and is always looking for ways to improve it. He is dedicated to helping runners of all ages and abilities to achieve their goals. He believes that running is one of the most enjoyable and accessible sports and loves to spread the joy of running.

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