Marathon Training Motivation - How to stay motivated to run


We've all been there—feeling drained after a long day's work even when we've barely moved. The rain is pouring, the evening is settling in, and the couch looks oh-so-inviting. There's that long to-do list, and time's running out. Sometimes, the idea of stepping outside feels as challenging as climbing Mt. Everest.

Training for a marathon requires dedication, perseverance, and a strong commitment to your goals. Staying motivated throughout the training process can be challenging; when I run into periods where it feels like a chore to get out running, I procrastinate and think of many reasons to not go. But there are several strategies you can use to keep yourself on track:

marathon runners
  • Set Clear Goals: Define your goals for the marathon and break them down into smaller milestones.
    Having specific objectives can give you a sense of purpose and progression as you work towards the marathon.
    E.g., complete a 10K (6.2 miles) race, achieve a half marathon distance (13.1 miles), run a 5K (3.1 miles) under a specific time, complete a long run at your marathon goal pace, run a certain number of miles per week consistently for a month, etc.

    Remember that the milestones you set should align with your current fitness level and the time you have available for training. They should be challenging yet achievable, helping you progress steadily toward your ultimate goal of completing the marathon. Celebrate each milestone you reach, as they all contribute to your overall success.

  • Create a Training Plan: A structured training plan outlining your workouts, rest days, and long runs can provide a sense of direction and help you stay organized. It goes from "Do I feel like running today or tomorrow?" to "My schedule says I must run today," so it also minimizes the thought process of "Should I go running today?".

  • Variety in Workouts: Incorporate a mix of workouts to keep things interesting. Include interval training, long runs, fartlek, cross-training, and strength training to prevent boredom and engage different muscle groups."

  • Accountability: Share the goals you set for yourself with friends, family, or a running group. When others know about your goals, you'll feel more accountable to stick with your training plan.

  • Track Progress: Use a training journal, running app, or wearable fitness tracker to record your workouts and track your progress. Seeing improvements over time can boost your motivation.

  • Get Inspiration from Others: Watch YouTube videos, listen to podcasts or read books about runners, races, running gear, and anything that has to do with running.

  • Visualize Success: Imagine the moment when you cross the finish line, receive your medal, and achieve your marathon goal. Visualization can help reinforce your commitment and keep your motivation strong.

  • Reward Yourself: Treat yourself to small rewards after achieving milestones in your training. These rewards can serve as positive reinforcement for your hard work.
    E.g., new running gear, massage or spa day, favorite snack or meal, spend a day focused on relaxation, social celebration: Plan a small get-together with friends or family to celebrate your achievements together, coffee or Tea Treat: Enjoy a cup of your favorite coffee or tea at a café or as part of your post-run routine, charitable Donation: Make a small donation to a cause you care about as a way to give back and celebrate your progress.

  • Join a Running Group: Running with others who share your goals can provide camaraderie and make training more enjoyable. It can also create a sense of community and accountability. Besides, talking to other people while running can distract you from your fatigue.

  • Mix Up Your Routes: Exploring new running routes can keep your runs exciting and help you discover new places.

  • Listen to Music or Podcasts: Create a motivating playlist or listen to inspiring podcasts during your runs to keep your mind engaged and distracted from any fatigue.
    For me, it varies a lot what I feel like listening to from day to day. On my long runs, I often listen to podcasts or audible books. When I'm tired, I listen to relaxing music while running and when I have high energy or do speed work, I like high energy music.
    Find out what suits you, variety can help keep you motivated.
    Some people prefer not to listen to anything while running. This can keep you more focused on your run and more present in the moment. You can hear your own breathing pattern, your steps and your surroundings. It's all about what works for you at any given moment.

  • Mindset and Positivity: Cultivate a positive mindset and practice self-encouragement. Replace negative thoughts with positive affirmations to stay motivated.

  • Rest and Recovery: This one is often overlooked, but overtraining can lead to burnout. Too little rest can result in fatigue, which can lead to burnout, and it's not only physical. If you are stressed in your daily life or going through hard times, it will also impact your training. If your rest days are filled with work or family stress and worries, you won't be able to recover properly, and this can also lead to running burnout.
    Prioritize rest days and recovery activities to prevent physical and mental fatigue. You need to spend some time in a relaxed state of mind to recover. It will relieve stress levels, help your body repair itself, improve your sleep and overall mood and energy.
    Active relaxation can be something like getting some quality time with friends or family, watching your favorite series, listening to your favorite music, hanging out at a coffee house or the beach, or going for a walk in nature.

  • Celebrate Small Wins: Notice and celebrate the small victories during your training journey. Completing a challenging workout or hitting a new distance can boost your motivation.

  • Remember Your Why: Reflect on the reasons you decided to train for a marathon in the first place. Reconnecting with your "why" can reignite your motivation.

  • Stay Flexible: Life can sometimes throw curveballs, leading to missed workouts or plan changes. Be flexible and adaptable in your training approach while keeping your long-term goal in mind. Don't get too frustrated when something comes in the way of your running; just keep going when you can.
    Many things can get in the way of our running, like illness, family, work, weather, etc. We have to accept it, not let it overwhelm or stress us out, and just keep running whenever we get the chance again.

Remember that motivation can ebb and flow, but building discipline and commitment will help you push through the tough times. Visualize the sense of accomplishment you'll feel when you cross the marathon finish line, and use that vision to keep you focused and motivated throughout your training journey.

The Best Running motivation books

More to come...

  1. Finding Ultra: Rejecting Middle Age, Becoming One of the World's Fittest Men, and Discovering Myself" by Rich Roll

    Finding Ultra

    "Finding Ultra: Rejecting Middle Age, Becoming One of the World's Fittest Men, and Discovering Myself" by Rich Roll, recounts Rich Roll's personal journey from being out of shape and struggling with health issues to becoming an ultra-endurance athlete. The book covers not only his physical transformation but also his mental and emotional growth. Roll shares his struggles, setbacks, and triumphs, offering insights into the challenges he faced and how he overcame them. His story is a testament to the power of determination, resilience, and making positive changes in one's life. "Finding Ultra" not only encourages readers to consider running and physical fitness as a means to improve their health but also emphasizes the mental and emotional benefits that can come from pushing oneself beyond perceived limits. It touches on themes of self-discovery, personal growth, and the transformative power of pursuing a passion. While the book may resonate more strongly with individuals who are interested in endurance sports, fitness, and personal development, its messages of overcoming obstacles, setting goals, and pushing one's boundaries can be motivational for a broader audience. This inspirational book has motivated many readers to embrace an active lifestyle, including running.