How to Think Like a Long Distance Runner

Your mind is a double-edged sword. It can either make you fail or you can use its enormous potential to overcome any adversity or challenge. Do you want to know how?
How to Think Like a Long Distance Runner
Bernardo Peña Herrera

Written and verified by the psychologist Bernardo Peña Herrera.

Last update: 21 December, 2022

Elite athletes, Abel Antón and David Meca claimed that “The mind must be distracted in order to continue forward.” This may seem to be rather complex but, in reality, it isn’t. Let’s take a closer look and learn how to think like a long-distance runner.

How to think like a long-distance runner

Let’s try to summarize how an athlete who covers long distances should act mentally to achieve an improvement in their performance and avoid the problems caused by a lack of mentalization. In other words, a decrease in their fatigue, pain, exhaustion, and will to continue. This mentalization must be carried out in two parts: before the race and during it.

Mentalization before the race

The sports we’re referring to require long-term sustained individual efforts. For instance, you can’t prepare yourself for a marathon in 15 days. Nor should you depend on a partner or friend to go running with. The effort is solely up to you.

You must be clear about your objective. Knowing the steps that you must take to reach it successfully will help you. Furthermore, this period should serve to give you a good knowledge about yourself and your body. To find out what your resources and limits are.

In addition, you must accept that the path ahead won’t be easy. As we’ve already mentioned, a competitor in a triathlon or a 100-kilometer bicycle race will take several months to prepare themselves. They have to accept the fact that they’ll have to run in the rain, swim in the cold, or pedal against the wind. However, to a certain extent, the mind enjoys this suffering in the overcoming of adversity.

Adopting the mindset of a long-distance runner

When the day finally comes, when you’re ready to put both your mind and your body to the test, you should focus on two aspects. Firstly, control your nerves. Secondly, observe your challenge with a positive mentality. Each person is totally different when it comes to facing this situation. As we said earlier, self-knowledge is the key.

At the starting line, your tremendous nervousness and impatience will be replaced by a review of your strategy and you’ll concentrate on it 100 percent. Finally, you’ll reach the maximum peak of anxiety as the test comes to an end. Normally, those ten kilometers mean nothing to you, but today they seem almost impossible.

Distraction is the key that opens the door. Indeed, your mind is capable of blocking the rest of your body in extreme conditions like the ones you’re currently experiencing. Up till now, the shouts of encouragement from the sidelines worked. Now, you have to forget all that. You must divert your attention. Try thinking of everything you did yesterday or the lyrics of the song that’s playing in your headphones, or the recipe for your favorite dessert. Make your mind block the sensation of pain in your muscles, those same ones that make you give up.

Your mind is extremely complex, but you can use it to your advantage. In fact, David Meca himself said that it’s difficult to establish limits regarding your body’s efforts. Because your power over your thoughts is capable of completely changing them.

All cited sources were thoroughly reviewed by our team to ensure their quality, reliability, currency, and validity. The bibliography of this article was considered reliable and of academic or scientific accuracy.

  • Cox, R. H., & COX, R. (2008). Psicología del deporte: conceptos y sus aplicaciones. Ed. Médica Panamericana.
  • Dosil, J. (2004). Motivación: motor del deporte. Psicología de la actividad física y el deporte, 127-153.
  • Dosil, J. (2004). Psicología de la actividad física y del deporte. Madrid: McGraw-Hill.

This text is provided for informational purposes only and does not replace consultation with a professional. If in doubt, consult your specialist.