Mental Strategies for Runnners

There are several different types of runners…


While reading, Eat and Run, Scott Jurek compares himself to his hero Chuck Jones and Ron Nicholl. He also discovers bushido, which is a code of honor and morals developed by the Japanese.

Bushido means letting go of the past and future, and focusing on the moment. Do you bushido while running? Or is your mind in constant thought? Do you run better when your mind is empty or do you run better when you are focused on your running?

¬†When you have been consistently running, or have properly trained for a race, you are physically capable to run the speed and distance you have trained for… But are you mentally strong enough?¬†

What mental strategies do you have, if any at all?

“The mountain reminded me that races are not run all at once, that the only way to survive an ultra was piece by piece. So I ran Mount Si piece by piece.”

Scott Jurek used a mental strategy in order to run the distance of Mount Si. He broke his ultra into 3 parts. I do this often while running the marathon distance. During my training my two longest runs are 21 milers. My easy runs during the week are 5.2 mile runs. This becomes a mental strategy for me because when I hit mile 21 in my marathon, I am able to tell myself, “Oh Yay! Just hit mile 21, now it is just my 5 mile easy run.”

A lot of runners have tricks like this. When my dad use to run marathons, he use to break the marathon distance into 4 different 10K parts.

Hal Higdon, a marathon coach, states in his marathon training guide, that he wears a rubber band on his wrist, that every odd mile he switches it to the other wrist.

“According to Bushido, the best mind for the battlefield-or the race- is that of emptiness, or an empty mind. “

I use to just let go, and run (bad form and all.) ¬†I wouldn’t really think of anything, my mind was empty. It was my quiet time during my day, my time to myself. But, I wasn’t becoming faster. I wasn’t becoming a better runner, having no goals.

“My craft was running, and as I climb those northwest mountains, I tried to do so with extreme focus. It’s easy to shut your brain off when you’re running long distances, and sometimes it’s necessary, but I stayed plugged in.”

When I decided to change my shoe to Newtons, and really focus on improving my stride. I had to stay focused. During that time, when I was transitioning my stride from a heel striker to a more natural barefoot runner, there were definitely days when I missed the times when I  could just go out there and run., with an empty mind. It was very exhausting physically running, and then mentally thinking about how to run properly, but I had to, I was invested in becoming a better runner.

“In my two months training in Seattle, my endurance improved all by itself. Dusty and all the other tough guys were right about that. Just do the distance and that will usually save you. “

I totally agree, it is as simple as that… practice running the distance, and it will save you.

“I stood in icy rivers to strengthen my mind’s control over my body.”

However, Scott Jurek prepared his mind by standing in icy water. Sometimes running isn’t enough. Sometimes your need more. So in addition to the distance, mentally preparing for your race can take you to a different level of running, maybe even a new PR. Focusing on running while you run, can keep you injury free, and a stronger faster runner.

“I concentrated on running a particular section harder, on picking up speeds downhill while I rested my heart and lungs.”

You would be surprised how the mind can play tricks on you and actually turn a good race into a nightmare. Using mental strategies when you have approached that unbearable distance is just a SMARTER way to run.

There are several different runners, some that empty their minds, others that use their minds just as much as their bodies, but we can all agree on this…


Questions for You…

  1. Do you just run? Letting your mind empty?
  2. Do you have any good mental strategies? Please share them!

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