To grow into a long distance runner, you must develop a long distance running mindset.
But where do you start?
The answer: accepting change.
When I say change, I’m not referring to a change in running shoes or a change in route. Although some external tweaks do expedite your progression. No, what I’m actually referring to is a change from within.
What do I mean exactly?
Well, first understand that change is a way of life. All forms of life on this planet change in some sense. Trees get taller, people grow older, fruit ripens, etc.
As human beings we are either living or dying, increasing or decreasing, growing or shrinking. We are strengthening or weakening, becoming better or worse, advancing or regressing.
And most importantly as a runner: you are either gaining or losing endurance. There is no stagnation. So as a long distance runner, you must deliberately choose GROWTH.
Look For Growth Everywhere
To develop a long distance running mindset, look for the growth in everything.
In the gym, you push against an enormous amount of resistance. Eventually, your muscles grow. Pushing against heavier weights will increase your physical strength.
But guess what? It’s the same for your mind. By overcoming internal resistance, you increase your mental strength. Do this while running and you will develop a long distance running mindset.
When your mind says, you’re not good enough, but you run further anyway… that’s when you develop a long distance running mindset!
When your mind tells you to go back to bed, but you lace up your running shoes anyway… that’s when you develop a long distance running mindset!
When you’re mid-race and your mind SCREAMS to stop, but you keep running to the finish line… that’s when you develop a long distance running mindset!
In other words, to develop a long distance running mindset you must run through self-doubt. That’s how you shatter your self-limiting beliefs thus allowing you to run even further.
Eliminate enough of these mind-made limiting beliefs and eventually, you find your true self. A self with zero limitations.
Remember—it’s not about finding a new you, it’s about letting more of the real you surface. Running strips away internal resistance allowing your light to shine through.
Because when you strip down your mental barriers, whether it’s an excuse… or negative self-talk… or a limiting belief… what you find is FEAR.
But for us runner’s, being the overachievers we are, we don’t get scared, we just “stress” (wink wink). We don’t become fearful before a race, we experience “pre-race jitters” (more winking).
Get the point?
To overcome internal resistance and develop a long distance running mindset, use fear to your advantage.
What you’ll soon realize is that FEAR is the internal weight in the gym of your mind…
Use Fear to Run Further
Fear is the internal weight in the gym of your mind. Run away from your fears and your mind becomes fragile. Run towards your fears and your mind becomes stronger. And it takes a mightier mind to run longer distances.
So run towards your fears.
Don’t want to run outside? Don’t think, just move!
Worried what people will think of your ambitious running goals? Run in silence, let success be your noise.
Don’t think you can finish a training program? Give it a shot anyway.
Remember—fear is internal resistance. When you overcome fear, your mental muscles grow. The next time around, your fear is gone, and you can advance to the next level.
On the other side of your greatest fear is the real you. Plus, once you face your fears, you sometimes realize it’s nothing more than a wizard behind a curtain. It’s more of a paper tiger than a concrete limitation. We just put this long distance running stuff up on a pedestal making it a bigger deal than it needs to be.
I remember being nervous before my first marathon. Showing up to the starting line gave me butterflies. Now after running 100 ultra distances, not even showing up to a 200 miler creates fear.
Now when I show up to a long distance event, I feel at home. I now focus on being grateful for my health and the ability to run another race.
So whether your fear stems from self-doubt or the doubt instilled by others, the same is true. Meaning, if you want to develop a long distance running mindset, you must run towards fear, not away from it.
Run Through Excuses
Some think they weigh too much. Some think they weigh too little.
Some think they are too young. Some think they are too old.
Some think they are too busy. Some think they are not busy enough.
If you look for excuses you will ALWAYS find them. Excuses only provide comfort for not taking a risk on your running goals. This holds especially true when attempting to run a marathon or ultramarathon for the first time.
Most use the excuse that these distances are for the elite only. For the “real” runners. But the truth is… THEY AREN’T.
Sure, you’ll find a few professionals at these events, but the majority of the runners are people just like you and I, searching for something MORE. More out of their lives, and more out of themselves.
Those who develop a long distance running mindset understand the power of the mind. It’s the most powerful tool we have. The body will run as far as the mind lets it. And it starts with reframing failure so quitting is removed from the equation.
Understand that growth is an option for each of us. But you have to look past the negative self-talk and believe you can grow. You have to believe in yourself to run a further distance.
Did you know that some of the most successful people in the world thought they were destined to become successful? Regardless of their circumstances, inside these individuals KNEW they were meant for something more significant.
Can you imagine if you adopted this mindset as a runner? What if you were MEANT to become a long distance runner? One who was destined to run a marathon or ultra marathon? What if running 100 miles was chiseled into the concrete narrative of your life?
Your perception of failure would dissolve instantaneously. Failing would automatically reframe itself. How could you ever fail if running a longer distance was your destiny?
All your failed training efforts would transform from failure to lessons learned. All shortcomings would be nothing more than a speed bump on your road to running a further distance. Now instead of failing 10 times, you would have simply learned 10 things that didn’t work.
Let’s say you were training for an ultra marathon, and during a run, you stopped and walked. Or maybe you attempted a training program but quit half-way through.
What happens when you finally get to the finish line? All those perceived failures were nothing more than a lesson of what doesn’t work.
Maybe it was a lesson about fueling, or pacing, or mindset, or something similar.
Remember—Failure does not define who you are. A failed attempt simply shows you a way that doesn’t work.
Use failure to educate yourself. Use failure to test yourself. To see how badly you want your goal. If you quit halfway through a training program, then you simply don’t want it bad enough.
I remember the time I made the mistake of running a long distance in a new shoe that was not designed for my footstrike. Talk about knee pain. I was slammed to a complete stop smack in the middle of a training run and walked 15 miles back home.
So what did I do?
In short, I made adjustments. I switched races and walked up a Stairmaster instead of running. I made it to race day, partially healed and still ran a 50k.
You can read more about how I cured my knee pain here: How I Conquered The Infamous It Band Syndrome.
The point is that when you learn from your mistakes, you become a better runner. And these lessons are for growth, not quitting.
When you reach the finish line, every experience both good and bad become part of a bigger picture. It takes a broader perspective to recognize a finger isn’t only a finger, but a tiny piece of a complex, highly organized structure that is the human body.
NEVER FORGET THIS: Every time you want to quit, but keep running anyway, your long distance running mindset strengthens. And when you come up short, adjust, and still achieve your goal, your long distance running mindset expands exponentially.
Look at some of the most famous names in the world who have failed…
Walt Disney was fired from a newspaper for lacking imagination.
Michael Jordan was cut from his High School Basketball team.
Oprah Winfrey was fired from her first TV Show.
Heck, Albert Einstein didn’t say a single word until he was 4 years old.
And the most famous comparison is Thomas Edison. He failed thousands of times when attempting to create the light bulb. He then coined the famous saying “I have not failed. I’ve just found 10,000 ways that won’t work.”
The list goes on. It goes on to every single person on the planet because failing is a part of the human experience, it’s a part of life. If you go through life without failing, then you have gone through life without living.
The point is we all fail at times, but when you see failure as trial and error, you become unstoppable. Your sense of failure dissolves, and there are only lessons learned on your path to success. And in this case, your path to run a further distance.
I’ll never forget the lesson I learned about the rain and chaffing during a 100-mile race. The last 25 miles I ran with a bag of cornstarch periodically dumping it down my pants in a desperate attempt to ease the razor-sharp pain I was experiencing.
Within my mistake, I learned the importance of bringing along diaper rash cream and baby powder for longer races. Because of this occurrence, I was later able to manage chaffing during a 200-mile race.
I know, if you asked me 10 years ago if I would someday borrow my child’s toiletries in an attempt to survive a run from the Gulf of Mexico to the Atlantic Ocean I would have thought you were crazy.
We run, we learn, and we grow.
Hardwire Your Brain
Physical abilities and intelligence have the potential to develop further for anyone at any point in time. This belief is at the core of a long distance running mindset.
That’s opposed to a mindset where you believe what you have is all you have.
Take intelligence for example. Did you know experts once believed that as we increased in age, the connections in our brain became fixed?
That’s before neuroscientists discovered that our brain is much more malleable than we could have ever imagined. In fact, brain plasticity shows how we develop different connections when attempting something new, and with enough repetition, these new connections strengthen.
Even as adults, our intelligence can increase just like our endurance.
So don’t think for a minute you can’t change your mindset for long distance running…because you can.
What’s the Secret?
The answer: REPETITION
Yes, repetition is what strengthens the mind.
There are even studies that show how 10,000 hours of deliberate practice will make you an expert in a given subject. That’s because by performing the same act over and over again you strengthen the neurological connections in your brain.
Here’s a saying I just love: Neurons that fire together, wire together.
Remember when you learned to drive a car or ride a bike? At first, it took time to develop the skills. Then after constant repetition, it became second nature.
That’s the same with running a longer distance. Running a marathon may seem light years away, but after practice, and reaching 15-20 miles, suddenly, a marathon doesn’t seem long at all.
Your mental stamina grows simultaneously with your physical stamina.
I remember when 100 miles seemed impossible. Then I ran 200 miles, now running 100 isn’t all that bad, running 50 miles is a “short” run, and a 50k is for speed training.
You can only run as far as your mind will allow it. The only barrier is yourself. And thankfully, like the universe, our mind is forever expanding.
Consider this: in my book A Runner’s Secret, I teach my proven system for running ANY distance by running ONE day per week.
Here’s the short history: Every weekend I ran a single long run. I used this method to the point of running a 100-mile ultra marathon.
Taking the physical side out of it, can you imagine what this has done for my mind?
Remember when I said neurons that fire together wire together?
Well, as I ran week after week, long run after long run, it wired a new connection. So not only did my body become more enduring, so did my mind. My body didn’t just prepare for the stress, it expected it.
With enough repetition, the long run became easier. And that goes for everything from waking up at the sound of my alarm to pushing though those last few tough miles.
Talk about developing a long distance mindset. In effect, I hard-wired the long run into my brain.
So keep repping out those miles and if you stay consistent, one day running will not be something you do…it will become who you are.
When the long run becomes wired into your brain, your progress is inevitable.
Self-Propel With Progress
Progress creates happiness. When you are working towards a goal, each small bit of progress will provide a sense of accomplishment. Working towards a goal provides meaning to your life.
Progressive repetition is how you reach a further distance. But it starts with knowing exactly where you’re headed.
If you want to run a marathon, then sign up for the race. If you want to run a 50k, then sign up for the race. If you want to run a 100 Miler, then sign up for the race.
Get the point?
Aimlessly running is the quickest approach to giving up on long-distance running. But with a target, and using each training run as a marker for progress, you self-propel yourself forward. Your training program becomes an upward spiral to the finish line.
And with enough progress you begin to see the truth. The truth that you are the ultimate adaptation machine and running any distance is very possible.
You will then run that 5k until you reach a 10k. And you will run that half-marathon until you reach a full marathon. And you will run that 50 miler until you reach a 100 miler.
And one day you will look back and realize there was never a finish line to cross, but a journey to travel.
Be Patient to Grow Further
A long distance running mindset also takes time. It doesn’t happen overnight.
You won’t wake up one day as a 5k runner and run 100 miles. Don’t expect a harvest overnight. It starts with a single seed. It takes time to grow. Seasons change.
Times could be tough right now. You could be going through a winter running season. You could be injured, or on a plateau, or feeling down on yourself. But don’t give up…
Spring WILL come.
With time and a deliberate, honest progressive effort, your running will get better. It ALWAYS gets better.
Your dreams don’t come into fruition overnight. Could you imagine if everyone received every one of their wishes instantly?
That’s why we must put in the work. Our goals come to us when we become the person who can handle them.
Becoming a billionaire isn’t as much of a blessing as it is a social responsibility.
The point is this: that marathon or ultra marathon will come when you progressively increase your mileage each week. Your body progresses with the distance, and so does your mind. Eventually, you don’t just run the mileage, but you BECOME the person who can run the mileage.
So don’t become discouraged. Running long distance takes time.
But be careful. Along the way, yes, your endurance increases; however, it can also decrease with enough time off.
Think about it, your dream of becoming a long distance runner doesn’t die in one massive battle. It’s the small “give-ins” that destroy your progress.
It’s repetitively giving into the “I don’t feel like running today” and sitting on the couch instead. Or telling yourself enough times that running isn’t for you.
With each small negative thought, you become less of a distance runner. Eventually, it’s possible to give up entirely. All those small tiny battles lost eventually add up and crush your dreams into submission. It’s a death by 1000 cuts.
We can haul a rocket into space and land on Mars, and you’re not sure if you can run a marathon? Let’s be realistic.
With a long distance running mindset, it’s no longer “how can I run a marathon?” It becomes “How can I NOT run a marathon?”
Forget What You Know and Know Nothing
“The only wisdom is to know that you know nothing.”
Thinking we know everything is crippling to our progress. We are flying on an enormous blue rock floating around a gigantic ball of fire…even the most intelligent person on the planet only knows a sliver of what’s what.
Do you know the look I received when I first told someone I was running a marathon? Or the comments I heard before attempting an ultramarathon?
How could a guy like me achieve something so miraculous?
When I stood at the starting line of my first ultra marathon, I didn’t do so as a confident know-it-all runner. I stood tall, but in a vulnerable state. I had NO IDEA what I was getting myself into.
But knowing I don’t know it all, and neither do others, was precisely how I brushed off self-limiting comments from others.
How could anyone tell me if I could run 100 miles or not? How do they know? How does anyone know? How does anyone really know anything for sure?
So I went onto running 200 miles.
I thought if there was even one other person in the world who has ran 200 miles, then why not me?
If a hand-full of other runners on the planet could do it, then I sure could. That is, if I moved my shoes forward and NEVER gave up, the finish line would have to come eventually.
But did I know for sure if I could run 200 miles? NO. But did I know for sure if I could NOT run 200 miles, that answer is NO also.
There are no guarantees in running. But to come as close to a guarantee as possible, work on developing absolute certainty…
Absolute Certainty Absolutely Works
If you have ABSOLUTE certainty, then you will ABSOLUTELY run the distance.
Please note: I am not a certified health physician and do not claim to be one. I’m only sharing the methods that worked for me. Remember, sometimes when you push the limits, the limits push back. So proceed with caution and never forget that safety comes first.
During a 200-mile ultra marathon…
When my blisters become tortuous… I popped the bubbles, looked at my crew, and said “Even if it costs me a foot, I’m finishing this race.”
When my nose bleed uncontrollably for the last 30 miles… when I was spitting mists of blood illuminated by the bright light of my headlamp… I looked at my crew and said: “Even if I have to duct tape my nose shut, I’m not stopping until I reach 200 miles.”
Or even after the race when my legs hurt so bad I could barely take a single step… I laid down in the hotel bathroom with my lower body on the shower floor… with freezing cold water spraying on my legs I called my wife. On the phone, I said, “Even if I have to crawl to the airport, I’m making my flight home to you and the boys tonight.”
These instances are the result of developing absolute certainty. Finishing was never a question, when I’d finish was another story.
Remember—by putting one foot in front of the other, the finish line will come. It always does.
To develop a long distance running mindset, practice having ABSOLUTE CERTAINTY.
You don’t necessarily need certainty in reaching the finish line, all you need is certainty in your next step.
Here’s the secret to NEVER giving up when running: always take ONE MORE step.
Final Thoughts On A Long Distance Running Mindset
If you want to run further then wake up and run further. You’re not a tree, you’re a human being. Just throw on your shoes and move.
There’s no explanation needed. Don’t make an excuse to be a runner. Just be a runner because you are one, period.
Your last issue to developing a long distance running mindset will be TIME. You may think that developing a long distance running mindset takes time and you have little time to train.
Well, that’s where I help…
Remember the program I developed called A Runner’s Secret? Well, inside the pages you will learn how to run ANY distance by running only ONE day per week.
That’s right. No gimmicks here. I ran all the way to a 100-mile ultra marathon by running one day per week.
I provide training programs for the 5k, 10k, half-marathon, marathon, 50k, 50-mile, 100k, and 100-mile distances.
Each week you will grow, your endurance will increase, and over time, your long distance running mindset will sharpen.
Not only that, but I also explain how my method prevents injury. I explain how running once per week allowed me to train and recover from an injury simultaneously. There are also tons of secret tips and tricks to grow faster.
If this sounds like something worth doing, or a new mindset worth having, then check out A Runners Secret: One Run Will Get It Done.
Lastly, a long distance running mindset is a mindset with purpose.
So never forget this: Your journey is infinite. Every day has a purpose because every day is a chance to grow. Today, take one more step than you did yesterday.
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