The Most Mysterious Running Phenomenon

Yesterday, one of my Twitter followers asked for tips on “getting out of my own brain while I run.”

I am familiar with this issue. I remember asking one of my marathoner friends the same thing during my longest run before my first half.

“Today’s 12-miler already seems painfully long, and we’re not even halfway done,” I said. “How do you run for hours by yourself? How do you stand it?”

She shrugged. And yesterday, on Twitter, I more or less did the same.

I’ve run 12-plus miles, alone, many times during the last few years. I don’t know exactly when I stopped being the person who’d think, “Ugh, I still have x more miles to run,” every five minutes, and it doesn’t really matter. I don’t do that now, and I enjoy running so much more.

If I had to guess how I got to this point, it’d be some combination of these factors:

Ditching the iPod. I used to clip on my Shuffle before every run. But I’d want to change the music on it, or it would need to be charged, or I would need to detangle my headphones, so I’d spend that much longer getting out the door. And during that time, I might think about how I wasn’t really feeling like running, or how it’d be nice to cut my run short. And that attitude would follow me into the run. Plus, the best distraction is the world around you, and music shuts a lot of that out.

Following a training plan. I love structured marathon and half-marathon plans. When I know I need to run a certain number of miles this weekend to succeed at an event that’s weeks or months away, I just go do it. It takes the “maybe I’ll turn around early” factor away for me.

Running the same routes. I realize this won’t help my brain forge new pathways, but whatever. When I’ve done the same run multiple times, I can shut my brain off, and when the brain is off, there’s no voice saying, “But you still have 15 miles to go!” I find it very unsettling and difficult to run in an unfamiliar place—unless it’s for a race, of course.

Getting it over with. Along the same lines as the iPod point, the earlier I run, the less time I spend dreading it or talking myself out of it. And the early-morning brain fog also helps squelch nay-saying thoughts—though safety-wise, it may not be the best.

Anyone else have tips to share?


About Meghan Loftus
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2 Responses to The Most Mysterious Running Phenomenon

  1. Jen Miller says:

    Few things:

    1. I also don’t run to music. It’s too distracting and I worry about getting hit by a car (especially since it’s SO HARD to hear hybrid cars coming down the street). I do sometimes listen to podcasts, but usually if I’m stuck on the dreadmill. The podcasts can help because you’re listening to a story, but I do better without anything.

    2. Take it a mile at a time. I had to run 12 on Sunday and the weather was disgusting. So instead of going out thinking “OMG I have to run 12 miles in this?” I told myself I was running 12 one-mile segments. That sounds simple, but it breaks up the work into smaller chunks. It’s the only way I’ve found that I can get through gross weather runs.

    3. Daydream. I’m a daydreamer, so I let my mind go nuts. This is easiest to do on cool, clear days. Not so much as days like Sunday.

  2. Lydia says:

    Great post, Meg. I agree with above #3. I like to imagine having interesting conversations with people when I run. Then I want to keep running to keep the conversation going. That sounds a little crazy, but it makes running more fun for me.

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