Going the Distance: How Mental Training Can Help You Run Longer, Stronger, and Faster

Program Your Inner Machine for Success

Are You A Distance Runner Who Trains Well, But Performs Badly at Track Meets, Marathons or Cross Country Races?

No problem.  Running is a unique sport where the mind plays a particularly enormous role in your performance.

I worked with a large number of runners as they are naturally drawn to mental training in greater numbers than most sports, because they instinctively understand it is a secret weapon they possess over their competitors.

This is because, compared to other sports (where there is loads of equipment and other performance aids), it's basically just you, out there - your body and your thoughts, nothing else. 

This means runners are often highly evolved in their general awareness - and are acutely aware of the mental side of their sport, compared to many other sports.

This is because it requires powerful mental resources - and the simple act of training regularly instills a high level of self-awareness about their own bodies, within most runners.

Why Are Training Times Faster?

When race times are slower than practice times, athletes quickly seem to understand the mental aspect is equally responsible, as the physical side of their performance - and this level of realization is at its highest in this sport.

A powerful body + a powerful mind = success

After many years we began to notice consistent patterns with most runners, and the challenges and issues they deal with.

Rhythm, breathing, remaining focused, injury niggles, worrying about competitors... most competitive runners seem to basically be concerned about all the same things.

Of course, the mind controls all these aspects, in one place - this is why the mental aspects are such a great way to bring everything together in your performance.

Here is a good cross section of the areas it strengthens for performance..

Mind Training Benefits

Advantages / Uses:

• Belief and confidence under race pressure

Overcome intimidation from other competitors

Overcoming Nerves - before and during a race

Energy and Endurance

Overcoming Pain during the race

Handling competitor's attempts to pass, or catching those out in front

Staying consistently strong with good pace and stride throughout the run (and also on hills for cross country runners)

Concentration during performance, in both practice and races

Daily motivation to train

Coming home hard at the finish of a race with a burst of acceleration

Accessing your 'Zone' - the peak performance state

Mental training delivers results in all these areas fairly quickly, because the subconscious controls them all.

Almost without exception, those who train both their mind and their body seem to consistently get the edge over those who only train physically.

  Keys to Success

Mental toughness increases the power, smoothness and fluidity of performance.

This allows you to flow over the ground more instinctively. focus deeply, access your greatest stamina and acceleration, tap into your perfect stride and rhythm - and anticipate potential setbacks.

In general, it brings everything together so you can worry less.

For instance, having the belief in your fitness and endurance, feeling calm and in control, and remaining fully aware of your own form, energy levels, performance and general position in the race.

Having the awareness of pacing yourself, responding to your competitor’s moves, maintaining a strong steady pace and rhythm throughout uphill and downhill runs, achieving your goal times, maintaining your technique, and coming home hard with acceleration at the finish.

Champions Who Train Their Minds
(ie. those who have publicly discussed using mental training techniques)

Mo Farah - The British long-distance runner, who is a four-time Olympic gold medallist and six-time world champion

Eliud Kipchoge - The Kenyan marathon runner, who holds the world record for the marathon and won the Olympic gold medal in 2016, has said that mental preparation is just as important as physical training.

Haile Gebrselassie - The Ethiopian long-distance runner, who won two Olympic gold medals and set numerous world records during his career

Paula Radcliffe - The British long-distance runner, who set the women's world record for the marathon in 2003 and won numerous other accolades during her career

Galen Rupp - The American long-distance runner, who won a silver medal in the marathon at the 2016 Olympics, has worked with sports psychologists

Shalane Flanagan - The American long-distance runner, who won the New York City Marathon in 2017, has used mindfulness and visualization techniques

Deena Kastor - The American long-distance runner, who won the bronze medal in the marathon at the 2004 Olympics, has spoken about the importance of mental training in helping her overcome setbacks and injuries.

Bernard Lagat - The Kenyan-American long-distance runner, who has won numerous medals at the Olympics and World Championships, has used visualization and positive self-talk to improve his performance.

Kara Goucher - The American long-distance runner, who has won numerous medals at the World Championships and other major events

Meb Keflezighi - The American long-distance runner, who won the Boston Marathon in 2014 and the New York City Marathon in 2009, has worked with sports psychologists to prepare for races.

Joan Benoit Samuelson - The American long-distance runner, who won the first women's Olympic marathon in 1984

Kenenisa Bekele - The Ethiopian long-distance runner, who has won numerous medals at the Olympics and World Championships

So as you can see, you are in pretty good company, when it comes to using this type of training...

The world's best use these methods, so why shouldn't you?

These are all mentally tough competitors. So what does mental training entail? At the very least, rehearsing your performance throughout your mind in the weeks leading up to your event, imagining your peak performance on the day.

To build further upon this, it would involve an efficient and regular relaxation exercise, to reduce stress and teach your mind and body how to remain in a calm relaxed state, no matter what is going on.

There are also sports psychologists, mental trainers, hypnosis recordings (such as those below, on this page), and mental techniques such as meditation, which prepare your mind before performance, and coach your mind into shape in the leadup to your event.

See below for more information and my mind-training audio products.





Being such a physically and mentally challenging sport, requiring enormous discipline, determination and endurance - unless you ensure you dot all the i's and cross all the T's, many fall by the wayside during the pressure of big events.

Many competitors struggle to maintain their motivation, overcome injuries and setbacks, and ultimately achieving the goals they have set for themselves.

This is where the internal side of the sport can massively enhance performance, as well as make the events a more enjoyable experience, along with the usual suspects such as improved pain management, focus, confidence etc which it also delivers.

The Benefits

Long distances require unwavering concentration, remaining calm, focused on your breathing, stride, pace, and surroundings, and avoiding distractions. These are all done on autopilot with hypnosis or mental training.

It can also help runners to increase their inner strength, discipline and determination levels, while remaining clear and focused in mind and body, overcoming setbacks, pushing through tough races, managing pain levels, ignoring discomfort and overcoming physical challenges.

Last of all , of course there are always the slower and more standard improvement methods, such as:

• Developing a consistent schedule and sticking to it

• Incorporating a mix of different types of runs, such as easy runs, tempo runs, intervals, and long runs

• Gradually increasing mileage and intensity over time to avoid injury

Cross-training with other forms of cardio, such as cycling or swimming, to improve overall fitness

• Including strength work to improve form, power, and endurance

• Better running shoes and replacing them more often once they start to wear out

• Focusing on proper form, including maintaining good posture and a midfoot strike

• Practice on a variety of surfaces to improve balance and stability

• Incorporating hills and stairs into your routine to build leg strength

• Getting enough rest and sleep to allow the body to recover and adapt to training

• Using a heart rate monitor to track intensity and monitor progress

Staying hydrated and fuel your body with the proper nutrients, especially before and after long runs

• Learning and using breathing techniques to improve oxygen efficiency

• Listening to your body and taking rest days when needed

• Include stretching and foam rolling to improve flexibility and prevent injury

• Find a running partner or join a group for motivation and accountability

• Set specific, measurable goals for your progress

Vary your routes to keep things interesting and prevent boredom

• Use technology such as GPS watches or mobile apps to track your progress

• Join a club or a group of runners to benefit from their experience, training and support

But certainly the faster ways to see better, stronger and quicker improvement is by looking more deeply into the mind techniques.