In this post, I share 15 different marathon training motivation tips!
Staying motivated during marathon training can be one of the biggest challenges you face.
When you’re running for several hours each week, your willpower can fail long before your legs do!
With this in mind, I’ve compiled 15 expert tips from other running coaches, our Marathon Handbook running community, and my own experience!
Let me know your comments at the end and be sure to share any motivational tips you have yourself!
1. Have a Training Plan
Having a marathon training plan is having a route map to marathon success.
Without a training plan, your training will be unstructured and can quickly become unfocussed.
“My marathon training plan is like my personal coach,” says Gary Smith, 4 x NYC marathon finisher. “It’s my map through my training period – I don’t over-think my training at all, I just stick to the plan. It prevents me second-guessing myself, or trying to come up with excuses on days when I’m not motivated.
‘Stick to the plan, dummy‘ is what I tell myself.“
Looking for a training plan?
We’ve got you covered – check out our free, downloadable and customisable training plans.
2. Run for a Charity
With platforms like JustGiving, it’s never been easier to run a marathon for a good cause.
And running for a charity can help with your marathon training motivation, too.
“Do it for a charity. If people are giving money then it’s impossible to give up.”
says Georgie Corner, a member of our Marathon Training & Support Facebook Group.
Almost all major marathons have spaces assigned to specific charities – you can get in touch with your preferred charity.
Alternatively, simply enter the marathon on your own and set up a page on JustGiving – their site is easy to navigate and takes you through how to set up your page and begin fundraising!
- Related: 11 Pro Running Motivation Tips
3. Tell Everyone
This tip is designed to use your own social neuroses against you!
It’s simple: by telling everyone you know that you’re training for a marathon, you’re more likely to follow through on your training.
By making your marathon training public, you’re inviting in the social pressures of actually delivering on your goal!
The fear of is real!
Imagine telling everyone at work that you’re preparing for a marathon, then pulling out because you lost momentum in your training.
How crappy would it feel to have to explain this to people?
Seriously – slip it into conversations with colleagues and acquaintances …
“Hey, did I mention I’m training for a marathon?”
You’ll be surprised how much it actually legitimises you – people will treat you like a marathon runner, which can be a huge confidence boost.
- Related: 20 Running Motivation Quotes
4. Make it Social
Social media can be an awesome tool for propelling you along the way with your marathon training motivation.
Ian Mercado, a marathon runner based in Apalit, Philippines, explains:
“Social Media is very powerful nowadays;
I created new Facebook and Instagram accounts exclusively as my running account.
I joined running communities and groups;
I added and followed runners, elite, newbie, all kinds as long as they run!
Now whenever I open my feed what I will see is their progression, their training, where they run . . . it motivates me whenever I see them going out and run!
Now I do the same, I post my running progress, not to show off, but to motivate myself and others.”
Social media isn’t necessarily everyone’s cup of tea, but you can use it to your advantage.
Strava is a social media platform and activity tracker designed specifically for runners and cyclists – it’s free to sign up and easy to use! Download it to your phone today!
Suggested Social Media Groups:
We’ve set up a Marathon Handbook Strava Club, which you can join for free and log your runs within our community.
(I’ve also written a blog about Why Strava Is The Only Social Media Platform You Should Use).
We also have a bustling Marathon Training & Support Facebook Group; all you need is a basic Facebook profile to join. It has hundreds of runners in there who actively contribute to discussion and answer any questions you have!
5. Run Together
As much as digital communities can give you a boost, nothing works quite like running with other people.
It’s social accountability, motivation, and company all in one.
Ideally, you would find someone who is running the same marathon as you and following a similar training plan.
If you’ve signed up for your marathon with a friend, then perfect!
However, often it’s not the case that you can connect with another marathon runner.
You can find a local running club to do at least one run per week with.
I find my energy levels and motivation are typically much higher when training as part of a group.
Where to find a local group?
In the UK, check out Run Together – or simply google your town + “running club”.
As Sharon Combes-Farr, marathon runner-in-training says”
“Find a running partner; join a marathon training group even if virtual, sign up for the same race as people you know; hook up early with the race pacers for your planned time if possible; join a gym that organizes participation in local events in your area…“
6. Prime Your Environment
Do you sometimes have problems just getting out the front door to go running?
Suddenly you become chief procrastinator, or remember all the household chores you have to do – and before you know it, you’ve run out of time to do your training run . . . so maybe tomorrow, right?
You can get around this by priming your environment.
This means having everything set up and oriented towards going for a run.
If you go running in the morning, prepare your kit the night before.
Lay out your running gear and shoes so they’re ready to slip into as soon as you wake.
Have your pack with water, keys, and whatever else you need loaded and ready to go.
In other words, make the process of going for a run as automatic as possible.
If you do your training runs after work, same story applies:
Have your gear prepared and ready to go; remove any opportunities for procrastination or getting sidelined by something else.
Prioritise and plan your runs, so excuses can’t get in the way.
7. Cut the Crap
Sometimes you need to cut all the life hacks out and just get your head down.
As Joel LeMar, member of our Marathon Handbook community, puts it:
“Whenever I don’t feel like running and can think of a hundred excuses I think ‘Just F’n run!’ And I don’t abbreviate F’n.”
8. Mix Up Your Running Workouts
One common problem when training for a marathon is run fatigue.
Mile after mile of pushing at a constant pace can be depressingly monotonous.
Especially if you’re running on the same route day in, day out.
However, you don’t have to repeat the same run workout every day.
In fact, you shouldn’t!
Your marathon training should involve a variety of running-based workouts.
I always find introducing an interval training session into my training calendar revitalises my motivation, and my body.
Running short, sharp bursts of speed helps shake my body – and mind – out of the fog of the monotonous training.
You can also look to other ways to mix up your marathon training runs.
Try and find new locations and routes to try out.
Your weekly long runs can be a great opportunity to hit the trails, and explore somewhere you’ve never been before.
Or using Strava, try and find some Strava segments near you, and see how you measure up!
9. Break Down Long Runs Into Smaller Chunks
This is a lesson I learned when I stepped up into running ultras, but it’s equally applicable to marathon training long runs.
The very thought of going for a 15 or 18 mile run can seem pretty overwhelming, and not very appealing when you wake up on a Saturday morning, right?
Then don’t think of it as a 15 mile run.
Think of it as 3 x 5 mile runs.
A 5 mile run isn’t so bad, right?
You do those all the time in training.
In your mind, segment the long run into 3 of these shorter distance runs, and conquer them one at a time.
Why try and eat the whole apple in one when you can take bites?
10. Listen to something engaging
Get the headphones out and tune into something interesting while you run – it can help pass the long miles.
Everyone has a different tonic – whether it’s music, podcasts, or audiobooks.
I personally find audiobooks really engaging, and it means that I’m using my training time effectively – I’m working out and reading.
(you can click here to sign up for Audible and get your first two audiobooks for free!)
11. Run Mindfully
Mindfulness has been shown to improve motivation, relieve boredom and give you a deeper sense of purpose and calm.
I’m a big fan of the Headspace mindfulness app, and recently they’ve been working with the Nike Run Club to develop recorded meditations for running.
They’ve developed a series of 15 sessions to work through,
Note: these sessions are currently only available through the Nike Run Club app (available on App Store and Google Play Store).
Sign up for the app – it’s free – then in the ‘guided runs’ section navigate to ‘Run with Headspace’.
You now have free access to these 15 mindfulness sessions!
Try it out next time you have a training run you’re not looking forward to ?
12. Mark off your Progress
Acknowledging your progress after each run is a great way to celebrate a run, and can go a long way in terms of marathon training motivation.
In his best-seller Atomic Habits, James Clear talks about the importance of a ‘reward’ at the end of completing a routine. For us, we want to establish a behaviour at the end of each run which helps with our habit-forming.
Here’s some suggestions:
i) Mark off your Training Plan
Several members of our running community noted that they print out their marathon training plan, stick it somewhere prominent, and mark off each run as it’s completed.
Jon Lenoir told us:
“I print off my plan and use a marker pen to mark off each run. You really get a sense of how much you’ve achieved every time you see it.”
ii) Share your run on social media
Easily the best platform for this is Strava, which we mentioned earlier.
Let it track your run, then share it once completed.
It can help to add in a quick photo to make the run more memorable and engaging.
iii) Put Marbles In A Jar
Melissa Graham from our Facebook group tells us:
“I really love the process of putting marbles or paper clips in a jar every time you do a daily habit/ goal.
So, I think it would be fun to count out the number of marbles it takes to reach your goal…one marble for each training day…to reach your marathon.
So, every day you train, you put a marble in a jar.
The visual reminder would keep me motivated!”
iv) Reward yourself with (healthy) food
Another habit-building practice is to reward yourself with something nice at the end of each run.
This can include food!
Remember that after each run, you want to eat something with carbs and protein to kick-start your recovery.
Make this something you enjoy and look forward to, whether it’s avocado toast, a smoothie, or a loaded omelette.
13. Indulge In Recovery
Marathon training is not all about running and working out.
A major part of marathon preparation is recovery – it’s important to take it seriously to keep your body in its best condition.
And hell, recovery can be somewhat indulgent.
Spa sessions, with sauna, steam and cold water therapy?
Go for it!
Self-massaging in the evening can be a lot more fulfilling than it sounds.
As for sleep…now you have a great excuse to spend more time in bed!
Marathon runners-in-training need their sleep, in order to recover properly.
Recovery isn’t all about straining yourself over a foam roller, it has it’s indulgent side too!
14.Embrace Rest Days
Rest days exist on your training plan for one reason . . . because you need them!
Your muscles, your cardiovascular system, and your brain – they all need some time off to recover from the stress of marathon training.
When you’re in marathon-training mode, it can be easy to get restless on your rest days, and feel you should be doing something to build towards your marathon.
It may be counter-intuitive, but switching off completely on rest days is just what you need to re-charge those batteries.
So lean in to your rest days.
Disconnect completely from the world of marathon training.
And when you come back to it, you’ll be all the more motivated to continue.
15. Understand The Principles of Marathon Training
It can be hard to stay motivated when you’re following a training plan you don’t really understand, or going for long runs which you’re not sure are relevant to you.
That’s why it’s important that you understand the principles of marathon training . . .
- Why marathon pace is so important (and how to train towards it)
- How to handle long runs
- How your weekly mileage should gradually increase.
- What the taper is, and why it’s there.
We cover all this (and more) in our FREE 5-Day Marathon Training Bootcamp.
We’ll guide you through the essentials of marathon training, and it’s completely free!
Sign up and we’ll send the bootcamp straight to your inbox!
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