top of page

Running MOTIVATION: to Start, Re-Start, & for the Long Run

Hey runner,

do you feel like you're losing momentum?

Maybe you're getting down on yourself for running less than a previous year?

Or you don't feel like you're performing as well as you did in past races?

Maybe you're feeling stuck because you haven't had a PR in a while?
or *gasp!* maybe there's been MONTHS where you haven't run?

Or maybe you're BRAND NEW? (in that case, welcome! I'm so glad you're here!)

And you don't know how or where to start?

I've personally been in all of those different (running) shoes.

So I can PROMISE YOU this:

  • there's nothing wrong with you; sometimes life happens and running doesn't

  • You're NOT alone

  • and this confusion plus lack of running mojo doesn't last forever

How about I dig into my running tool box (and some research papers) and pull out a TON of helpful running motivation strategies?

ot to mention, answer YOUR questions you all submitted over on Instagram?

That's right.

These questions aren't randomly pulled ones from the internet.

These were submitted by other runners JUST LIKE YOU.


I told you, you're not alone.

"Best way to get your mojo back after having a down year?

THE NUMBER ONE WAY: Run for fun.

You decide what your fun is!

  • Run where you love to run

  • Run a distance you genuinely enjoy

    • switch up the distances: longer vs Shorter vs Track work

  • Run at your favorite pace

    • easy pace vs Sprinting


  • Run somewhere new

    • Love road running? make a new route or run in a new city

    • Love trail runs but used to wooded trails? try a desert running trail (or vice versa)

  • Run in a new way

    • a new pace

    • a new distance

  • Mix it up

    • audio book vs podcast vs music

    • running with a new running group in town

But MOST IMPORTANTLY: give yourself permission to not judge your performance

By simply challenging yourself to run in a new way (whatever that is), you set yourself up for better running performance in the future and greater physical and mental resiliency.

"Is it ok to just run, no race plan, no training program…just run?

Want to hear a secret?

I've been removed from the race scene for years now because of health issues.

My "training program" at the moment is easy running, consistently monitoring my pace via perceived effort, and gradually increasing my distance by time when I feel ready and have the time.

It's specific, measurable and has a distinct purpose.

That's it.

That IS a training plan!

What this training plan allows me to do:

  • build a solid base while simultaneously lifting and cross training.

  • It helps to teach my body to manage load (physical stress) to get stronger and avoid injury.

What this does: slowly, but deliberately improves my own running performance.

There is no shame in not constantly being in a race training program, because you don't have to race to be a runner

How do you motivate yourself when struggling during a run?

"Long-distance runners’ awareness of their pace and their ability to continuously adjust their pace allowed them to be successful on the run.

The runners utilised strategies including:

  • positive self-talk

  • maintaining and focusing on their form

  • visualisation

  • and counting to maintain their pace.

The current findings are consistent with Simpson et al. (2014) who found that ultramarathon runners used a range of mental skills including self-talk, attentional focus strategies, imagery, and goal setting to manage their race performance. Furthermore, Schomer’s (1986) research on marathon runners similarly found runners to use a variety of mental strategies to monitor their pace and bodily functions"

If you can read this quote, you can read (or skim) the actual article. And you should! It's a pretty easy read, super informational...and actually kind of funny :)


Positive self talk can include positive affirmations:

  • "come on, up the hill, up the hill"

  • "keep the pace, nice long stride"

  • "nearly home, let's go!"

  • Mantras "strong stride" "strong hill" "good form" "easy and tall"


  • by song, distance, to the next tree, sign post

  • be careful not to use this as a last ditch attempt strategy.

    • I can speak from personal experience, trying to "chunk" your way through a run you're simply not prepared for…is not going to go well.

  • Ex: appropriate chunking would breaking a marathon up into 10ks + 5k's, halfway points in a long run, etc, whatever makes sense to your brain


these might be the hardest tips one, but I personally the most effective

  • Breathing strategy: for 3 steps breath in; breath out for 2 steps.

    • this is espeically helpful if you ever start to spiral during a run (overwhelmed, "I can't do this", "it's too hard" etc)

    • or if you find you can't pace to save your life.

    • This breathing technique helps down-regulate your nervous system when the fight-or-flight is too strong and helps you find a natural rhythm, syncing your body

    • be aware: you may find the need to adapt your pace to accommodate this specific breathing pattern. that's ok; that's normal.

  • Acknowledge the suck & the struggle.

    • Don't resist it. Don't fight it.

    • If you need to, say to yourself "oh I see you, struggle bus/pain/evil hill etc"

    • and mentally, lean into it. Let it be there.

    • Tell yourself: "ok, this is hard, but I can hard things" or "ok ,this is getting rough (discomfort), but it's just pain. It's just a hill. It's temporary"

Struggling Because of Pain or Discomfort (because running is straight up HARD?)

Buman, Omli, et al. (2008) described the experiences of marathoners “hitting the wall”, which occurred for 43% of the marathoners and was described as generalised fatigue, slowing of pace, a desire to walk, and shifting focus to survival.

Kamphoff et al. (2013) focused on specific strategies that marathoners used to overcome pain and discomfort and found the following strategies as used most often: directing attention inward, remaining positive, focusing on the present moment, chunking the race into smaller parts, setting goals that were flexible but focused, and distracting themselves"

"Inward attention" + "Focus on the present moment":

  • run the mile you're in right now. Be present with it.

  • Notice what's around you, checking in with yourself, your form, how things feel, positive self-coaching/encouragement

"Chunking the run into smaller parts" + "remaining positive" (see above)

"Setting goals that were flexible, but focused":

  • Decreasing your pace by 10-15 secs for this mile, returning to goal pace the next mile

  • Run up till a certain land mark and then rest/walk/slow down

  • Or run the 7mile run, but take as many walk breaks as you need.

  • Meeting your body where it's at that day

  • Distracting yourself

    • Environment

    • Music

    • Audio book

    • Podcast

Do some of these research paper techniques repeat themselves?

For sure!


You can chose which ones you like.

Because you know that by practicing any or all of these, is ALWAYS improving your running performance!

Because running a mental sport.

And you need to be mentally strong.

And to be mentally strong you need to work on your mental running performance.

And maybe something we don't talk about enough, is how we need an array of different mental tools and strategies to help us on days when the run isn't going as planned.

Good thing you're prepared now ;)

How Does Someone Start Running?

The BRUTALLY Honest Answer?

You just start.

You jump in feet first.

You start by running around the block, or down the street and back.

BUT the ONE thing you HAVE TO DO:

not give up on yourself.

Because there's no magic running-fairy that appears one day and says you're a runner.


and only you can decide that.

The distance you run

the pace you keep

whether you choose to race or not race...

that doesn't decide whether you're a runner or not.

You simply starting and continuing to run: you've already started running

I'll admit...

Using a 5k plan can be helpful.

It's focused on running by time rather than distance.

I find that to be a lot less daunting and more accessible.

Not everyone has a fancy running watch that measured distance (I actually don't).

But the most simple plan is, look at the clock before you head out the door and look at the clock when you come back.

There, you've just run for time.

Adjust accordingly.

Easy example: run 1 min, walk 2 mins.

  • Gradually increase your run time by 30secs to 1 min.

  • It doesn't have to complicated. In fact, I find the easiest way for anyone to start running, is by letting it be easy and fun.

  • To help make it more fun: pick somewhere beautiful and safe


What do you think, running fit fam?

Some of these tips and tricks: they go deep.

They challenge how you think, how you talk to yourself, and make you question what you love about running.

But I know you're ready for that kind of challenge.
Because you Dare to Train Differently.

Drop your running motivation tips and tricks below! I know I could always use some myself :)

Until next time,

Dare to Train Differently,

Marie Whitt, PT, DPT //

P.S. Yes, that 5k plan really is FREE! so if you're looking where to start: grab it HERE!

P.P.S. or maybe you want to challenge yourself even more on how you see running? Grab my FREE running guide HERE!



Think Out loud: an Examination of Distance Runner's Though Process

Run Tall Run Easy by Gerard Pearlberg

37 views0 comments

Recent Posts

See All


bottom of page