Different strategies are used by runners to overcome the mental barriers of the marathon

Counting to 100 and singing songs are among the strategies used by runners to overcome the mental barriers of the marathon. But what else do they think about on the long road to the finish line?

To find out, a team of psychologists fitted 10 athletes in training for either marathons or half-marathons with microphones and small recorders that attach to their waistbands. They then asked them to record their thoughts out loud on training runs of seven miles or longer.

About 18 hours of recordings were analysed by the researchers and their results, published in the International Journal of Sport and Exercise Psychology, showed that most runners’ minds were focused on three topics:

Pace and distance

Around 40% of all recorded thoughts were about how fast they were running and what they needed to do to speed up.


Dwelling on the fact that aches and pains are inevitable when running 26.2 miles occupied 32% of thoughts. And, the researchers noted, there was a considerable amount of swearing involved.

The environment

Wildlife, the weather, pesky dogs, traffic and cyclists made up 28% of the documented thoughts.

What do you think about on your long run? Get vocal and share your strategies by sending a tweet @AthleticsWeekly, popping a post on Facebook or by adding a comment below this article!