November 2018 - Dealing with Boredom while Running

The Question

November's question was from Elaine in London:

So, I genuinely do love running, but I'm training for a marathon at the moment and the boredom is really getting to me on some of those long runs. I don't want running to become a chore. Any tips?

- Elaine, London

Simon - running coach
Simon - Middle-distance runner and athletics coach

“No matter how much you love a sport there are going to be times when running is boring or difficult or both.

As a coach I always ask new athletes which sessions they love and which they hate, and the answers vary quite a bit. Some people love interval sessions, which I personally can't fathom, but I understand they're a necessary part of my training, so I suffer them and instead enjoy the benefits they bring.

Of course, deferred gratification doesn't always do the trick when you've been plugging away for 60 minutes in the cold and rain and have another 90 minutes to go, so some other tricks are definitely in order.

Here are some idea on how to help avoid boredom while running:

  1. Vary your runs. This includes terrain, elevation and route. Avoiding exactly the same type of running over and over is the most obvious way to avoid boredom. I appreciate it's not always possible, but try your best to not to include laps on long runs. Having to travel the same path and see the same scenery over and over again within a single run can really be tough. Not to mention that it's far too easy to stop altogether. You can also vary your pace. Long runs tend to best carried out at an easy pace, but there is scope within that to vary things. You could jog the first mile, do the next mile at marathon pace, the next mile somewhere in the middle, and so on.
  2. Run with others. You could run with a friend or a group. You don't have to join them for the entire run. Just doing part of your run with others can be enough. If nobody you know is up for it, then maybe you could find a running partner through a service such as Jogging Buddy
  3. Sandwich your runs. Including a parkrun in your long run. Run to the parkrun, do the parkrun, run back from the parkrun.
  4. Run a race. Find a cheap half marathon and run it instead of racing it. If your long run is more than 13.1, then add a little bit on the start, the end, or both.
  5. Use strides to break up your run.
  6. Split things. You could, on occasion, run twice in a day instead of doing a single long run. Use this one sparingly, since there are benefits from a single long run that you won't get from breaking the run up.
  7. Plug in. Podcasts and music can provide a nice distraction. If you already usually run with headphones, then maybe enjoying the sounds of nature would offer a nice change.
  8. Focus on form. Are there any aspects of your technique that need work? I'm not suggesting you spend the entire run thinking about running with high hips, or perfecting your foot strike, but spending the odd minute or two here and there thinking about technique is a good way to break the monotony.

Hopefully those help. And if you're still struggling (and you probably will to some degree), focus on how good you feel after your runs. You often end up with a greater sense of accomplishment after doing a run you weren't really in the mood for.”

Our Member's Answer

November's member's answer was from Florence, also a Londoner

Florence - on a break

“Is there the possibility for time off in your training plan? Whenever I start finding runs boring I always step back a bit. It's easy to get so caught up in marathon training that it takes over your life. I know training is important, but too much (even if it's not too much physically) can be detrimental. In the grand scheme of things a little time off won't do much harm, if any.”

Thank you, Florence. Something definitely worth considering.

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