What do you think about when you’re running?

I find my runs to be a perfect opportunity to disconnect and enjoy some peace. I talked about this a bit before in my previous blog–about planning out my runs for the upcoming week. I like to look at the week ahead, figure out when the runs will fit in, and determine what I want to get out of my upcoming runs–tempo, speed work, hills, long run, and which runs will be with a group or solo. This approach might not work for everyone, but it’s a routine I have found great benefit implementing.  I’m a big believer in mentally preparing for the week–especially my long run.  This can be anything from making sure I’m hydrating two days before, sleep, diet (hello carbs!), route, pace, and when I’ll be doing it. I’m currently in the most demanding part of marathon training, which means dedicating 2-3 hours for my Wednesday run, and 3-5 hours for my long run on Saturday.  I suspect we’re all in the same boat, and likely when you head out for a run, you too have a million thoughts. “Why am I tired already?” “How much longer do I have to go?” “Do I really even LIKE running?” However, once you find your groove, those thoughts start to dwindle. Running is an extremely mental sport. I just wanted to take some time to share some of the common thoughts I have when I’m running and let everyone know, you’re not alone.


  1. Why does this feel so hard so soon?
  2. A mental scan of my body, toes to shoulders—are there any pain points?
  3. Depending on the type/goal for the run, I try to settle into where I need to be on pace. How does this feel?  How do my legs feel?  Breathing?  Cardio? Relaxed?
  4. Immediately followed by, did I go too fast, too soon? Or can I handle this today?
  5. Is this really my pace, or did I hit a GPS dead spot?
  6. I think about how grateful I am to be running, the ability to run, and what a beautiful day it is to be outside (usually…we all know Mother Nature has a sick sense of humor sometimes.)
  7. I don’t have to run, I GET to run.
  8. When the pain in my legs sets in on the long runs, I remind myself that this is why I’m training and preparing. The pain cannot be replicated without the preceding miles.
  9. I think about what’s for dinner–approximating the number of calories burned during the run. I’m not one to make sure I eat all the calories back that I just burned, but I do like the guilt-free wiggle room it provides.
  10. (At the halfway point of an out and back) Well…there is only one way back now!
  11. I practice being present during the run, enjoying the surroundings, the time outside, and view it as “my time.”
  12. Running helps me sort out my day and process the events prior to the run. It gives me time to think about what the rest of the day will bring.
  13. When the run starts getting tough, I refocus, practice being present, recite some of my go-to mantras, shake out my arms, and/or engage in encouraging self-talk.
  14. Fingers crossed I hit this red light!
  15. What’s that amazing smell? I definitely want that when I’m done (running past restaurants seems to be a very specific kind of torture.)
  16. Another runner– I wonder if they’ll wave back?
  17. One mile at a time…or two songs!
  18. Maybe I should turn my music up for this mile and back down for the next one.
  19. Only a 5k left. I have run a 5k SEVERAL TIMES.  I got this!
  20. The sooner I finish this run, the closer I am to a rest day.
  21. How would I explain being injured if I get hit by a deer on the trail?
  22. Only 5 more songs and I’ll hit my distance!
  23. This run is definitely draining my body battery (Garmin users, you know)
  24. Glad to be done, where are my flip-flops?
  25. That bench looks nice. I should sit there for 5 minutes…or 35 minutes.
  26. Reflect back on the run. Think again about how it felt.  Look at my Garmin data. (Body battery 5, right as rain.)

I hope you enjoyed the brief window into my mind during my runs.  I’m sure some of those resonated, and some of those may have left you thinking, “This guy is crazy.”  But runners are all a little crazy, aren’t we?  At least we know, we’re in good company.

By James Lensing

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