By Karin St. Aubin, NASM Certified Personal Trainer, NASM Certified Nutrition Coach, Ultramarathoner

If you’ve ever tackled a long-distance race, you’re probably familiar with “the wall” – that dreaded point where your body feels like it’s hit a brick wall, your legs turn to Jell-O, and your mind starts playing tricks on you. As an endurance runner, pushing through mental challenges is just as important as physical training. In this blog post, we’ll explore how to conquer the wall and overcome mental hurdles in endurance running.

One of the key aspects of endurance running is the mental game. It’s not just about how strong your muscles are or how fast you can move – it’s about how tough you are mentally. When you’re running for hours on end, your mind can start to wander, and negative thoughts can creep in. This is where mental toughness comes into play.

One effective strategy to overcome mental challenges in endurance running is to practice positive self-talk. Instead of letting negative thoughts take over, reframe them into positive affirmations. For example, when you start feeling tired and tempted to slow down, tell yourself, “I am strong and capable, and I can keep pushing forward.” This simple shift in mindset can have a powerful impact on your performance and help you break through the wall.

Another effective technique to conquer the wall is to use visualization. Picture yourself crossing the finish line, feeling triumphant and accomplished. Visualize yourself overcoming obstacles, such as hills or fatigue, with ease. Research has shown that visualization can enhance athletic performance by improving focus, confidence, and motivation . So, close your eyes, take a deep breath, and visualize yourself conquering the wall in your next race.

In addition to mental techniques, proper pacing is crucial in endurance running. Starting too fast can lead to burnout and hitting the wall early on. On the other hand, starting too slow may leave you with too much energy in the tank towards the end of the race. It’s important to find a pace that is sustainable for the entire duration of the race. Listen to your body and adjust your pace accordingly to prevent hitting the wall prematurely.

Distractions can also be a useful tool to overcome mental challenges during long runs. You can use music, podcasts, or audiobooks to keep your mind engaged and focused. Choose upbeat and motivational tunes or podcasts that interest you to help you stay positive and motivated throughout your run keep the volume at a safe level so you can still be aware of your surroundings, especially if you’re running outdoors.

Another helpful strategy is to break down the race or run into smaller, manageable goals. Instead of focusing on the entire distance, focus on reaching the next milestone, such as a water station or a particular landmark. This can help you stay motivated and prevent the feeling of being overwhelmed by the entire race distance.

It’s also important to remember that endurance running is a physically demanding activity, and proper nutrition and hydration play a crucial role in your performance. Make sure to fuel your body with the right nutrients before, during, and after your runs to keep your energy levels up and prevent hitting the wall due to depletion. Stay hydrated throughout your run by drinking water or sports drinks, especially on longer runs or during hot weather.

Don’t forget to have fun and enjoy the journey! Endurance running can be challenging, but it’s also a rewarding experience that pushes you to go beyond your limits. Surround yourself with supportive running buddies, join a running group, or participate in races with a festive atmosphere to make your runs more enjoyable. Celebrate your achievements, big or small, and maintain a positive attitude towards your training and races.

Another way to overcome mental challenges in endurance running is to break the race into smaller, manageable goals. Instead of focusing on the entire distance, set intermediate goals, such as reaching the next mile marker, getting to the top of the hill, or completing a specific segment of the race. Celebrate each milestone as you reach it, and use it as motivation to keep pushing forward.

Lastly, remember to practice self-compassion. Endurance running can be physically and mentally demanding, and it’s important to be kind to yourself during the process. Don’t beat yourself up if you hit a rough patch or struggle with negative thoughts. Acknowledge them, but don’t dwell on them. Instead, focus on the progress you’ve made and remind yourself of your capabilities as a runner.

In conclusion, conquering the wall in endurance running requires not just physical strength, but also mental toughness. By practicing positive self-talk, visualization, proper pacing, using distractions, setting smaller goals, and practicing self-compassion, you can overcome mental challenges and push through the wall to achieve your best performance. Remember, the mind is a powerful tool, and with the right mindset, you can conquer any mental hurdle that comes your way in your endurance running journey.


Photo By:Tembela Bohle. Obtained by