Motivation Secrets from Top Marathoners

By , By Abigail Cuffey, of Woman's Day
For some, fall signifies cooler temperatures and pumpkin picking. For others, it means marathon season. The world’s largest marathon, the ING New York City Marathon (boasting a record-high number of runners this year with 47,000 participants) took place on Nov. 6. Wondering what kind of motivation and dedication it takes to train for and run 26.2 miles? We chatted with a variety of marathon runners—from one of the most well-known figures and an American record holder to a former competitive figure skater turned six-time marathoner—to get their expert advice. Surprisingly, all of their insider information can apply to just about anyone looking for extra workout inspiration. Whether you’re currently training for a big race or simply want to start running around your neighborhood, here are 10 tips for taking your fitness motivation to the next level.

Find a mantra.
A running or exercise mantra is a phrase that you repeat or remind yourself of when your motivation is waning. Not only will it keep you moving, but it's a positive way to fill your head with thoughts other than how tired, sore or bored you are. “Define Yourself” is the mantra of choice for Deena Kastor, American marathon record holder (2 hours and 19 minutes at the London Marathon), Olympic bronze medalist and a brand spokesperson for MARATHON bar. “This phrase was given to me by my coach in 2005, when he told me to define myself before I started a big race,” says Kastor, who feels it can apply to other moments in daily life as well.

…and use it!
Whether you feel like you can't run another minute or you can't do another rep, sometimes a mantra is the only thing that helps you put mind over matter when the going gets really tough. “My mantra is ‘Relax, breathe and put one foot in front of the other’,” says Jim Lynch, an 86-time marathoner (best finish time: 3 hours and 28 minutes at the Chicago Marathon) and author of the forthcoming book, One Foot in Front of the Other. “I saw it on the side of a road when I was struggling through a marathon and kept repeating it to myself until I started to feel better. Now I use it in every marathon and long training run.”

Ditch the notion of perfection.
Beating yourself up over one missed workout or training run is not worth it. “If you can follow 80 percent of your plan, you’re probably ahead of most people,” says John Honerkamp, a two-time marathoner (best finish time: 2 hours and 44 minutes at the NYC Marathon), New York Road Runner’s Head of Training and running coach of The Official ING New York City Marathon Training Program. There are going to be some days that don’t go according to plan, and when that happens you have to let yourself off the hook. Just get back on track the next day.

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Do you already use some of these tips? Do any of these tips sound like they might work for you? If so, which ones?

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This is great! One foot in front of the other... Report
'slow and steady wins the race' is what I would always tell myself when I started running. For me it wasn't about the speed it was about going, just going and not stopping. So it didn't matter if I was inching along at a snails pace, as long as I just didn't stop. And that mantra always kept me from being discouraged about not being the fastest Report
Love it the "stay in the moment" tip is great! Thank you for sharing. Report
I did a 5K last year and was passed by a man wearing a leg brace. Talk about discouraging! I kept repeating to myself, "Last place is just the slowest winner." over and over, and it got me through the race, the last one to cross the finish line, but still amidst the cheers. Turned out I was the only female in my age group, so I STILL brought home a medal! Report
Definitely helpfull tools to apply not only during training but in all my affairs. I try to stay in the moment, it takes alot of stress away and the "Just do it" phrase gets me going when I don't feel like it. Thanks for the great blog. Report
the 'stay in the moment' tip is interesting, because a LOT of the time while marathon training, the only thing that gets me through 8x800 on the track at 5 am or a 20 miler in mid August is the thought of completing the marathon successfully. If I focused on the moment, I would give up right then and there. Report
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