Struggling with nerves before a long run

You’d think that after 2 marathons, my brain would have gotten over the whole ‘ok, you need to run quite a long way now’ thing.

Erm, or not.

I recently mapped out an A-to-B route for one of my long runs, which I’ll be doing the weekend after next. (I was originally going to do it this weekend, but decided to give the 16 miler another go instead, and use this one as my last long run before the taper). Mapped out like that, it looks like a flipping long way:

Long Run Route

It’s actually Hampton Court to Worplesdon/Guildford, so not the whole thing! About 18-20 miles if all goes well. So still pretty far. (It takes 30 mins by train, and having also cycled the route I know it’s not something to be taken lightly!)

But I’ve done 18 milers before. I’ve done 16 milers, 17 milers, and 2 full marathons. And I did alright.

So why am I freaking out about running that distance this time round?

This seems to happen every year. I sign up for a marathon, I get to the 16-mile point, and suddenly I start to get so many doubts and insecurities when faced with the distance.

Last year, I did my 16 miler at the Kingston Breakfast Run, and crossed the finish line with a big grin, feeling strong and capable:

Kingston Breakfast Run 16m Finish Line

I think this year’s tendon injury has really set me back; not just physically, but mentally, too. My training started so well, with 5k and 10k PBs, and sub-10:00 miles for my 12 miler (unheard of for me!)

But each time I run, I worry about the niggle. I’m hyper aware of every ache and twinge, and I’m convinced it’s going to flare up again. I’m conscious of my bad running form, of my weak core and wobbly ankles and overpronation. And I’m starting to convince myself that I’m not strong enough to run long distance.

In previous years, I’ve hit tough patches in a long run and been able to power through them. This time round, I’m finding it harder and harder to stop myself from taking a walking break when it gets tough. I’m more sporadic, and feel like the mental side of things is letting me down.

My leg IS holding up ok, and I know that my body is capable of the distance. I’m faster than before, doing more cross training, and I’m progressing well. But I’m worried that I’ve psyched myself out – that I’ve lost the mental strength which has got me through those tough final miles in the past.

And without the mental strength, it almost doesn’t matter how much training I put in – I end up walking or stopping when I’ve still got energy in the tank and miles in my legs, and I could kick myself for wasting the long runs the way I’ve been doing.

Please tell me I’m not the only one!?

– – –

Have you ever faced this problem? How did you snap yourself out of it?

… Anyone fancy running 18 miles through Surrey or London with me in a couple of weeks!?

11 thoughts on “Struggling with nerves before a long run

  1. You’re certainly not alone! I feel the exact same way, so much so that the nerve actually effect me physically. I’m not doing a marathon, in fact I’m only doing a half but I really struggle with the longer runs – I was supposed to do 9-10 miles this week before going on holiday and the nerves totally kicked in.

    I was just thinking too much about how it was going to be tough and ended up getting some bad stomach ache. I ended up putting off my run and I’m gonna make myself go tomorrow morning!

    I do wish there was a way to snap out of it, so I’ll be reading the comments for tips! 😉

    Good luck with training! xX

    • I definitely feel the same way, it’s crazy to think that it can affect us physically when it’s still just running – only the distance changes! I hope your long run went well 🙂 And good luck with your half! 🙂

  2. You are absolutely not alone hun!! I get all sorts of nerves before long runs. And even middling runs! I really wish I could keep them under control but I’m still trying to find a way. I hope you have a great run this weekend and next x

  3. I’m super nervous myself now, as I’m training for my first marathon. Cross training will help because you’ll get stronger legs and joints. If you like yoga, it’s good for both stretching and stress relief.
    Oh, and I’m up for a long run in London!
    Andreea (@pennyplainfit)

  4. We’re training for our 1st marathon, we did our 1st half last year but now our training is getting into the longer runs (did 11mile last Sunday) I’m scared of the 15 & 18 milers in the plan. Just seem so daunting & we don’t do more than 18 miles in the training plan….how to I get from that to 26.2 on the day!!! Nervous! Very nervous!

    • Trust me, 18 is plenty and has been my longest run for both of my previous marathons! Don’t forget that the taper means your legs will be SO much fresher on the day, and that plus the crowd support will definitely see you through the last few miles 🙂 Which one are you doing?

  5. you’re not the only one! I felt exactly the same before heading out for my 16 miler this morning. been reading your blog for a while and keep meaning to say – if you want any company on runs i’m not far away (Reading) … Are you still running Bramley in 2 weeks? I’m meant to be running that so hope to give you a wave 🙂

    • Phew! As mean as it sounds, I’m glad others are having the same problem. Makes me feel like maybe I’m semi-prepared, after all. I’d be well up for trying some new routes out that way 🙂 though it would depend on whether you’re as slow as me! (10:30-11:00/mile for the longer runs). And yes I am! I’ve switched to the 10 miler as it’s now a cut-back week, but will be sticking around to cheer some 20-mile runners across the line 🙂 Are you doing the full 20?

      • Haha not mean at all 🙂 think everyone has their doubts with marathons! Maranoia is real. Awesome. I’m happy to go at whatever pace on social runs and/or travel to new places. Yes I’m doing the full 20 so you’ll probably be home and showered with hot chocolate in hand by the time I pull myself over the finish line 🙂

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