The endurance runner mindset

Chris James Smith
4 min readApr 12, 2021
Author photo, Brighton Marathon

Scaling from 5k to my first marathon a few years back was an incredible journey. It involved beating injuries, developing a new daily routine, managing pain and completely changing my mindset. Because it was quite possibly the most mentally and physically demanding thing I’d ever done at the time. But also the most rewarding.

The physical side of running long distances is obviously a critical part of the process and gets spoken about a lot, but, for me, it was the mental side that I found most challenging — maintaining training motivation, getting up early to fit runs in, not giving up, and managing the niggles and tweaks in your body.

As I’m currently training for my first 100k Ultra marathon, I wanted to reflect back on my learnings from the final 6.2 miles of the marathon distance. These are the miles where it’s all about mindset. And they are the most brutal miles you will face. It’s also why the marathon is so special. They make or break you.

Learnings from the last 6.2 marathon miles

Once you reach mile 20 of the marathon, it’s more of a mental battle than a physical one. Those miles are designed to break you, physically and mentally.

Every step you take is painful, but the finish line is in sight. It’s the reminder of the reward that gets you through, whether that is raising money and awareness for charity or simply achieving something remarkable. That will to get to the line will take your legs there.

There’s another side of pain that’s called effort, it’s called glory, it’s called if you can find a way to push through pain there’s something greater on the other side of it…

Ray Lewis

This Ray Lewis quote has always stuck with me. And I apply it to my Ultra training now. Nothing rewarding is easy. The marathon battle truly begins at mile 20. It’s in those moments when you might be thinking about giving in or even giving up that you learn the most about yourself. You need to dig deep into those inner reserves and get to the other side. That battle takes place in the mind and it’s one of the most fascinating things about endurance runners.

Chris James Smith

Vivi Nation founder, Writer, Marketing Director