How to keep running when you really want to stop

I ran 18.1 miles today, and my legs hate me.

They didn’t hate me for the whole 18 miles though. They were carrying me quite nicely indeed along the Downs Link towards the half way turn point. So nicely in fact that when we got to the RunBrighton van for water and gels, I didn’t even realise we’d ran a whole nine miles to get there.

Probably because I forgot my watch and my phone was in my Fleetfoot III running bag, but hey. 

I’m on an accidental four-day run streak right now, having ran three 5k’s on Thursday, Friday and Saturday as part of my ‘not-following-the-training-plan-at-all-oh-shit-better-actually-do-some-running’ programme in the lead up to Brighton Marathon.

Now, normally, I would tell you that I can’t run on consecutive days, my legs won’t let me, my knees get angry, I’m not built to do that. But who’da thunk it. Turns out I can.  

I’m not saying it wasn’t painful and tough – it bloody was – but I learnt a good deal about myself today, as I think a lot of us did, during those last few lonely miles when we separated and some of us ended up running on our own back to the car park.

We started at the Adur Outdoor Activity Centre and ran along the Downs Link to Henfield and back. It was a cool and breezy day and spirits were high in anticipation of the beloved taper. This was our last longest run before ramping it down for the big day, and let me tell you I’m not the only one excited for next week’s ‘walk in the park’ two hour long run!

Talk along the way was of race day kit, fuelling, and post-marathon treats / training goals (drinking, going out out, Easter chocolate bingeing, triathlons and 10k’s).

I was surprised at how good I felt, how had we ran nine miles already to get to the turn point? That means we’re gonna do 18 today – awesome!

That also means it’s nine miles back.

It was fine for about three of them, then the pain came. Achey hamstrings, twingey knees, a weird thing in my chest when I couldn’t get breathing right. Brain telling me it’s a long way home and how am I gonna find another eight miles after today?

After a while some of the group peeled off to do marathon pace while some of us hung back, and eventually ended up running on our own along the Downs Link.

For those of you who aren’t familiar, it’s mostly an old railway line that goes on FOREVER and is lovely and flat and long and straight in places, mostly on trail. Long, flat and straight means you can see everyone running miles ahead of you and it just goes on and on and on.

I don’t bring my music on the group runs so had just me and my thoughts / aches for company, so had to dig deep and give myself a proper talking to for a good five miles at least to get back. It wasn’t pretty, but it’s done. And on that note:

Here’s how to keep running if you REEEAAAALLLYYYY want to stop:

1) Think about something else

May sound obvious, but don’t think about what you’re actually doing. Definitely don’t focus on your achey legs or tired feet, or the fact that [insert number here] more miles of this is gonna huuuurt.

Plan your post-run pub meal, what you’re gonna wear for tomorrow’s meeting, think about your to-do list for the rest of the day (writhing around in pain on the foam roller, actually, and yourself?)

Look at what’s around you and tune into the different sounds. I particularly love to do this by the sea, now that I’ve started to do some of my runs without music along the seafront.

You’ll be surprised how quickly you forget the pain once your mind is occupied with something else.

2) Get into a rhythm

OK so this contradicts the first point a bit so before you stop thinking about what you’re doing, just give yourself a once over and adjust to get into a rhythm.

Are you shuffling your feet? Pick them up a bit. Are your knees knocking together? Make sure they don’t touch. Is your breathing out of whack? Take a couple of deep breaths in and out and let it settle back down again.

Don’t hunch over. Imagine your body has a zip running from your navel all the way to your chin and run straight to keep this taught.

Do all of that, then stop thinking about running and think about beer and chips.

3) Ignore your watch

I’m really glad I forgot my watch today. If I hadn’t, I would’ve looked at it probably every 30 seconds during that painful last five miles.

Instead, my phone was recording on Strava in my bumbag, and whilst I did get it out pretty much at every mile to see how long was left, this was only a few times rather than hundreds.

If you’re doing an out and back or you’re running home or in a race chances are you know where the finish line is and you’re not gonna get there any quicker by counting every 10 metres.

4) Have a chat

This might be difficult if you’re running on your own of course, but if like me today, you’re with a group but just broke away and are struggling, find someone to run with and chat your way home.

The best thing about running in groups is the community, and the chat. Yes, we all make lots of new friends, but the aimless chat serves a very key purpose: to make us all forget we’re actually running!

5) Give yourself a pep talk

Positivity and self belief are powerful things. Give yourself a good talking to whenever you start to flag and let negative thoughts creep in.

Yes it hurts, and yes it’s a long way home, but you can do this.

Think about those last few miles on race day – this is what it’s gonna be like – only hopefully with a nice loud crowd to cheer you in.

You may be in pain, you’ll probably want to stop, but you won’t.

You will get to the finish line, you will not quit. It’ll take a lot longer if you walk, so if you can, keep running. It’s always harder to get going again if you walk. (Unless your race plan is to run-walk or walk the whole thing in which case knock yourself out!) 

Things I said out loud to myself today included: “Come on”, “for Fuck sake”, “four more miles”, “three more miles”,  “get it done”, “two more miles”, “don’t stop”, “I can do this”, “food at the end”, “one more fucking mile – just over 10mins” and it worked.


Although getting split up and running on our own is never an aim of the group runs, it was brilliant practice for race day, when we will likely be on our own.

In my head I slowed to a shuffle, I wasn’t running at all, I was crawling, and every step hurt.

But my splits were consistent(ish), and I ran 18 miles, so I thank you earlier self for not giving up and letting me experience the screaming legs and smug satisfaction that I feel right now 🙂


What’s your running mantra and how do you keep yourself going when it gets tough?