What Do Marathon Runners Think About? Top 4 Things

What do marathon runners think about?

What do marathon runners think about? Most of the time, marathon runners are thinking about the distance they have left and their pace. 

I haven't yet run a marathon, but I know what I think about on my shorter runs and half marathons. As it turns out, long-distance runners such as marathoners think about a lot of different things, so they're not that much different from me. Mostly, we are just all trying to get through it and think about the distance left, reaching the finish line, the environment, and, if you're unlucky, pain and discomfort.

The 4 Things Most Marathon Runners Really Think About

1. Distance And Pace

What do marathon runners think about? Distance And Pace
According to the study, around 40% of marathon runners' thoughts are about their pace and distance

Researchers who conducted a study for the International Journal of Sport and Exercise Psychology noted that the majority of a runner's time is spent thinking about their pace and the remaining distance of the race.

According to the study, around 40% of marathon runners' thoughts are about their pace and distance. A continual awareness of keeping a steady pace but not killing yourself is foremost in a runner's mind. 

You might be interested in our explainer on is a marathon on a sport.

2. Environment

The above-referenced study noted that 28% of a marathon runner's thoughts are about the environment, especially if it's not exactly a balmy spring day. The environment isn't just the weather, though. Other issues make up the environment, including traffic, wildlife, geography, and even other people. 

However, these things are not always unwelcome. For example, seeing a rabbit or some people can be a nice distraction. On the other hand, it's not uncommon to encounter snakes and other unfriendly wildlife when you're running. 

Check our our explainer on do marathon runners stop to pee.

3. Discomfort And Pain

Bobbi Gibb was the first ever female runner in the Boston Marathon, and she wrote a memoir called Wind in the Fire: A Personal Journey. In her book, Gibb noted that when she finished the marathon, she had burst blisters on her feet because she didn't know that she needed to break in her shoes before running the race.

In other words, Bobbi Gibb was focused on her pain and discomfort in the last five miles of the race. And she has that in common with other marathon runners. 

Anything that's going on with your body will be screaming at you when you run a marathon. For example, if you've started your period, your body is going to feel every cramp ten-fold. 

You might find our explainer on what does PR stand for in runner helpful.

4. The Finish Line

What do marathon runners think about? The Finish Line
During these moments, you have to talk yourself out of quitting

Another concern of marathon runners is the hills. Running several miles on flat ground is a piece of cake for these distance runners, but once they get to a hill, things change, making the finish line seem pretty far away.

During these moments, you have to talk yourself out of quitting. Of course, marathon runners rarely quit. Once the finish line is within their reach, they're usually home-free. 

FAQs About What Do Marathon Runners Think About

What Should I Think About During A Marathon?

When you're running a marathon, a lot of your focus will be on the physical aspects of the run. However, here are some other ideas of things you can think about when you're running your race.
1. Visualize the training you went through to get there.
2. Focus on another person. For example, cheering another runner along can help motivate you, too.
3. Practice some mindful strategies by connecting your body to your breath.
4. Look for distractions that can keep your mind occupied.
5. Focus on your mantra and repeat it in your head.
6. Avoid boredom by looking at the crowd.

How Much Of A Marathon Is Mental?

Most expert runners say that running a marathon is about 90% mental. Sure, you have to be in excellent physical condition to run a marathon, but if your head's not in the right place, you're up for a huge challenge. There are tons of amazing athletes, but not everyone is in the right headspace to run a marathon.

If you liked this post, you might also enjoy our ultramarathon explainer.