The last mile of a run is tough. You’re exhausted, at the end of your playlist, and probably have other things on your mind (like the post-run brunch). Even the pros sometimes struggle to get through that final stretch: “I know I’m getting close to the finish line, but it also takes a tremendous amount of energy to sustain my pace for what seems like an eternity,” says ultra-marathoner Stephanie Howe. But whether you’re training for an upcoming race or just completing your mileage for the day, that last mile is an important one. Here, the best mental tricks from runners, running coaches, and editors to help you stay motivated until the finish line.
“I picture myself finishing, then enjoying whatever I’m going to be doing right after. Having something to drink, a snack, or seeing my family. Visualizing the ‘after’ seems to make the ‘just before’ less painful.”
“My strategy for getting through the last mile is twofold: First, I keep a positive attitude and tell myself what a great job I’m doing. Seriously. Sometimes I even say those words out loud: ‘Stephanie, you are doing your very best right now. Great job!’ or, ‘Come on little legs, only a few more minutes and then you get a long break.’ I really believe in the power of self-talk and keeping a positive attitude. Secondly, I make sure to keep fueling. Many runners totally forget that they need to keep fueling so they have enough energy to make it to the finish line. My secret weapon is . It’s in a platinum package for a reason. Throughout the race, I alternate between CLIF Bloks Energy Chews and Clif Organic Energy Food, but I save my platinum package until the end. The energy I get from it not only gets me to the finish line, but I usually arrive with a smile as well.”
“One mental thing I always use when things are hard is telling myself, ‘You can handle anything for 10 minutes.’ I think about how short 10 minutes is in the grand scheme of things, and I’m able to go the extra mile (literally!).”
“I tell myself a few different things (and I say some of these in my class during the last pushes, too). The first one is from one of my favorite cyclists, Jens Voigt: ‘Shut up legs, do what I tell you!’ I’ll also think, ‘How would giving up now look on social media!?’, ‘You’ve made it this far. Just. One. More. Mile!’ and ‘Wait, this race is point-to-point? Have to get to the finish to get my bag anyway…’ It’s easy to say, ‘Remember why you came.’ But for some runners, that doesn’t mean much when they’ve gotten so wrapped up in what hurts, how far is left to go, etc.—that they do, in fact, lose sight of what their goal is. Cold, dark, and alone—that’s what carried me through 68 miles at the East River track in the middle of winter. Find your ‘why’. Find your breath. Let it carry you home.”
“For me, it’s all about distraction. I usually spend my runs as tuned-in to my body as I can be—making sure I’m breathing well, that I’m staying on top of my cadence, and that I don’t get hit by a car… But that last mile is when I let it all go and ’empty the tank’. I like to pick a person running near me and secretly ‘race’ them—that takes my mind off the final mile!”
“Here are a few tips I use and give to my athletes: Trust your training. It will carry you. Tell yourself that you are stronger than you realize. Focus on the task at hand—that stride, that breath, that mile, that form. And remember, if it were easy, it wouldn’t be worth it.”