10 ways to not get bored when running

Thank you all for your lovely comments about Sunday’s half-marathon!! The aching has subsided but the grinning hasn’t!! (Even the truly abysmal race photos only made me grin harder).

In her comment about the race, my friend Liz asked an interesting question.

I have a question – how do you not get bored?? Sorry but I manage it twice a week on average but can only do about 3-4miles as I just get really bored. Probably if I had SF bay to run by that would help rather than the rather mundane streets of X! But any advice would be good as I’d like to go longer and a bit faster too. 

I had so many things to suggest to her that I thought I’d turn it into a blog post, and I’d really welcome your input at the end on how you avoid boredom during your runs! Here are my thoughts.

1) Accept the boredom

First of all,  without a doubt, running can be boring. Even if you try all the strategies below, there will be times when you are done with running and cannot wait to be finished. I think most people fall in and out of love with running on a fairly regular, cyclical basis. When that happens, just accept that it’s normal and then make some choices.Do you want to keep pushing through the boredom barrier or is it time to ditch running for a few weeks and try cycling or a gym class for a while. There’s no shame in it.

Also bear in mind that until you can run 3 miles comfortably, there’s not much joy in running. I feel like that’s the point where you stop suffering and start feeling good!

2) Take a week off

Sometimes, you just need a break. Take a week off, no guilt. Enjoy it.

And then….!

3) Have a goal

My number one way to stay focussed when running is to have a goal, which is why I try to always have a race in the diary. Without a goal, I’m useless really. So find a goal race a few months away, sign up and start training. It somehow gives you a real mental focus. It could be a new distance, a new time goal, trails instead of road, a new town you’ve always wanted to visit…just have something to get excited about. And then when the mid-run boredom kicks in, start visualising that race and that finish line and the medal and the ice-cream. I find visualising finish lines really motivating.

Which is why, on Tuesday – only two days after having promised my legs they never needed to do a half-marathon again – I signed up for the Half Moon Bay Half in September! As did the Husband.

Half Moon Bay, I'm getting excited.
Half Moon Bay, I’m getting excited.

4) New roads

I get SO bored of my local roads. SO bored. Sometimes I just can’t be bothered to run them.  So try and hunt out new ones. Use mapmyrun to plan new routes on new streets or walkjogrun Run old routes back to front (they always look and feel different).  Get up earlier, drive somewhere new and run there. I’ve loved exploring new streets near the Dude’s pre-school. It’s been really exciting.

Roads I miss - Wiltshire, UK
Roads I miss – Wiltshire, UK

5) New work-outs

Just as your body gets used to the same pace running, I think your mind does too and one of the best ways I’ve started shaking up my runs is by changing the pace. My two favourites are:

A) Alternating normal pace miles with fast miles. You won’t find this in any proper training plan but I am absolutely convinced that this has made me faster. And it keeps your mind occupied during the run – you’re constantly thinking about recovery/anticipation/holding on. The runs fly by AND you get faster. Result.

B) One mile normal speed, two miles faster speed. I love and hate this one in equal measures. It’s tough but I am NEVER bored during this run and I feel badass at the end!

6) New surfaces

I am very new to the trail party but oh my word, I love it. Running on trails soothes the soul and just makes a girl so happy. So hunt out new trails/bridlepaths and run them. Get a ‘50 best hikes/walks in your area‘ book and run the suggested hikes. This is my new favourite way to recharge my running batteries.

Water Dog Trail

7) Entertainment

New music. Can’t beat it to cheer up a run. But also podcasts – they keep your brain working and occupied in a way music doesn’t! Or audiobooks – run along whilst someone reads you ‘War and Peace’. My favourite podcasts are by Another Mother Runner but I know lots of people could suggest good ones in the comments.

8) Think of others

This is potentially a little cheesy but also motivational. Think of those who would give their right arm to be running right now. People you know who are ill or can’t walk. During Sunday’s half, I spent some time thinking about Ali, whose lovely cheery running blog motivated me so much and who is now desperately ill with Crohn’s. I thought about how much she would give to be running, and I stopped moaning! Alternatively, try signing up for a race on behalf of a charity you care about. That would focus your training enormously.

Get better soon, Ali!
Get better soon, Ali!
Source – her blog

9) Find a phrase

I hate the word ‘mantra’ but I love the idea. Find a phrase that motivates you and injects steel into your spine, and then when you start fading, yell it at yourself. Pinterest has some great ones.


10) Monitor and celebrate progress.

Get a watch – even a really cheap, simple one with just a stop-watch. Measure your route, time yourself and note it down in a notebook, on a spreadsheet, on Daily Mile. Take pleasure in your mileage increasing. Set yourself a monthly mileage goal. Watch your times dropping little by little. Reward yourself – when you’ve run 100 miles, treat yourself to a coffee and cake-pop at Starbucks, a bunch of flowers, a new running top in the sale or a pretty $1.99 nail varnish. Doesn’t have to be expensive, just something to recognise and celebrate what you’ve achieved.

Peonies make a great reward
Peonies make a great reward

Okay, that’s my wisdom done. Please chime in…how do YOU stay motivated half-way through a run when frankly, you can’t be bothered to finish it.

11 Comments Add yours

  1. Madeleine says:

    Great tips. I’ve also just sent you an email to your blog email address as I can’t find your other one x

    1. Cathryn says:

      Thanks for letting me know….email sent.

  2. Nic J says:

    The only other thing I’d recommend is to try running with company. Maybe find a local running club, or perhaps set up your own one with a small advert at a local sports centre. Joining an existing one is the best option, and if you find the right one, they’ll have people of all ages and paces, who will be only too willing to help encourage and challenge you. They may even run track sessions so your interval training will be worked out for you. The UK also has the ‘Women’s Running Network” which helps you locate small, informal, women-only running groups.
    Don’t be afraid to try a club out. If you don’t like it – leave. I ran with a London one for a couple of years and really enjoyed it. Didn’t last more than 6 months with the Salisbury one as they ran too late in the evening and were a bit cliquey, but I made a good running buddy whilst there and we still run together even now!

  3. Cathryn says:

    How did I not think of this??? Thanks! x

  4. Liz says:

    Thanks for this Cat – and for the email which was much appreciated! Nic is right when I run with my friend, about once a week, somehow the run seems to fly by! Not sure we go very fast though as too busy chatting but it’s fun and enjoyable. Am now going to download some podcasts and plot some new routes to inspire me more!XX

  5. My number one motivator is people. I have my gym training partners and my trail training partners and my road training partners. And they all push me in different ways. They especially motivate me to make it out to those early morning runs. Once I get there, it feels much easier (and more fun!) with friends.

    1. Cathryn says:

      I can’t believe I missed running partners out – guess who’s the only child right now.

  6. New workouts and having goals are great tips! I also like trying new foods or drinks for a small change. Running with my dog gives me something else to think about, too.

    1. Cathryn says:

      Yeah, I went through a stage of trying new fuels at mile 6 of my long runs and would get surprisingly excited at mile 5 🙂 And yes to the dog as well. I nearly never do this, but it’s good fun. The dog I borrow does tend to stop every few metres to sniff and pee, which is very annoying, but sounds like yours is better trained!

  7. Bean says:

    Love these tips!

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