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How to not Quit. July 31, 2007

Posted by Joe in running, thoughts.

On some of my runs I have felt like quitting. Giving up on that day’s run. Maybe “stopping” is a better word. No – I’ll go with “quitting” since in my case these are generally not necessary. I think it’s common though – like hitting what feels like thicker air or something and the desire to continue running quickly evaporates. Early on I quit a few of my runs, but I have found that I can usually press through the desire to quit and then find an even greater desire to persevere if I hang on.

So when the desire to give up during a run creeps up on me I handle it by:

1. Refusing to make the decision to quit right then. Maybe I’ll have to take a break, or finish walking, but not now. I’ll make that decision later. Who knows how I’ll feel in another quarter mile?

2. Listening to my body. This is my best course of action; objective analysis. If my muscles and joints feel right, and I am breathing well, then I am facing a mental problem – not a physical one. Analyzing how I’m doing physically actually boosts my confidence and helps me overcome those nagging thoughts of throwing in the towel when I don’t really need to.

3. Considering my previous or regular distance. I know what I have run. I know what I can do. Sometimes I need to remind myself that I am a runner, if a novice, and that my goals are achievable.

4. Distracting myself. I have been helped out of quiting on a couple of occasions by allowing myself to get lost in a song, thought or mental fog.

I do know that I will have bad days. I will gas out, pull a muscle, trip and fall, or just lose motivation and wind up walking/limping to the end. But, as Amy pointed out on Runners’ Lounge, such “bad runs” are opportunities for us to learn more about ourselves than we probably can through those good runs.

I’d love to hear how others stop themselves from quitting when they shouldn’t.



1. Running Ragged - July 31, 2007

There has only been one day when I quit. I got cought in a snow storm, I couldn’t see, and was no longer able to feel my legs…so I turned around and ran home.

When the urge to quit hits I try to throw myself into a mental fog and don’t let the thought process go any further than that. I try to shift my thinking to how I crave the feeling of satisfaction I get when completing another run. If that doesn’t work then I try to figure out why it is that I want to quit. Sometimes it’s just because a hill is kicking my butt, then stubborness sets in!

Should that fail then I’ll chalk it up to a bad day and walk.

2. Amy - July 31, 2007

I have two tricks. The first is that I force myself to run as slow as absolutely possible. The body can only stay at the rate for so long and soon I have a break and I am back at my normal speed. Second, I remind myself of all the other things that I have done longer and that were worse – like a meeting with an annoying person, an overnight with a screaming sick kid. I just remind myself that this is only a few minutes.

Yeah – you said it, “I am a runner!” !!!!!!

3. Brian - July 31, 2007

You saw from my SF Marathon experience what happened to me. I could have easily quit. You know why I couldn’t though, beside the obvious that I wanted to finish a marathon? Ha, I still had to get back to my car which was at the finish line!

This is how I handle my runs too. I force myself to run and set my mind to it, say 2 miles out, because then I know that I will have to turn around and run back the same 2 miles, thereby giving me 4 miles. Other times I will slow my pace down, like Amy said, and then just focus on consistent form.

But, you have hit the nail on the head. This is one of the hardest parts of running: overcoming the mental barrier that is thrown up that is screaming “Stop, turn around and go back home and relax!” And as you run more this becomes much more easily manageable.

But, alas, as I have read many times from coaches, if you are not feeling the run or your legs aren’t responding, then don’t run. Don’t force yourself to run when you are not feeling in top form. This is hard to balance from the mental challenge, but I have read this from many a coach, and I subscribe to this theory as well.

Sorry for the long quote.

4. Joe - July 31, 2007

Well, you guys are all a big encouragement to me, and thanks for the advice! I need it.

5. Dan Barnett - August 27, 2007

It’s such an awesome feeling, even when the physical is lacking, when you force yourself to push through that wall. The adrenaline that carries you the rest of the way is chilling. I remeber my first(and so far—only) 8k. I had always felt I was completely empty whenever I crossed the 5k finish line. In the 8k, I had no idea, approaching the 5k mark, how much longer I would last. I had just finshed my hardest 5k ever a week before, and my legs were in so much pain. At 3.5 miles, I felt like I had just started the race. It’s awesome. I think you points are right on on how to puch through.

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