Running and Burnout At The End of A Training Cycle

On the Facebook page yesterday, I asked what I should write about this weekend. I wanted it to be running related, but wasn’t sure what direction to go. Laura (hi, Laura!) asked if I would write about burnout at the end of a long training cycle. Since I get this EVERY TIME I train for a race, seemed appropriate!

Last year’s #RunDisney Star Wars Half, The Dark Side. I’m training for this year’s race right now!

For those of you new to training for races, the buildup is gradual and in the beginning, can feel pretty doable. Your mileage creeps up slowly (or at least it SHOULD if you’re following a quality plan) and you get stronger and your body will respond appropriately.

But somewhere around 3/4 of the way there, it suddenly gets impossibly hard. It’s the same thing that happens when I do speed work (not often enough) where the first 2, 400 repeats are easy, the last one is fun, and the third on is A LIVING HELL OF TORTURE ON EARTH.

This is what happens for me typically around the 8-9 mile run for a half marathon, and at the 17-18 mile run for a full marathon.

I just don’t WANT TO any more.

I don’t want to run, I don’t want to talk about running, I don’t want to put on running clothes or listen to running podcasts or read running blog posts.

In fact, around this time I often think I should become a swimmer instead. Or maybe a competitive chess player.

It’s NORMAL and I have some ways you can overcome it. These will be deep and profound, as are all of my tips. I kid.


  • Consider a week off – I know, it’s crazy, but unless you’ve been sick or had some other serious set back, missing one long run will actually not RUIN your race, and if you’re feeling really burned out it might help you (because you may actually be over-training a tad). And as my friends from the Another Mother Runner podcast are fond of saying, you’re better showing up under-trained than over-trained come race day. Under training may make you slower than you wanted, but over-training can lead to serious injury and that old side effect, I NEVER WANT TO RUN AGAIN.
  • Mix it up. If you normally run alone, run with a group. If you normally run with a group, run alone. If you listen to music, spend some time in silence. If you listen to podcasts, listen to music.┬áThe change of scenery or pace or entertainment or company will make it feel different then all the other runs. Variety, as they say, is the spice of long runs;).
  • Consider running a local race that’s close to the mileage you need to cover. So maybe a 15K or, if you’re training for a full, a half marathon. Do NOT really “race”, though, or you might get hurt. But running the same mileage but with other people and cheering spectators and water stops can be really fun! Especially if the t-shirt is cool and they have bling.
  • Consider a two a day if you’re feeling REALLY burned out. If you have 10 miles on the schedule, you actually can run 5 in the morning and 5 at night and get the same benefit. You’ll be able to put a check in that box and still be on track for your training.
  • Remind yourself of how far you’ve come. Remembering how difficult that first 5 miler was can go a LONG WAY towards getting you through your 9 miler. Since I started running late in life, I always stop and remind myself how hard it was the first time I ran ONE MILE. It was hard. Really hard. That memory always puts a smile on my face and gets me through the mileage!

Training for a distance race is HARD. If it wasn’t, we would call it Watching 4 Episodes in a row of The Crown. You are doing something worthwhile and I am very proud of you. And I’m proud of me – I’m up for 8 miles today and really need to get my act together and get out on that trail. Because those miles aren’t going to run themselves.

Happy Running!

4 thoughts on “Running and Burnout At The End of A Training Cycle

  1. Vicky Cristina says:

    i like your advices. They’re so helpful to me. I’m new to training for the race as you said. I often catch the pain after training but don’t know how to prevent them

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