If you’ve ever attempted to run a marathon you know first-hand there is some truth to the saying that running is 90% mental toughness. Sure, a heck of a lot of physical training goes into preparing your body for the 26.2; early morning runs, a dialed-in diet, and lots of stretching and foam rolling, but rumor has it, for marathon runners your mind is the most important muscle to train before hitting the pavement.

Mental strength is the capacity to reliably perform at your best despite external conditions and internal emotions. This explains why marathon runners can heroically move past certain circumstances such as the runner’s wall, and finish their race which may have taken the average Joe to the ground.

The men’s marathon world record is 2:01:39, set by Eliud Kipchoge in 2018 at the Berlin Marathon, and 2:14:04 for women set by Brigid Kosgei at the 2019 Chicago Marathon. Only the top 5% of runners complete marathons in under three hours. This takes resilience, focus and strength, and lots of failing forward.

If you want to get a closer look at what goes on in the mind of marathon runners and what their mental strategies are that propels them forward past the runner’s wall, we have five incredibly mentally tough runners here to show you just what it takes to cross the finish line!

A group of marathon runners at the start of the marathon

Run a Smarter (and Faster) Marathon With These Ess...

For those who want to cross the finish line intact, and in great time, try this.

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