How To Stay Sane For 26.2 Miles On A Treadmill

Written by Charlie

Treadmills (or “dreadmills”) are kind of a necessary evil – they work out really well when the weather is bad and you have to get your run in. Other than that, people may have somewhat of a love/hate relationship with them. I know people use them at the health clubs all the time for warm-ups and such, but not everyone likes to do their daily run for a workout on a treadmill.

But, no matter what, not many people dream of running a marathon distance (26.2 miles) on a treadmill – including me! There are some amazing runners that have done incredible things on a treadmill – like Michael Wardian. He went for the world record 50k on a treadmill earlier this year – on a cruise ship! – and found out after that there was a previous record set that had him beat by a mere 27 seconds! So, he hopped on the treadmill again 30 hours later and beat both his time and the world record with a scorching time of 3 hours, 3 minutes, and 56 seconds – a pace of 5 minutes and 56 seconds per mile for 31 miles! That is just incredible! Read about that here.

How To Stay Sane For 26.2 Miles On A Treadmill


Running a long run on a treadmill can be difficult!

Going into my 6 marathon runs on 6 continents in 5 days, I knew from a scouting trip that I was going to have to run my African leg on a treadmill at the Le Meridien hotel at Cairo Airport. There were a variety of factors that went into that, but that was the safest decision but certainly not the easiest! There were no fans on the treadmills or in the fitness center so I knew it was going to be quite warm and humid! Plus, I knew it would take me around 5 hours as my 2nd 26.2 miles in less than 24 hours.

This was not the first time I had done this – I had done some previous 26 mile training runs on treadmills back in the US as well as doing a 18 hour charity run on a treadmill. So, I knew what I was getting into when I would step on the belt. The question I got the most was – how do you stay sane for 26.2 miles on a treadmill?!

Here are some tips and things that help me should you ever find yourself wanting to do it yourself.

Ignore The Numbers


My treadmill in Cairo.

It is nice that treadmills have such great displays with all of your stats, but when you are going to run 26.2 miles, you do not want to be constantly reminded of how far you have left to go! Set your preferred pace and put a towel over the screen or switch it to TV mode. Some of the nicer treadmill models actually let you run anywhere you want in the world, complete with videos, photos, and maps. If you have one like that, use that function!

Just remember, it is going to take you at least 3 hours to do this so you really don’t need to look for at least 90-120 minutes. You have already set the pace so you know that you are at a constant – just don’t look! 🙂

Multimedia Is Your Friend

I do not really care for watching the televisions that are on the walls in fitness centers. The main reason is that it is not a program that I selected so I normally may not have a big interest in it, unless it is ESPN or something. Even then, they will repeat some of the news items as the show goes on and repeats are just reminders of how long you have been running.

What I like is to use an iPad or some other tablet to watch something. Most of the time, if you are on a treadmill, you are going to have access to WiFi. That means you have access to a host of video content, not even taking into account media you may have saved on your tablet. In my case, I have an MLB.tv account so always enjoy watching a Yankee game (or two!) as I do my run. Football is a lot of fun to watch on the treadmill as well.

If you want a big boost, watching one of the live marathon events can be a big blast as well. Just remember that they will be done long before you are. 🙂

Subscription services like Netflix can be a lot of fun as well. It gives you a chance to watch documentaries, movies, TV series – pretty much anything. I like the Food Network so will normally like watching the various competitions as it keeps the time moving.

Use Your Phone

Since you do not have to worry about being distracted or how to talk on a phone while you are on a treadmill, it can be a nice time to catch up on phone calls or chat with family/friends. Just put it on speakerphone and you can get through a lot of phone calls while on the run! Since many treadmills may have a USB port, you can actually charge your phone while on the run so no worries about losing power.

Books – Real Or Audio

I am a big fan of audiobooks. I listen to them all the time on long runs and they can be very helpful running a treadmill. However, you can also read books while running! I have done it on an iPad or with magazines (large print ones work best!) before. While not always easy, it is one more thing to take your mind off of what you are doing and can break up the boredom/monotony.

A bonus item in this category would be listening to podcasts. I did not use to listen to many, but have started to listen to more. One I recommend is called The Running Lifestyle – great podcast (of course I liked it before she interviewed me for it! 🙂 ).

Play With Speed And Incline

Another thing that can really help with running long on a treadmill is playing with the speed and incline. It breaks up the flow and lets you throw added workouts into the long run. One of my favorite things to do is to start at the pace I am running and then add .1 mph every .10 of a mile. That way, by the time I have hit the next mile, I am now running 1 mph faster than I was before. For the next mile, I reverse the process. That not only helps you work harder on tired legs, but also can help the run be done faster! I did this one time during a marathon-length treadmill run and actually ended up being able to run it in 3 hours and 27 minutes – a few minutes faster than my actual marathon time on the roads!


While running 26.2 miles on a treadmill is certainly not a goal for many, if you ever want to run that long on one, or you need to do a long run, these little tips I use may help you to stay sane while getting the job done.

What are your tips for staying sane while running on a treadmill?

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About the author


Charlie has been an avid traveler and runner for many years. He has run in marathons around the world for less than it would cost to travel to the next town - all as a result of collecting and using miles and points. Over the years, he has flown hundreds of thousands of miles and collected millions of miles and points.
Now he uses this experience and knowledge to help others through Running with Miles.


  • Wow. I’ve run some half marathons on my junkie treadmill in my basement. Actually I think 14 or so miles is my farthest. It’s brutal and Booooring. I learned the hard way the first time I did this on my (mid range, older, worn out) treadmill that when you hit the 10 mile mark it stops automatically. I about fell off and hurt myself. Talk about a dumb feature !

    • I am so sorry – but I just started laughing when I read the last part! Not because of you, but because that same thing has happened to me and always seems to happen to me on the moving walkways in airports as well! 🙂
      Actually, my treadmill that I had was a junkie one as well. I don’t know why I loved running on it so much but it felt better to me than the expensive ones in fitness centers. I was sad to give that up!

  • I will never walk on another treadmill. I fell off one when it sped up without me touching it a couple weeks ago. Still in pain after that escapade.