I play mind games to motivate myself on long runs. Coach Jeff Galloway encourages this practice to keep your right brain engaged and your left brain from talking you out of reaching your goal. When you hit mile 18 in a marathon, it can become all out war between the hemispheres.
One of my favorite mind games is chase or be chased. In big races you get to run in a stream of other runners. I discovered in my first half marathon that I could run faster if I picked out an older runner ahead of me and caught up to them. Then I picked another and repeated. This was inspired by an obviously “senior” lady who passed me at mile 6… I just could not let her go by.
Marathons also have pace runners who hold up a placard with a time on it, like 4:45 or 5:00. If you want to finish in that time, all you have to do is stay with the pace runner (easier said than done.) In the last marathon I aligned with the pacer who was 15 minutes faster than my target time. She got ahead of me, but I knew the 5 hour pacer was somewhere behind me and I was determined to not let him pass. I was chasing AND being chased. This helped me keep moving when my body really started to feel the distance.
This game combines push and pull, fear and desire, survive and thrive. It’s a lot like life if you think about it… chasing after dreams while staying ahead of the competition; running to something and away from something at the same time. The trick is to stay in the middle. If you reach a goal, immediately set another and keep moving. Glance in the rear-view mirror occasionally to remind you of how far you’ve come.
I met Marshall Ulrich at the San Francisco Marathon, the man who ran across the United States in 52 days at age 57. One of the key strategies he describes in his book was setting up a competition between himself and another runner… very similar to my “chase or be chased” mind game. When his friend dropped out, it really affected his motivation and he had to come up with new ways to entertain his right brain and overcome perceived limitations.
Marshall signed a copy of his book I bought for my brother, and he wrote inside “Your only limitations are in your mind.” Whether you are playfully chasing a fellow runner, chasing a new record time or chasing a big goal in your life…the ability to unlock your amazing potential is all in your mind too.
Go ahead, chase after it.