As part of your longer runs, a strategy you can use to practice positive self-talk and keep it fun is to play the role of being your own color commentator, treating the run as if you’re out there with imaginary opponents! Bear with me here :) You’re already talking to yourself in some way, shape or form when you’re running, right? So why not spice it up! I first started doing this with my friend Brian many years ago when we did 3-5 hour bike rides together out in the middle of nowhere VA/MD.
The invention of iPods has changed the game since then, but when cycling with someone else, you tend not to bring your music with you. So I would entertain us both by doing my best impersonations of the Tour de France commentators as we had to pass the time somehow while climbing all of those hills, staring at trees, and inevitably getting lost on occasion.
The commentary kept the training fun, but I also started to see common themes emerge once I kept this up on occasion during my solo run training. I noticed that it helped keep me positive, as I could create positive self-talk at any point in the workout to help me push through to the end. When training each week can otherwise become monotonous, this is a way to generate some excitement. Even on the days I wasn’t feeling my A-game, I could still pretend that “everyone else on the course is suffering too, but I’m still in command and winning.” Therefore, I mostly used this fun tactic toward the end of my workouts, when I was more likely to need a mental boost.
Give it a shot. Be creative, have fun, give it your own flavor, add an accent too if you like. Any time you pass a runner who is going either direction, you can make them part of the story. You can even turn it into the overly (overly) melodramatic NBC-style coverage we are bombarded with during the Olympics. It’ll also allow you to be brutally honest with yourself (if you’re not already), as you can remind yourself of the obstacles you’ve overcome, that you are probably fitter than you’re giving yourself credit for, and so you can soul search in the midst of all this commentary. It’s a good way to get to know yourself as an athlete. It’s also a great way to get in the habit of envisioning success, whether it’s actually winning a race or hitting a goal time or PR. At the end of the run, who the hell is there to say otherwise!? Nobody.
I have separate sections on Self-talk and Imagery in Chapter 6 of my book “The Art of Run Training.” Chapter 7 offers many other strategies for different race distances, but I really like this one even though I didn’t put it into the book.