Games to play on your long runs

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For the most part, I don’t need a whole lot of motivation when I’m running. I am a big fan of listening to good tunes while I run. Between songs with the right BPM (Beats Per Minute) and just being able to enjoy the view as I pound the pavement and trails, I’m usually fine. Also, I’m not actively training for any races so when I go out for a run I’m just doing it for the sheer enjoyment of moving and I don’t have a set distance that I absolutely need to get through.

However, if you are training for something specific and following a training plan you may have to run a certain number of miles on a day when you don’t actually FEEL like running that number of miles. Those are the days where it can be tough to dig deep enough to keep going. The call of the couch and Netflix can be powerful.

Also, even if you aren’t training for anything, you might end up running far from home and you’ll hit a wall and feel less than enthused about the fact that you now need to turn around and run back to your house. (Ask me how I know. I did this just last week when I was determined to get to a point where I could see the water and then realized how much uphill there was to get back home. At least I got a great picture out of it. See?)

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In those situations, it can help to play a running mind game. Your brain will frequently try to tell you that you are too tired or too sore or too INSERT EXCUSE HERE to keep running. By distracting it with a mind game, you will be able to trick it into letting you keep going. Here are three of my favourite games.

Run Games

1. The Alphabet Game – The alphabet game is very flexible. You can play it a variety of ways. The first version I heard of was to go through the letters one at a time, trying to find something along the way that starts with that letter. For example you might spot an Audi in someone’s driveway for “A” and then see a child’s ball on the lawn for “B” and so on. Some letters are tough, but you can skip things like Q and X if you want.

A variation would be to turn it into a license plate bingo game, where you look for each letter in license plates on the cars you run past, or you could try to think of a movie title for every letter of the alphabet.

2. The Color Game – Try to spot one thing (or three or five, whatever) for each color of the rainbow. Hey, there’s a red car! And those shutters are orange. Nice yellow house! Keep going through the rainbow or pick random colors.

3. The Movie Game – This is one of my favourites. My friends and I used to play this so many years ago when we’d be sitting around waiting on food that we’d ordered and it works just as well if you’re just playing it on a run with yourself. Start with a celebrity. Any celebrity, as long as they’ve been in a movie. Then name a movie they were in. Name another celebrity who was in the same movie, then pick a different movie they were in. Keep going until you hit a block, then start over.

So for example: Angelina Jolie -> Mr. & Mrs. Smith -> Brad Pitt -> Thelma & Louise -> Geena Davis -> Beetlejuice -> Winona Ryder -> Heathers -> Christian Slater, etc etc etc. See? It can go on for ages as long as you can think of the next answer.

(This game eventually gets tougher as you hit a certain age and become that person who says things like, “remember that movie? You know, the one with that guy who was in that stupid show in the 80s?” At that point this game may be too frustrating and will only make you angry instead of helping you through your run.)


All of these games would work well if you’re running with other people too, just take turns! But if you’re playing it by yourself make sure you come up with all your answers and results in your head. If you start saying them out loud, you’ll get lumped in with the weird runners.

What games do you play in your head while you run to pass the time? Share in the comments!

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Games to play on your long runs

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