I remember in Oklahoma I used to run around Lake Hefner. I would watch the birds as they flew overhead, and I would try to match my pace with the rhythm of their flapping wings. Sometimes it was fast, sometimes it was slow. It's not like I was strict about it, it was just a little game I played to pass time. It kept my mind off of any pain I might have felt, or off of worrying about my breathing pattern or heart rate (not that it is a bad thing to think about those things every once in awhile, just to be safe).
I suppose there are thousands of little "games" runners play while they are out running. I thought I would mention a few of my favorites and then ask you to give some comments and feedback.
1) "(Old Faithful) Telephone Poles." Who hasn't ever done the old "I'll run to the next telephone pole, and then I will walk?" trick? I used to use this toward the end of long runs when I needed a break. Perhaps I just "wasn't feeling it" and knew I was going to have to do a lot of walking for the rest of the run. I would follow a pattern like "jog 3 telephone poles and walk 1." I suppose there are variations of this (trees, fire hydrants, etc.)
2) "Car's Coming, Act Like You're Running" This was a rule my dad taught me. If a car is coming you can't walk! It not only avoids awkward conversations later, like "I saw you out there walking today. You looked like you were dying," or the even more awkward, "Do you need a ride?" but it is just a good way to help keep running when you don't think you can go any more.
3) "Hills" Many ultra marathoners walk up hills (definitions as to what is a "hill" vary considerably) and run on straight-aways or downhills.
4) "Conducting Music" A personal favorite of mine is keeping 4/4 count with my footsteps ("One-two-three-four-TWO-two-three-four"...and so on) I do it so often, and have measured my pace so many times that I can pretty accurately tell you how far I have ran by the quarter mile (100 "measures" equals a quarter mile). Sometimes I actually sing songs to the rhythm of my footsteps. When I am running longer distances and am not in shape to run the whole thing, I will walk ten "measures" after every quarter mile. I do it so much that I can pretty much let my mind wander or even talk out loud breifly without losing count...but it takes lots of practice.
Please comment and share you favorite games, or just admit that you have played some of the above mentioned games. This ought to be fun, I'm looking forward to hearing from you.