1. Break It Down
Forget the big picture; think small. "When things get tough, I know I can always run just one more mile," says Jess Norton of Seattle. Or try something shorter. Adrienne Ramsey of Hingham, Massachusetts, tells herself, "You can do anything for one more minute." Jeff Rothman of Los Angeles targets landmarks. "I say to myself, 'Get to that building 300 meters from here.' Then, 'Now get to that tree 200 meters ahead...'"
Harry Thompson of Charlotte, North Carolina, uses moving targets. "I make a game of trying to pick off people who are ahead of me one by one," he says.
"I think, If I stop running, how am I going to get home?" - Josh via RunnersWorld.com
2. Repeat a Mantra
Follow the lead of elites, and tap into the power of words. "My favorite saying is 'Do or do not; there is no try.' It's from Star Wars," says Brian Sell, 2008 U.S. Olympic marathoner. Steve Prefontaine's "Pure guts race" inspires Octavius Bonacquisti of Austin, Texas, while Kellana Hindert of Cincinnati invokes Ryan Hall's "Run the mile you are in."
A runner who wishes to be known simply as Jeff repeats Lance Armstrong's: "Pain is temporary; quitting lasts forever." Heidi McIlroy of Kent, Washington, takes a different approach, talking trash-to herself. "I say things like, 'Legs, you're fine. No big deal. That hill? Hardly anything. Don't be such wimps, just keep moving.' Works like a charm."
3. See Success
Cara Hawkins of Murfreesboro, Tennessee, imagines she's racing against Bernard Lagat, Alan Webb, or Kara Goucher-and winning. Says a runner who calls herself Bunny of Ann Arbor, Michigan, "I think about the last guy that broke my heart-then I think about passing him."
A runner named Vince, in training to go to Iraq, imagines outrunning an insurgent in a combat situation: "Any improvement now will have life-saving effects later." Police officer Katie, who patrols an urban area, reenacts foot pursuits on her runs. "The adrenaline kicks in, and I forget about the pain," she says.