Track running requires a high level of focus, discipline and self-regulation. On the track athletes are not only competing with others but are also competing with everyone who has come before them. Crucially, they compete with themselves. To thrive in this environment, you need to not only to be physically fit but to be mentally strong.

Racing atmosphere is pivotal to performance and enhancing it became the event mission for Night of the 10,000m PB’s. Now in its tenth year, this is where festival vibes and vivacious crowds meet fast times. Being rooted on from the sidelines can make runners reach their energy reserve when they feel like they are running on empty. It boosts motivation and encourages competitive spirit.

When running long distances, discomfort is a given. Even so, having people turn up to cheer you on has been shown to make running less painful. According to one study, runners were fitted with microphones and asked to articulate their thoughts freely and without any self-observation while out on a long run. Three themes in particular emerged: pace and distance; pain and discomfort; and environment. To cope with the pain and discomfort, the runners used a variety of mental strategies, including breathing techniques and urging themselves on.

Learning to self-regulate is of particular interest to runners. It’s a skill that can be honed. Being able to control your emotions, inner-speech, thoughts, and actions enables athletes to perform at their best. Self-talk has been found to significantly reduce perceived exertion (RPE) and enhance endurance performance. This inner speech can help regulate emotions. Unsurprisingly, we can use positive self-talk to calm ourselves, while negative self-talk is linked to an increase in anxiety levels. Runners that master positive self-talk can use it to their advantage and convert negative self-talk about a sensation into positive self-talk. A few studies show that referring to yourself as “you” is better than referring to yourself as “I.”


Straight off the track at Night of the 10,000 PB's. 

At Parliament Hill Athletics Track, banners proclaimed ‘Dream On’, a message from the sponsor On. Positive motivational mantras like this can help direct self-talk and help push through to the finish line. Just like handmade signs and cheers from the crowd, the goal is to get inside runners’ heads and make them feel supported.

There’s no doubt that running on alongside others brings out our competitive spirit and pushes athletes to keep going. Setting a new PB requires physical endurance but it’s the internal that really drives us to achieve our personal best.