Imagine for a second you’d have running superpowers. What would they be, and how would you run? Do you dream of having the grace and endurance of Eliud Kipchoge? Or do you wish to have the mental toughness and grit of Courtney Dauwalter?
Imagine you were your ideal running self so that you could complete any running challenge with confidence and a smile on your face.
What if I told you, you could step into that ideal running self and thereby catapult your running to new heights? How? By using an alter ego – an alternate persona of yourself.
What Is An Alter Ego?
Alter egos have been used by actors, musicians, and athletes alike throughout the centuries.
Two of the most famous examples are Beyonce and former professional Football and Baseball player Bo Jackson.
Beyonce described how she created an alter ego, called Sascha Fierce, to perform uninhibited on stage. She grew up in a devout family and struggled to perform sexy dance moves on stage. So she created an alternate persona who would do the job and protect her true self.
The main character in the series “Friday the Thirteenth” – Jason – inspired Bo Jackson. As described in the book “The Alter Ego Effect,” Bo Jackson was hot-headed and lost his temper quickly. He adopted the character traits of Jason when stepping onto the playing field and transformed into a “relentless, cold, and disciplined destroyer on the football field. “
But you don’t have to look for famous creatives or athletes to see the power of alter egos in action. Just think back to your childhood. How many times did you pretend to be a superhero who took on impossible challenges?
Now it’s time to get your role-playing on again and develop your running alter ego.
Before we discuss creating one, we will answer why you even want to have an alter ego for your running career? How will this alternate persona help you perform? Let’s find out.
How Can An Alter Ego Benefit Your Running?
Now you may be wondering how an alter ego could benefit your running?
Allow me to use myself as an example. I have always been timid, which showed when interacting with people during typical “day-to-day activities” and PE class in school. I was made fun of constantly and, as a result, hesitated to express myself through movement.
Later, when I started running in my 20’s, I was so self-conscious that I would run only very early morning. When it was still dark, no one could see me, and I was sure everyone I knew was still asleep.
I was thinking of myself as an untalented and hilariously funny-looking runner, and my performance showed. My running form was poor, shoulders hunched forward and head down. It reflected my inner state of self-doubt.
Fast forward to today, and you will see me running tall with a confident stride, my head held high.
What has changed?
I activate my running alter ego when I head out for a run – Nicole Super Sonic Ultra Champ. She is fearless, strong, and has an indomitable will to succeed.
When I struggle to push through a tough training session, I ask myself, “who are you?” and answer with “I am Nicole Super Sonic Ultra Champ. I am focused; I am fast.”
You may think this is silly. Well, I am convinced this little role-play helped me to podium at the Schwerin Lake Trail Ultramarathon and the Bernau 50K this year.
How To Create Your Running Alter Ego
By now, you either assume I am crazy, or you want to give this alter ego thing a try. If the latter is the case and you are wondering how to start – hang on. In the next section, I will give you a step-by-step process that you can use to create your running alter ego. Ready? Then let’s get started.
1. Why Do You Want An Alter Ego?
The first step is to decide why you want to have a running alter ego?
Do you want to run faster? With less inhibition and fear? Maybe a previous injury causes a mental block that you can’t seem to get over.
Do you give up easily and want to have better emotional control to keep going when you hit a low point during a race? Do you always want to keep a cool head when problems threaten to derail your race progress?
List all the reasons for creating your running alter ego, then proceed to the next step.
2. Define The Characteristics And Behaviors Of Your Running Alter Ego
Once you have listed your reasons for creating an alter ego, define what character traits a person possesses that achieve those goals.
For example, I wanted to create a running alter ego to run confident and fearless to push my boundaries and test my limits.
The character traits for such a runner would be that she is self-disciplined and finishes challenging workouts. She is constantly building her self-confidence by setting goals and doing her best to achieve them.
My alter ego would also take risks in training and racing and not hold back out of fear of injuring herself.
If you have problems imagining your running alter ego’s character traits, you can also use your running heroes for inspiration.
Note down the qualities you admire about them and add them to the character description of your alter ego.
For example, I love how Courtney Dauwalter always seems to keep a positive attitude, no matter how bad things get. I wanted my running alter ego to embody this characteristic as well. From Catherine Ndereba, I learned the importance of patience, honesty, and hard work, and I wanted my alter ego to embody that.
You can write down a simple list of character traits or describe your ideal running alter ego in detail via a written text. The format is up to you. But it is essential to be as detailed as possible.
Bring your alter ego to life. After all, you will need to know what role to play the next time you are out running.
3. Give Your Running Alter Ego A Name
Now comes the fun part😎 . Once you have your character fleshed out, you give your alter ego a name.
There are several ways of doing this, and you can be as creative as you like. My alter ego name is a combination of my real name, a comic figure, and an outcome I wanted to be my reality.
For those who don’t know, Super Sonic is a transformative form of Sonic the Hedgehog – the protagonist of the Sonic the Hedgehog video game series. He can run at supersonic speeds, which means he can run faster than the speed of sound.
I also wanted my alter ego to be an ultra-marathon champion, so I added “Ultra-Champ,” and the name “Nicole Super Sonic Ultra-Champ” was born.
Other people have used animals as part of their alter ego. For example, Kobe Bryant used the “Black Mamba” as an alter ego when he was faced with allegations of sexual harassment.
Combinations of names and character traits are also common, as was the case for Beyonce’s “Sasha Fierce.”
If you like movies, pick the name of your favorite hero. If you like video games, choose a character that inspires you. If you feel drawn to spirit animals, use that.
Let your creativity run wild, and don’t hold back.
4. Find A Totem To Activate Your Running Alter Ego
Remember that you are creating a role that you slip into when running. You are not trying to actively change your character but rather bring out a different side of your personality.
Hence, it is helpful to have a totem to activate your alter ego when you need it.
This totem can be anything that helps you connect with your running alter ego. For example, if you wear your running watch only when training and racing, this could be an excellent totem.
However, if you wear your watch 24/7, it wouldn’t be directly linked to the activity of running, and hence not a good totem to activate your alter ego.
Other ideas for physical objects that you can use to activate your alternative character are:
- A special wristband that you use only when running.
- A unique shoelace.
- A piece of jewelry.
However, it is crucial that you only use this symbolic gear when going on a training run or when racing. You can combine putting on your special gear with performing a short ritual before starting your training session or race.
When To Bring Out Your Alter Ego
Now it’s time to play 🤘 . Once you have crafted your running alter ego, decided on a totem and activation ritual, it is time to slip into that role and bring out your heroic running self.
I recommend you start practicing in low-key situations first, so don’t create a running alter ego the evening before your big race and try to use it straight away.
Instead, practice it during your training runs. Like an actor getting to know the character of the role he is about to play in a movie, you are getting to know your running alter ego deeper through practice.
When lacing up your shoes, ask yourself how your ideal running self would approach that training run.
When you struggle to get out of bed to get your morning run in, ask yourself how your running alter ego would react. Would your heroic running self stay in bed? Or would it get up and get the job done?
During your training run, imagine you were that ideal running self you created on paper. Practice every time you set out on a training run, and soon you will be able to activate and use your running alter ego in racing.
What Would Your Running Alter Ego Do?
By now, you should have a good idea of how to create and use your alter ego to catapult your running abilities to new heights.
And while the focus is on using your alternative persona when you are actively performing, you can also use the concept of the running alter ego to check and improve your everyday behaviors outside of actual training sessions and races.
For example, when faced with choosing between your healthy prepared lunch and a co-worker’s cookies, you can ask yourself what option your running alter ego would choose, thereby further strengthening the image of your ideal running self.
Most importantly, you can also use your heroic self to foster positive self-talk.
Imagine you fail to get up for two of your five scheduled morning runs. How would your heroic self treat you if you didn’t follow your running schedule for a week?
Would she be compassionate and forgiving? Would she encourage you to try again next week and create a plan to make sure you have the time and resources to complete the training sessions?
Or would she be harsh and say things that made you feel unworthy?
Hopefully, your heroic running self would talk to you in a way that builds you up and gets you going again.
I know my running alter ego is my biggest cheerleader and the main reason for my successful running year 2021.
So try it out. At worst, you have fun with creating and playing a role for a while. At best, it can help you achieve new heights in your running career.