Snooker as Practice for Running

There was a snooker table in my grandparents’ house when I was growing up. It was the right fit for a growing boy.

I used to play all the time.

My grandfather loved the sport. My uncle even used to play competitively. He played frames against legendary players such as Cliff Wilson, Willie Thorne and Steve Davis.

I looked forward to watching snooker on the television as well. I have fond family memories of the World Snooker Championships on the BBC every late April to early May.

My favourite player was Stephen Hendry. He was the most dominant player of the 1990s, arguably the greatest player who has ever played, and who I admired for his impressive break building, stoic mental strength and consistent match performances.

My favourite player of the modern game is Ronnie O’Sullivan, mostly because, like Hendry, on top form he is unbeatable. O’Sullivan also has a fast potting style, can play with both hands and win matches without having to play his best snooker. He’s also a runner.

I loved potting balls. My main attribute was long pots.

Although I did move up to cueing on a full-size table I never played snooker competitively. But I remain fascinated by a sport that relies so heavily on mental fortitude and inner peace.

Snooker Table Pocket

Snooker is a game of concentration, patience and consistency. Much like an endurance event, an appreciation of the challenge ahead must be balanced with appropriate decision-making in every moment.

For the past several years I have played on a slightly larger table than the one during my youth. It’s six feet long, and three feet wide. Although I only have a pool cue to use, some pocket nets are missing, room to strike the balls is limited by the walls of my lounge, and the cloth is slightly uneven I’ve enjoyed reliving one of my first sporting loves.

Snooker is a straightforward sport. Pot balls. Similar to running, the simple repetition of placing one foot in front of another, the difficulty arises from the choices that precede the execution. Every time you speed up or slow down, cut a training run short, or veer off the route you intended, you must rely on strategy. You must take intelligent actions.

The more you practice the better you become at making the right choices, quickly. That will be the difference between success and failure at the important moments in race situations.

How to Run for Life

The overriding reason you should run is simple.
You love the sport. In other words running should fill you with joy.
This reason cannot be overstated.

There will inevitably be other motivations to run. These could include financial gain, social status and/or club glory. But these should be additional benefits – if they even matter to you.

Instead, more consideration should be made towards fitness, companionship and even challenge, such as testing yourself in competition. These factors can enhance the experience of the sport. Again, only if you feel this is personally beneficial.

You should also run predominantly for yourself. It may appear obvious but when you run, you are using your own body and mind, and nobody else’s. This means that unless you understand your own body and mind, running can be self-destructive, such as in the case of severe overtraining or self-induced injury.

Other runners, and non-runners, can certainly inspire you to continue running (and even to get you started), but they cannot, and should not, affect every run you complete.

To be truly fulfilled you must be autonomous with your choice to pound the pavements.

I have never believed that running is a selfish act, despite the self-centred approach of the sport compared to, say, team sports.

Running is a personal pursuit that makes me a more balanced, healthy and stronger person. As long as running does not take so much of your life that there is little other time for anything else, then it can be an empowering and unique tool to gain success.

Of course, it is unrealistic to expect that you will be in the best mood every time you lace up your running shoes. But you should appreciate that choosing to run (or not) is a privilege that not everyone has. By all means use any reason to run on any given day. But if your aim is to run for life then you have to believe that running improves your life, because it is fun.

This is the unwavering foundation of my running. It should be of yours.


This post is inspired by Pure Sport: Practical Sport Psychology (2nd ed., 2013) written by John Kremer and Aidan Moran.

How to Gain an Ultra Mindset

The Ultra Mindset (2015) by Travis Macy


Macy is an experienced and successful adventure racer and ultrarunner from the United States of America. He retells the story of his life, training in the mountains, finding love and building upon his father’s athletic achievements.

The audiobook reveals numerous skills and personality traits that can enhance endurance performance. Through his experiences at major races such as the Leadman race series, the Adventure Racing World Championships and the Fastest Known Time (FKT) run across Zion National Park, Macy explores eight features of a superior mindset.

  1. Use every challenge as a means to strengthen your mind.

  2. Find inspirational people that you wish to imitate.

  3. Discover your internal and external motivators and learn when to use them.

  4. Improve your self-belief but never overestimate your obstacles.

  5. Always prepare and remain conscious of your thoughts during races.

  6. Wake up early to be more efficient with your time.

  7. Construct stories about yourself that are positive and affirmative.

  8. Never quit unless in a life-threatening situation.

Other tips Macy offers include using internal music as a method to find a running rhythm, and repeating internal mantras such as  “it’s all good mental training” and “never give up”. This advice is summarised by not letting fear stop you aiming high. The audiobook also has countless practical exercises to help runners reflect on and learn from their running in a meaningful way.

Why I Play Brain Training Games

Ever since I read a book on neuroscience I have routinely trained my mind.

Mental abilities such as concentration, working memory and reaction time all need training if they are to aid athletic performance.

The brain should be worked as much as the leg and arm muscles.

There are a number of important choices every runner has to make during training and racing. These include when to run faster or slower, when to fuel or stop (due to injury), and even when to find motivation or become distracted.

To ensure optimal decision-making your mind must be alert and rational, which requires energy and capacity. The more you train your mind the more efficient it will become.

Practical numeric skills are also useful whilst running, including working out splits, predicting finishing times, and estimating the remaining miles of a race.


The games can become addictive so I limit my sessions to between 10 minutes and half an hour daily. I also switch between a selection of apps to keep the challenges varied and enjoyable.

I use free apps so the only investment I am making is my time. My subconscious need to improve and compete with previous scores ensures meaningful benchmarks.

Consciously building mental strength is essential for mental health today and in the future, and provides a means to unwind from running.

Brain Training Apps

New Advice from Neuroscience

Katwala draws on extensive research to summarise important techniques that improve sports performance. Although many studies refer to the hand-eye coordination of ball sports, the book contains relevant and interesting advice for runners.


Key Findings from Studies

Your vision must be trained as hard as your physique to fulfil your athletic potential. A major difference between amateur and elite athletes is the latter’s ability to track and act upon the slightest of movements.

Your vision is closely related to your mental strength and agility. Thus the stronger the mind, the less stress will drain your energy.

Distraction from any task at hand is better than thinking too much about it. However, visualisation in training can change your physical make-up; thinking of becoming stronger can actually make you stronger.

Sporting Advice

You must learn to transform inevitable nerves into fuel. You can do this by training under controlled self-induced pressure, such as placing an outcome on your performance (reward), adding other mental tasks during your exercise, or modifying your workouts regularly to feel more challenged. All these techniques will build your mental resilience and thus prepare you better for racing conditions.

Sport is a complex pursuit for people to master. To make sporting skills less susceptible to interference by external factors or your conscious mind you need to make actions so implicit that they become instinctual. According to Angela Lee Duckworth, by adopting a positive growth mindset and seeking different circumstances to test your abilities you will develop a strong passion for the sport. Deliberate practice sustained over a long period of time will mean you have a greater chance of success.

Running Advice

Runners give up long before they reach their metabolic and muscular limits. The reason is that they have exhausted their brain. Professor Samuele Marcora explains the ‘psychological model of endurance’, a theory that purports runners must train to reduce their perception of effort.

Tips to reduce the perception of effort include

  • not relying on your watch for every run
  • rinsing your mouth out with a carbohydrate-rich drink
  • smiling as you run and especially after work or a long day
  • controlling your breathing

Playing video games also builds mental stamina because of their repetitive nature, and improves memory and attention span.


This book supports the notion that being an expert in your sport can have its disadvantages. Sometimes having less information (or forgetting what you know) can actually aid performance by ensuring you are focusing on your natural rhythm.