A runner who I coached several years ago is a cancer survivor and was determined to get back to running after he finished his treatment. Having lost a lot of fitness and muscle tone, he struggled during his first few months, but he used a mental trick to help push him through those difficult runs. He’d think back to where he was a year earlier – in a hospital bed, hooked up to IVs, and not sure if he’d survive – and remind himself how far he’d come by repeating the phrase, “This time, last year” over and over to himself while running.
When he was just a couple of days away from running the New York City Marathon, he shared with our team that he had a new mantra that he’d be using during the race. It was, “This time, this year,” to celebrate his incredible journey and express his gratitude for his health and strength. After he successfully crossed the marathon finish line, he told me that his mantra did help him get through those late miles when everything hurt and he needed that mental strength to keep moving forward.
You don’t have to have lived through something traumatic or extremely difficult to harness the power of mantras. Anyone can use a short, motivational phrase to help push through a killer workout or a rough patch in a race. Repeating a mantra over and over again can help calm you down and also distract you from any discomfort or doubts you might be feeling.
Ideas for Running Mantras
Your mantra doesn’t even have to have any special meaning. It could just be a phrase that gets you really pumped. It’s definitely good to work some action words into your mantra, since they tend to make us feel more powerful and stronger. Some examples of ones I’ve used in the past: “Dig deeper”; “Feeling stronger, getting faster”; “Leave nothing on the course.”
Some runners even like to print a mantra on their race shirt, so spectators repeat it for them as they run by. I’ve seen runners in long races write mantras on a bracelet and use a different one for each mile.
You could also use mantras at specific points in a race, like on a hill (“Up the hill, up the hill” or “You own this hill!”) or in your final mile (“Kick it up” or “Finish strong”). But mantras don’t have to be really serious or technical to be effective. I know a runner who swears that saying, “Beer at the finish!” pushes him harder in a race.
More ideas for mantras:
“If it doesn’t challenge you, it doesn’t change you.”
“Run the mile you’re in.”
“You must do the thing you think you cannot do.” (Eleanor Roosevelt)
“What doesn’t kill you makes you stronger.”
“I can and I will.”
“Feet fast, legs strong, I can do this all day long.”
“I’m tough. I’m strong. I can run this.”
“Pain is weakness leaving the body.”
“Arms faster, legs faster.”
“I’ve got this.”
“One foot in front of the other.”
What’s your favorite running mantra?