Favorite Running Mantras (that are also pretty good Life Mantras)

Sometimes I need a little extra push or motivation when I’m running. And I need it to be something simple enough that I can keep it in my head while doing something physically daunting like running. Here are a few that I’ve been using this past year, and some ways they are useful for other things in life for those of you who were thinking of skipping this entry because running sounds horrible to you (I can’t blame you. I used to be you. I still am you some days…)

I can do hard things– This links most closely with what I hope I am teaching my kids by getting out there and training, even on my bad days, even when I don’t feel like it. I tell my son all the time when he is getting overwhelmed with his letters or even picking up his room that he can do hard things and that he is getting better at them every day. I’ve found it helps to tell myself the same. Not only in running but in doctor appointments, when I’d rather not meal prep at the end of a weekend when I am really freaking tired, when I’m learning how to be more patient with children who are having a day where they are not at all interested in listening. I can do hard things. 

You’re doing it!– This is the cheesy catch phrase that the couch to 5k app kept telling me last spring. And I found it really annoying at first, but there’s actually something really motivating about thinking to yourself “I can’t do this” and then realizing… wait a minute, I’m doing it already. I just have to keep doing it. Or, as

Barney Stinson said in the How I Met Your Mother episode I keep thinking of non stop where Barney decides to run in the NYC marathon with no training, 

“Here’s how you run a marathon. Step 1: You start running. There is no step 2.” Hoping I can keep that sense of humor about it on race day… and VERY grateful I’m only half crazy and going 13.1 miles instead of 26.2. In a non-running example, this is almost word for word what one of the people in the hospital told me when I was giving birth the first time. I was so scared and there was a moment where I just kept saying over and over again, “I can’t, I can’t, I can’t” and the thing was that I already was. I was halfway to meeting my son no matter how much I doubted it. Now I’m just hoping that my body cooperates better than Barney’s did once I finish…

Left foot right foot, run the mile you’re on– My first long run with my team, I told one of our team leaders that I was already worried sick about the distances that were further than the 10k I’d run (which was by no means an easy experience) and that it was hard not to be discouraged. She told me to stop jumping ahead in the training plan and reminded me that when I had my babies I must have realized that it wasn’t helpful to spend a ton of time worrying about where they’d go to college or who would teach them to drive (though ironically this was something that one of my friends asked me about shortly after I told her I was pregnant…) when what they need right now is to be fed and to learn how to walk and talk, etc. etc. etc. So it didn’t help to think about the training runs that were weeks away when I needed the experience of getting through earlier training first. In a similar way, it doesn’t help on a run if my mind is already jumping to miles further down the road. Part of the mental challenge I have to face is not thinking about how tired I’m going to be at mile 8 if I am this tired at mile 4. If I don’t focus on running a reasonable pace for the mile I’m on, I’m going to be in worse shape in the future. And if I get to mile 8 and am busy getting mad at myself for accidentally running a pace that was too fast in miles 1 and 2 (happens a lot, I’m really working to not let the adrenaline get the best of me), then that mile feels worse and goes even slower than it would if I just stay present in the moment and breathe through it.

This is a finite experience– This is another mantra I stole from when I was in labor- I knew it had to end at some point. Even for my sweet friend whose birth mantra was “it’s only one day” and ended up having a 48 hour labor, there was still an end point. In a way it’s kind of the opposite of the Barney Stinson quote- a race has a necessary end point. It has an ending distance, and it even has an ending time because they can only shut down public roads for so long. The running won’t last forever. No matter how far the finish line seems or how tired my legs are.

I’m not really here!: Kind of the opposite of running the mile I’m on, but this was actually ridiculously helpful when I first started running last year. It’s from the quirky TV series The Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt and it was a joyful chant I could shout inside my head while picturing that instead of running I was out of breath from dancing or jumping around at a great concert or some other fabulous event. It does NOT work for me for longer runs because…. In the end… you ARE really here, but it was truly magic when I was doing interval running and needed to push myself for just 30 more seconds. (I’m trying not to use it anymore because my word for the year is Present… but I’m not saying it doesn’t creep up one in a while.)

I am stronger than before and I’m getting stronger now: This is one of the phrases I’ve said to myself when knowing I needed to go a further mileage than I’d ever gone before. It’s ok that I need to go further because now I am stronger. This works for me because I HAVE focused so much the past year on getting stronger and on finding that it doesn’t mean you don’t feel sore, it means you can do harder things before the soreness convinces you to stop. This also works for me in emotionally exhausting situations where my boundaries are being tested and I am realizing I need to make hard decisions and that it is OK that I’m handling things differently and pushing forward because I am stronger than I used to be.

“Disturb us Lord…” : This is the beginning of a prayer that I heard during my team’s “WHY” run which included a podcast during one of our long runs where we got to hear from other teammates around the world as well as from some of the kids that have been helped by receiving clean water. You can read the whole prayer HERE, but that’s too long for a mantra for me, so I just keep that first line in my mind when I’m fighting moving out of a comfort zone- be that distance, pace, or some new challenge in life. In running specifically though, it draws me back to the why for this particular race- I run for water, for the women and children who walk miles just to fill jerry cans with potentially unclean water, for the hope that clean, accessible water will bring them. Disturb us Lord… shake me out of my complacency and help me keep going toward my goal.

I’d love to hear if you have a favorite phrase, prayer, or other mantra that helps you through hard things physically or mentally!

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