Running Mantras and How They Can Work for You

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running mantra Running Mantras and How They Can Work for You

The concept of mantras originated from Hinduism and Buddhism, where a sound, syllable or group of words is repeated in Sanskrit, its primary sacred languages. Practitioners believe that mantras have both psychological and spiritual powers.  These days runners of all backgrounds and abilities, being all too familiar with the role that mental strength plays in running, are using a similar method to help overcome mental stumbling blocks in both training and racing.  And although running mantras may not have actual spiritual powers, they definitely help keep runners calm and focused during a run.


So what makes a good running mantra?  Ideally your mantra(s) should take your focus off whatever difficulty you’re experiencing during your run, and remind you of your strength and ability to overcome.  Keep it short, positive and instructional.  So instead of thinking “yikes, that upcoming hill is a monster!”, coach yourself over it in a positive, affirmative manner.  The options are endless, really:

  • You can do this.
  • Breathe.
  • One more step.
  • Just keep going.
  • Stronger and stronger.
  • Up and over.
  • Strong legs.
  • You’ve got this.

Keep repeating your mantra of choice in your head (or out loud, if need be!) until you’ve overcome, and then give yourself a mental pat on the back for doing so.


But what if the challenge you’re facing during your run is so overwhelming that you can’t help but focus on it?  What if a mantra is the last thing on your mind when the going gets tough?  Then use visual reminders to help you stay positive.  The market has recently boomed with a whole host of visual aids to help you keep your mantra top-of-mind.  From custom-engraved running bracelets and rings, to wraps, shoelace tags and slogan t-shirts, you’re bound to find something that you love.  And if you don’t want to spend money on mantra reminders, that’s perfectly fine too.  A simple rubber band around your wrist or a written note on the palm of your hand will also do the trick.


And does all of this really work?  Is the use of running mantras really effective?  It appears so.  A host of professional athletes are using running mantras as an integral part of their training and racing tactics.  And with great success.  Here are just a few examples of some of the running mantras used by the pros:


  • Shalane Flanagan: “Run without any regrets.”
  • Desi Davila: “Calm, calm, calm.  Relax, relax, relax.”
  • Deena Kastor: “Go faster.  Push harder.  Today, define yourself.”
  • Meb Keflezighi: “Boston strong.”
  • Bill Rodgers: “Relentless.”

And then there are also some well-known and much-loved amateur runners who use running mantras to their benefit:

  • Bart Yasso, Chief Running Officer of Runner’s World US, repeats the words “pass no one” to himself in the beginning stages of a race.  This helps him to ensure that he starts out easy and doesn’t crash and burn later in the race.
  • Janae Baron, well-known running blogger, sometimes uses the following mantra to help her conquer hills: “Making my weaknesses my strengths”.
  • Amby Burfoot, Editor at Large of Runner’s World US, uses the following mantra to get him through longer races like marathons: “One mile at a time“.
  • Monica Olivas, also a much-loved running blogger, uses different running mantras depending on where she is in life and running.  One of the mantras she has used in the past is “keep it together“, a phrase that she and her husband got from a movie and thought would be perfect for running.

So what have you got to lose?  Come up with a few running mantras that resonate with you and put them to use.  The chances are good that they will not only get you through some rough spots in your running, but also become an integral part of your training and racing artillery.

You’ve got this!