Running Mantras

How do you get your head in the right space to keep putting one foot after the other? As “mile after relentless mile” marches on, how do you keep it up? Some days it’s easy. You welcome each KM as it approaches.  These are the days you run for. Some days, it just doesn’t click, and you need something to keep you going. That’s when running mantras can help you get your head back on the track with the rest of your body.


You’ll find it’s important to have different mantras to achieve different goals. If your goal is not to go out too fast in a race, then you need something which will slow you down a bit. “Slow and steady”, is not particularly creative, but can be effective. “Can I keep this up for 42 kms?” is also a good one. Or how about, “See you at about 15km”, when you are tempted to keep up with all the people who are going out too fast at the start? Those people who you just know you’ll peg back at about the 15km mark!

As things start to get a little tougher towards the end of a race, no matter what the distance, something more along the lines of “You’re tough enough to do this”,  “keep your arms moving” “you’ve trained for this, you’re ready”. Something as simple as the classic “Come On” used by Leighton Hewitt is a great exapmle of a mantra – though I suggest you lose the hand actions if you’re going to use this one.


Training mantras will be different to racing mantras, as will mantras designed to help you maintain technique. To help me maintain some type of form when things get tough, I repeat after me “run tall, lift, lengthen”. This helps me to keep my pelvis in good alignment as I imagine I am lifting out of my hip joint, not dropping down on one side each time I lift my foot off the ground in classic “model walk posture”. In training I think about specific goals and remind myself “you are one session closer to achieving…..”-whatever that goal might be.


My all time favourite mantra is “if not now when, if not you who”? It has served me well across a number of different sports. I’d say there’s a few other people who reckon it’s not bad. It’s been around since the first century BC, and is attributed to Rabbi Hillel (Hillel the Elder), recorded in a section of the Talmud.

I first heard it when listening to Mike McKay (of oarsome foursome fame) speaking to a bunch of senior managers. It struck a chord. From memory he had either the word “now” or it may have been “yes” tacked onto the back of the oarsman in front of him, and he used this to lift at crucial stages in the race (I have perhaps just made that bit up, but it was a long time ago that I heard him speak).


When I was rowing, I used it when I knew I had to give it everything I had, to get out through a big surf without being smashed, which generally means game over. Now I use it throughout fun runs, (and to a lesser extent training sessions) when I’m finding it tough going. It serves to remind me why I’m out there on the road.

And why am I out there on the road? Mostly because I have a competitive streak and want to post a PB, want a top 5 finish in my age category, (not very commonn these days – bring on the 50+ category) or just bloody mindedly won’t let that person up ahead in the pink shirt get too far ahead of me. Afterall, I am going to be ahead of them at the finish line.  I’m also fascinated at what the body can be put through-though I don’t know that I’ve ever really put it to the test except in childbirth – and aint that a doozy for mantras – all partners of women in labour please note “just relax” is a particularly ineffective mantra during labour.


Some mantras are so widely used they have become cliche, such as “run your own race” and “don’t panic” although I prefer “stay calm” to “don’t panic”. Others include “make pain your friend” and “this is what you train for”.


Whatever dreams you run for, a mantra can bring them that much closer to reality, Runners World offers the following mantra builder if you don’t have any of your own already.


Choose one word from each section below to create a motivational, get-it-done power chant.

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For example:

Run strong, think speed.

Be light, feel power.

Sprint fast, feel speed.

We’d love to hear some of your running mantras.

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