Give Me Your Mantras

I was a brat yesterday. I can admit that. I’m not proud of my pissy little blog post.

I’m over it today. Yay! Thanks for talking some sense into me, friends. I really do appreciate it. I was all bent out of shape because oh no, I had a run that was kind of difficult. How dare I endure such tragedy?!

Seriously though, I got lots of little pep talks yesterday that really helped. Last night, in an effort to shake out my legs and do something sweaty that wasn’t running-related, I went to the gym for spinning with Matt, the love of my life who isn’t my boyfriend. Matt always plays good music and says inspiring things and makes me feel like I can do anything. At the end of class, he usually says, “What you just did wasn’t easy.” That’s true. He also told us at one point that he “wouldn’t ask us to do something he didn’t know we were capable of.”

Thanks, Matt. After 45 minutes with you, my mood improved significantly. It’s magic. Sweat magic.

Then I had dinner with two runner chicks who also helped me get back to reality. My friend Amanda said she knows a guy who runs 3-hour marathons and he once told her that he has one bad run every week. Every week!

So I think I can get through one bad run — which, seriously, wasn’t even that bad — every now and then. Like a few of you commented, one tough run just brings us closer to our next great run.

I would love to say that my “next great run” happened this morning, but it was mostly just a normal recovery run. I covered 5.25 miles, made two necessary bathroom stops and may have used the men’s room one time because the women’s room wasn’t unlocked yet.

The weather was perfect, my playlist was random (Does anyone remember Space Hog? Classic.) and despite my stomach not completely cooperating, it felt good to just cover some Bridle Path ground without caring about my pace.

Pretty fall leaves. I like running through you.

Plus, I’m getting hooked up with some drugs tomorrow so hopefully that’ll help calm my pesky stomach down.

It’s good timing, too, because this morning I realized that I’m running three races in the next two weeks. When did that happen? I’m running the Race to Deliver this Sunday in Central Park (4 miles), a Turkey Trot 5K on Thanksgiving with my mom…

I don't believe we'll be racing in costumes this year though. Sad.

…and the Las Vegas Half Marathon on December 4.

Got that, Crohn’s? Time to chill. We’ve got races to run.

As I’ve shared many times, my biggest enemy on race day is my brain. Usually my legs warm up just fine and most of the time (damn you, Brooklyn Half Marathon and Army 10 Miler) my stomach cooperates, too.


But my mentality? It tends to suck if I’m not having the race of my life. And that’s my concern leading up to the Las Vegas Half.

So I’m going to start training my brain now. I’ve done an OK job training my legs and my speed and my jazz hands for the finish line, but now I need to get my head in the game, High School Musical-style.

I’ve never been big on mantras. I don’t even like the word mantra. But I respect them, and I’m ready to get on board with the whole, “tell yourself happy thoughts to get to the finish line” game.

The most simple mantras I keep in my head are “Just keep running” and “You can do this.” Simple. Effective. I also try to remind myself that I love running. I’m not a professional runner (I know, that is very surprising news), I’m not getting paid to do this and I’m not breaking any world records in the pace category.

So if things get tough in Vegas, whether it’s at mile four or mile 12.9, I want to be prepared with more than just a great playlist (You bet it’ll be stocked with angry running songs just in case. Favorites include “Love Dump” by Static-X and “The Game” by Disturbed.) and flashy leg warmers.

I want to be ready to defeat any mental battles that come my way, and that’s where I need your help! It doesn’t matter to me how many spectators are screaming along the course. I don’t need their help. It’ll be nice, yes, but I want all my strength during the race to come from me. That’s cheesy, I’m aware. But it’s true.

Race morning in Las Vegas circa 2009! Gotta love reflective gear + photo flashes.

Here are a few of the mantras I’m planning to keep tucked in the back of my brain if needed:

  • You trained for this. Don’t screw it up. (I like this one because it’s clearly so positive and cheery.)
  • Run hard. Finish strong.
  • There’s a buffet just past the finish line.
  • This is fun!
  • Pass that chick ahead of you. Then pass that guy ahead of you.
  • The faster you run, the sooner you’re done.
  • You have to blog about this later.

SHARE YOUR MANTRAS: What do you tell yourself in order to keep pushing hard toward that finish line?



0 Responses

  1. “You have to blog about this later”

    LOL! I cracked up at my laptop reading that… yeah otherwise, all of our running goals would be just goals (much like my blog right now…hahaha…) that wouldn’t lead to achievements that are inspiring to read.

  2. I love the ‘you’ll have to blog about this later’. Mine are ‘Someday this pain will be useful to you’- something I was told a lot when I was going through a difficult time. And ‘You’ve got what it takes, but it might take everything you’ve got’. Plus I saw this one on pintrest-‘ No matter how slow you go, you’re still lapping everyone on the couch!’

  3. on my Road ID bracelett I added “let us run with perseverance the race marked out for us”. I try to remember that quote when I am running. Seems to always help me! Also, when running up hills I just keep repeating up and over. I read it in Kristin Armstrong’s book, Mile Markers. That really helps me a lot during those up hill battles! You are going to rock the rock and roll!

  4. Every single runner that I know has bad days now and then. I know it’s been said before, but it’s really those bad days that make the good ones so much better. I figure if every run was amazing, we’d start taking it for granted and wouldn’t appreciate running so much.

    Anyway, I think it’s good that you’re working on your mental game. You ARE a strong runner, but of course you have to believe it! One mantra that my mom used to say to me in high school was “mentally tough, physically strong.” I love this, not only because it has a rhythmic sound to it (good for repeating during a race!) but also because it reminds me that in order to do well in a race I need to focus on being strong both physically AND mentally.

    Also – this isn’t a mantra but before MCM Becky told me about the Nike ad with the song “Ali in the Jungle” I LOVE the lyrics of the song – it pushed me through some tough times during the race. Hopefully this link works:

  5. I have to admit that I get my strength in races from visualizing the race the night before. I run through every possible scenario that can happen out there and it enables me to stay calm when the going gets rough. Of course I have had to scream at myself that, “I’m a runner and this is who I am” through more than one finish line.

  6. Don’t remember Space Hog, but do remember Space Jam. Same thing.

    Everyone has bad runs – don’t sweat it. Makes the good ones even better.

    Two mantras – “I train to handle the pain” from Lauren Fleshman and something like “smooth, tall, steady.” Sure, because at 5’3″, I’m so tall.

  7. I tell myself “I run because I can” simply because its the truth. It keeps me moving because I know that I can do it and I know that there are so many people who can’t run and feel the incredible accomplishment I get after I reach my goal, so I do it for them and for me. Also, the first step is the hardest, I always know it will get better once I’m moving. And my new favorite is courtesy of Nike, “My feet hurt from kicking so much ass. Run.”

  8. when we were in the corrals before NYCM, I was trying to think of mantras to psyche me up and get me thinking positively, but my mind went totally blank. I couldn’t think of any – it was so weird. So I think I need some new mantras. I may steal some of the above!

  9. Once during a race I saw this: “Pain is temporary, Pride is forever”. It helped me to finish.
    For my marathon, I was wearing a bracelet with this mantra: “Whether you think you can or whether you think you can’t – You are right! Believe in yourself!!”

  10. Someone might have mentioned this one already but I was being lazy and didn’t read all the comments. I say a variety of things – if I am on a hill I say, “kill the hill” in the beat of my steps. But I also tell myself, “You are doing so great! Good job! You are doing really well!” or some variety of this. Even when I am struggling acknowledging the fact that I am doing something many others are not makes me start to go faster. Good luck!

  11. Whenever I get to something that’s tough I think ” I can do anything for ….(amount of time)”. Whether it’s a marathon, half marathon or work day…it just makes me put things into perspective.

  12. I’m all for the classic “Just keep going.” I used it several times and on several hills during my marathon…and I said it out loud and in third person. It works.

  13. “I’m a finisher”. “I can do all things through Him who gives me strength.” “Clear eyes, full hearts, can’t lose.”

    Get it girl. We all have Debbie Downer days. And then there are the Gilly days. (If you got that, kudos to you!)

  14. hi ali! i just started reading your blog about a month ago and i’m kind of addicted to it. ahem, anyway…

    music has never really helped motivate me during tough parts of a run, it usually just aggravates me, as if a song is gloating that it is so fun and pumped, but i’m still exhausted and discouraged.

    focusing on the scenery helps bring me back to my love of running and reminds me that even though i might be struggling at that moment, i’m still having fun. i also like thinking about the gigantic meal i will eat afterward. 😎

  15. Someone told me once to just make yourself smile while running and you just might feel better. Who knows, maybe Brightroom will be able to catch you smiling! 🙂

  16. Good luck in your upcoming races! One thing I like to do the morning of races, particularly when running my first ultramarathon a month ago, is to read inspirational quotes from great runners. Dean Karnazes takes the cake (sometimes literally!) for enduring some incredibly challenging races. Here are two of my favorites:

    “Most people never get there. They’re afraid or unwilling to demand enough of themselves and take the easy road, the path of least resistance. But struggling and suffering, as I now saw it, were the essence of a life worth living. If you’re not pushing yourself beyond the comfort zone, if you’re not constantly demanding more from yourself–expanding and learning as you go–your choosing a numb existence. Your denying yourself an extraordinary trip.”

    “The human body has limitations; the human spirit is boundless.”

  17. During my first marathon something popped into my head and it has been my go-to mantra ever since.

    “I am healthy. I am strong.”

  18. When I’m towards the end of a long run and doing okay, I tell myself “You’re doing it.” to prevent myself from getting discouraged by how tired I feel. It works for me because it makes me happy to know that I’m accomplishing something, and also reminds me to stay in the moment and not worry about the mile(s) ahead.

  19. I can’t really put together a string of words while running hard, so my mantra is probably “Dig deep, push, dig deep, push,” and that’s it. I try to stay in touch with my body and OWN the pain. If I try to ignore the pain it almost feels worse, if that makes sense. I like your mantras, though! Especially ‘I have to blog about this.’ Accountability DEFINITELY helps. I know ‘I have to impress my coach/live up to the team standard’ will be on my mind during my race this weekend.

    BTW what Turkey Trot are you doing? I’m having a heckuva time finding one in the NYC area, oddly enough.

  20. I’ll find strength in pain – Mumford and Sons “The Cave”

    works pretty well when you are hurting and wanting to quit and a great song to boot!

  21. “This too shall pass.”

    Wait, that’s a little somber/depressing.

    My favorite mantra is something a basketball coach told me in high school:
    “Your body is always stronger than your mind gives it credit for.”

    It always reminds me that even if I’ve given up mentally, my body is capable of so much more. You’ve done the work, you’ve logged the miles, you got it! Also, having an inspiring, upbeat song on hand is always helpful (Dream On, Defying Gravity from Wicked, and I Run for Life by Melissa Etheridge are my go-tos!)

  22. The faster you run, the sooner you’re done was totally my mantra during my first half marathon, especially around mile 8 or so. Oy, that part of the race sucked.

    I’m running another half in March, and I’m considering dedicating every mile to someone I care about. I know that’s super cheesy, but I think it’ll be a good way for me to focus on each mile and give myself a reason for running each one.

  23. I always think about my boyfriend’s father who recently passed away from lung cancer and mom who fought (and is now healthy!) breast cancer 10 years ago. I tell myself if I think I’m hurting now, you have no idea what real pain is. And I try to dig deep, and keep on pushing through.

    And if all else fails, I think about the french fries I will consume post-race

  24. Oh, this is fun… I love everyone else’s mantras! Also “You have to blog about this later.” cracked me up.

    In the past on a rather hilly course I’ve just steadily repeated the words “short short quick quick” on every uphill, followed by “enjoy the down” on every downhill. The repetition really helped me distract my mind, and also reminded me that down hills are oh-so-good. I also often sing “what goes up must come down” when climbing hills (sometimes I don’t realize I’m doing it out loud – ooops).

    Also, my coach once suggested that after an important race, I should look in the mirror and ask myself how I did. I was to ask myself if I truly left it all out on the course…. It is really hard to lie to yourself when you are staring into your own eyes, so keeping this in the back of your mind while racing, knowing you have to answer to yourself after the fact, is a big motivator.

    And finally, I just saw this the other day in an article about self-coaching and loved it. All the training advice you ever need ~ “Be more awesome than yesterday.”

    (Sorry to be soo long-winded and rambly) 🙂

  25. When it got tough at Santa Barbara this weekend, instead of focusing on how many miles left I told myself “you’ve worked hard for __ miles – don’t throw that away!” Worked like a charm bc I didn’t want to waste the hard work I’d just put in. Like when you eat 3 way over-ripe avocados bc they were on sale and you bought too many but now don’t want them to go to waste.

    See? Same principle for binge produce eating and running.

  26. Peanutbutter Fingers had such a good one in her Savannah RNR half marathonr ace recap. “It’s ok to feel a little uncomfortable” I used it during a ten-mile race pace run last weekend and it really helped me! Sometimes we get so caught up in how we don’t feel like rockstars when we run when we need to accept that most of the time, we won’t

  27. I have a couple:

    If it was supposed to be easy, everyone would do it.

    Tougher now, better race day

    This is making me stronger

    The faster you run the sooner it’s done

    One foot in front of the other

  28. Mmm, I heart mantras so I have a few.. For life, I have ‘buck up’ and this Virgil quote: “Fortune favors the bold,” and then for running I have a personal fav that goes a little something like “puke, pass out, or keep going…” although that may be a little extreme to pick up haha.

  29. My favorite is “No one said it would be easy”. I sometimes have to use this at work or studying for exams too. <—-NERD alert! It helps though. Running 10 miles in the thick of summer or busting your ass before work hours before your coworkers wake up isn't easy.

  30. “Determination got you here, but Grit will take you the rest of the way.”

    “Make this race your bitch.”

    Those both work for me and are great motivators to say if you see someone struggling.

  31. Choose this day.

    This was my marathon training mantra. And now my daily mantra. Choose THIS day to be happy, to be great, to be the best you. Or Choose THIS day to be sad, angry and bitter… both kinds of days are OK. Just know that you are making the choice and are in control.

  32. My go to, especially when completely exhausted is, “You’re stronger than this”. It’s simple and to the point, Another- “you haven’t put in all this training to fail, MOVE.”, Also sing song, “just keep running, just keep running, what do we do we run, run, run” a la Dori from Finding Nemo.

    I also use visualization techniques, I think of the hardest miles I’ve done in my life and use the memory of that to remind myself that what I’m going through now is not nearly as tough as that used to be (ie, I lie to myself).

    One last thing that I do to push it in at the end is to really race- since I was primarily an 800m runner through my early running career, when I know I’m at the 800 mark I tell myself THIS IS YOUR RACE, and I give it my all to pick myself up and sprint to the line (even though sprinting at the end of a half marathon is like 2x slower than my race pace for the 800)

  33. I count how many miles i have left, i count how many people i pass…i think about my life, i look at the scenery. Have you ever heard, “You are my All in All”? I changed the words to be, “You are my strength when I am weak, you are my breath when I can’t breather, youa re my all in all…” hahaha im hilarious.. 🙂

  34. Counting down the miles always helps me. As I cross over another checkpoint, I say “Another one down!” Even when I’ve only ran 2 miles and have 11.1 to go, it’s still refreshing 🙂 Also, “a beer and an amazing burger awaits you” keeps me going strong. Good luck with the training!

  35. One of my favorites, especially on hills, is “lean into it” — reminding me to embrace challenge. I also like “strong legs, strong mind” because if those two things are strong, you’ve got it in the bag. Although I, too, have Crohn’s disease, so sometimes I like to add “strong stomach.” Even if one of those things are feeling tired or weak in the moment, you know they’re strong because you’ve put the hard training work in (and your stomach has been through a lot and hasn’t quit on you yet).

    Best of luck!

  36. A Mantra for you in German (Simple but true): “Quäl dich du Sau!” (Suffer you pig!)
    Helps most of the time. If that dosn´t work (especially when there are a lot more km to run) I tell myself: “Now you want to give up? Totaly waste of time to stop running after such short distanc so RUN”

  37. HAHA Clearly those are some incredibly positive mantras you have there ;). Going into my first marathon, I used the mantra, “I know you don’t think you can do this, but I promise you, you can.” It really helped me keep going and reach the finish line. I think it’s also helpful when pushing yourself for a PR. My other mantra I picked up during MCM this year. All of the buses had this saying on the side, and I couldn’t stop staying it to myself when the race got tough, “Earned. Never Given.” That’s some pretty powerful stuff right there.

  38. I like to think about the pain for a minute, and then realize it’s really not that bad. Because it isn’t! It’s just running! And then I go back to listening to Madonna 🙂

  39. I run for coffee. When I am feeling like crap on a run, I think about how I am going to get the biggest, strongest cup of coffee at the end. Most of my long runs end at Starbucks and my husband always meets me at the end of a race with a Venti dark. “Coffee! Coffee”!” I skip the water and Gatorade and chug a giant coffee.

  40. In addition to mantras maybe you need to start some visualization? Picturing yourself crossing the finish line, jazz hands and all, and seeing the clock with your amazing time and knowing how great it’s going to feel to blog about THAT! 🙂

    Also, to go back to a pretty successful marketing campaign – Just Do It!

  41. I always say “I think I can, I think I can” from the Little Engine that Could. It’s pretty silly (not to mention taken from a book for three year olds) but my mind is incapable of forming any thoughts more complex than that when I’m in a race.

    1. Oh I love this one! That was my favorite book when I was little, and when my mom and I used to ride bikes and I had to go up “the big hill,” she would ride next to me and say that. Can’t believe I didn’t think of that one! Love it, thanks!

      1. I actually went out an rebought that book before one of my marathons 🙂 It was one of my favorite books when I was young. I have shortened “I think I can” just to ” I can I can I can…” Sounds more certain to me.

  42. mmmmm…I’m sooo cheesy so I love mantras.

    I especially love them when they are from songs so that I can hear them while I’m running. My fave is from Eminem’s Lose Yourself. “Success is my only Motherf****** option!” Works every time :-). Areosmith’s Amazing “Life is a Journey, Not as Destination.” But, I change it to “A Race is a Journey, Not a Destination.” I know, I know. You had no idea I was so profound 😉

  43. i’ve always liked – i dont stop when im tired, i stop when im finished.

    i read once that kara repeats “fighter” in her head, and on more times than i would like to admit – it works for me too!

  44. Have you ever heard the song Rollin by Limp Bizkit? If you haven’t, please go listen to it.

    I usually recite the part where he goes rollin’, rollin’, rollin’. And I just say that and think about rollin’ down the road. Or Rollin’ up a rolling hill. You’re welcome. 😛

  45. One of my go to mantras is: “Sound Mind. Sound Body. And a Spirit that is not afraid.” it’s from the Creed of the University I work at.

    Also I tweeted at you about how you need to sell running gear with “sweat magic” on it. perhaps some SWEAT bands that say it.

  46. Here you go:
    *Trust Your Legs – my spin teacher tells us this ALL the time (she runs marathons too) & I think it helps w/ my running.
    *Phil 4:13 – Not sure of your faith but the bible verse “I Can Do All Things Through Christ Who Strengthens Me” is a big one for me.
    *Running is Cheaper Than Therapy – Oh yes it is.
    *The task ahead of you is NEVER greater than the strength within you.
    *I run because I can. When I get tired…I remember those who can’t run, what they would do to have this simple gift I take for granted, and I run harder for them. I know they would do the same for me. 🙂

  47. I hate the self-help-iness of mantras and have always resisted them. They seemed like worthless Polyanna drivel to me…until I set myself a highly ambitious goal for my fall half where I had to cut :30 off my typical mile pace time. It was going to be challenging in any case, but race morning showed up with 40 degrees and pouring rain. First five miles? no problem. Eight? Legs were cold and it was getting tough. 10-13.1? Icicle fingers, toes, legs and I was pretty sure I wasn’t even moving.

    But as it started getting tough, these words popped into my brain: “Don’t think. Just run.” (obviously cribbed from Bull Durham, I can’t take credit.) And it worked. So I have a mantra now, but I think it’s for tough races, not the periodic bad training run.

    Don’t think. Just run.

  48. I always give myself little goals during a race. Like during my first ten miler, I kept telling myself to just get to the next water stop (they were every other mile). Once I get to the half way point, I just keep telling myself that I have less than x number of miles to go. I also try to tell myself that I can do it!

  49. I often say to myself “Om namah shivaya” [om nah-mah shee-why] which means “I bow to the inner self/the god within.” I feel like running honors that inner self in the purest way because I’m doing it for ME and nobody else. I like the evenness of the syllables; they start to feel like a supportive drone. If I’m feeling tight, I count the syllables on my hands to keep them loose.

    Regarding the mental game: have you read any sports psychology? It’s not just for elite athletes! I’m a classical musician, and have to perform at a very high level for a super short period of time. I’m subjected to not only the criticism of press and anonymous people on the internet, but also the criticism of that darned inner voice. And that inner voice is usually the loudest and most persuasive of all. Principles of sports psychology have been super helpful in getting that inner voice back on MY side, and not the side of the critics.

  50. I always tell myself “Someday you won’t be able to do this; today is not that day” or “Whether you think you can or you can’t, you’re right.” Or, of course, “Just keep moving, bitch.”

  51. have you ever been to they sell lots of funny and relatively cheap racing gear with fun “mantras” written all over it, albeit, not nearly as flashy as lululemon and other girly gear. however ever since i stopped by their booth at the expo for my first ever half marathon…”one more mile” has been my go-to during races. you can use it at any mile marker. for example in your half in vegas at mile 3 you can say “one more mile and its like i’ve done an inner loop of central park” or at mile six you can say “one more mile and im over half way done!” etc. atleast it works in myyy crazy head!

  52. Similar to the have to blog – I have a trainer that I’ve worked with since before I could run 3 miles. I’ve found the way to keep going is to say to myself – “What do I want to tell Natalie?” or “What would Natalie say right now?”. The answer to the second is usually “Shoulders down!”, so that can help.

  53. Ali, Love your blog but don’t think I have ever commented. I just wanted to say I saw you running this morning as I was on my way to the gym on the UES. I wanted to wave, but you were very much IN THE ZONE. ANyway, you looked great out there:) Loved the hot pink leg-warmers

  54. Mantras don’t work for me at all. They sound good in theory, but then in the moment they feel unconvincing and cheesy (to me). What works for me is counting. It sounds really stupid, but when I get to a point where I feel like I want to stop and walk, or slow down, or the like, I’ll start counting my footfalls. I’ll give myself an arbitrary goal (“okay, count to 100 and then you can walk”) and like 99% of the time the counting gets me beyond the rough patch and I no longer feel the “just give up” feeling.

  55. This is my favorite from your mantra list: The faster you run, the sooner you’re done.

    I like: Easy, Light, Smooth, Fast – Chris MacDougall … this one has got me through a few tough runs and makes me remember to calm down and just go with the flow!

  56. If you can see it, you can run to it.
    All it takes is all you got.
    The only tactic I admire is do or die.
    Sometimes to run better you’ve got to make it hurt a little more.

  57. My favorite “Keep Calm & Carry On”. It helps remind me to check my breathing, and encourages me to take the next step. The history of the phrase is really interesting to me, and I love that it came out of a place of panic and difficult times. It was meant to bring encouragement to an entire country in World War II, and for some reason, knowing this inspires me quite a bit.

  58. To give anything less than your best is to sacrifice the gift.

    Don’t be afraid to give up the good to go for the great.

    I’m going to work so that it’s a pure guts race at the end, and if it is, I am the only one who can win it.

    Don’t let fatigue make a coward of you.

    All wise words from the running legend and my personal hero: Steve Prefontaine.

    Know where he’s from?

  59. The ones I always come back to are: ” no one said it would be easy, they just promised it would be worth it” and “you’re stronger than you think you are”. I also love to play the rap song, “all I do is win” to get me pumped during a race and get in the mindset ill win for myself (PR, finishing strong, etc)

  60. Citizen Cope has a line in Son’s Gonna Rise that says: “In a mile you’ll be feeling fine.” I have that engraved on my RoadID and I love listening to it towards the end of a race and I often think about that. Just keep going because in a mile (mile meaning when the run is over) you’ll be feeling fine!

    1. I love this, thank you so much , you made my day. I needed something after this morning’s run and I have a 20K trail run this Sunday.

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about ali

I’m the creator of the Ali on the Run blog and the host of the Ali on the Run Show podcast. I’m also a freelance writer and editor, a race announcer, a runner and marathoner, a mom, and a huge fan of Peanut M&Ms, Mamma Mia! Here We Go Again (way better than the first one!), and reliving my glory days as a competition dancer in the early 2000s. I’m really happy you’re here.
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