Just Do It: Running Mantras (And Why You Need One)

You’ve seen them. You’ve heard them. They are on t-shirts, posters, and meme after meme.

Just do it.

Suck it up, buttercup.

Get ‘er done.

I got this.

Bring it on.

Running mantras: are they anything more than a catch-phrase? Do they work? Is there a benefit to having your own?

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At our first Princess Half-Marathon, we giddily attended the Fit for a Princess Expo to listen to the founders of Another Mother Runner at the Speaker Series (and yes, also to shop like princesses!). From our keen-bean seats in the front row, we drank in everything they had to say. Princess sponges, we were. The Chief Mother Runners talked about race mantras and how they can help to reset your mind to stay positive. As every runner knows, running is not just physical — it can be a very mental game as well.

As we nodded along in both awe and agreement, Dimity McDowell threw a question to the audience: “So, who here has a running mantra?” And then, because she can spot a teacher’s pet when she sees one, she called me out specifically. “Jodi, what is yours?” And out it came, without a pause or a thought: “I am stronger than this.” Huh. Didn’t even know I had one, but as soon as I said it, it became true. I hadn’t realized it was a manta per se, but it was something I said to myself when the run got rough, or the negative thoughts started to take over, or the hill was too steep, or the weather was too hot. I could go on, but you get the point. I am stronger than all of it. Or, at least, I tell myself that to get through it.


And does it help? Sure. Not because these are magical words, and not because I turn into the Hulk when I conjure them in my mind. Running mantras work because they turn your thoughts around when they are about to go south. I sometimes picture running with both a devil and an angel on my shoulders. The angel is “on” when things are going well — legs feel fresh, music is pumping, and I have a long run ahead full of possibility. Maybe I’m nailing my pace. Maybe I’m killing the hill. Or maybe I’m just enjoying the run. But, as my body tires, so does my mind. And that is when the angel goes mute and the devil starts in. He tells me I’m losing steam. He points out I’m slowing down. He doubts I’ll make it up the hill without a walk break. He thinks it’s too hot for this anyway. Or too cold. He says I look tired. He tells me I suck. He taunts me with every step.

I hate that guy. Mostly because he is so full of crap. But when you’re physically tired and losing mental focus, it is easy to buy into it. Does this help your run? Does it add any pep to your step? Well, no. It only weighs you down further. Those negative thoughts are heavy. And no one needs that extra weight so you have to trim the fat.


But how? In my experience, the only way to turn him off (or drown him out) is to force the mind to go in another direction. The body will usually follow. Recognize and break the cycle of negativity. And use your tool box: your mantra. Something that is positive and reminds you of where you have come from and where you are going. It might be a catch-phrase. It could be a power song. Whatever works for you. Only you will know what you need in that tool box and only you will know when you need to access it. As odd as it sounds, this takes some training too!

I have certainly had races where I “won” the race (and by “won”, I mean that I did my best) because my mind was willing. I have also had races that were “lost” because my mind wasn’t in it — I bought into the negative spiral of thoughts and gave up before it was over. Last year, I ran a fairly devastating half-marathon. I then turned around and ran another one less than a week later. The second one, on tired legs, was by far the better race. Why? Because I was determined to keep my head in the game and find my brave. So I did.


If you are still not convinced, all of the cool kids have running mantras so maybe you want to adopt one just to be trendy. Why not? Dimity McDowell uses “I am here now” so that she doesn’t get caught up in worrying about what is to come in her run. Swim Bike Mom uses “Just keep moving forward” because, well, that is a surefire strategy to the finish. Kara Goucher raced a season with one word in her arsenal: “Believe”. We love that one. It smacks of faith, trust and pixie dust, doesn’t it?

karagoucherbelieveThe longer you run, the more things you discover you “need”, right? GPS watches, good shoes, wicking clothing, accessories galore. And I am all for a good shopping spree, make no mistake, but isn’t it nice to realize that one of the most important things you need is free? Dream your mantra. Make it deep and meaningful. Make it funny. Make it crude. Make it work for you. And then go for a run. Because you are stronger than this, too.

~Princess Jodi

Tell Us: What is your running mantra?

*This post is part of Tuesdays on the Run, hosted by my runDisney friends, Patty at No Guilt Life and April at Run the Great Wide Somewhere.

11 thoughts on “Just Do It: Running Mantras (And Why You Need One)

  1. I have multiple mantras depending on where I am in the race. I totally stole (borrowed?) Dimity’s and when I start to panic, mostly that I’ll run out of water, I repeat “be here now”. I usually hit a wall right before the halfway point when I think this run is really long, and that’s when I say “it’s just a wall, run through it”. When I feel like I can’t do it I repeat “just keep going” and since I have the terrible habit of walking the finish my running coach gave me one “you’ve got this.” I was a bit surprised that you’re mantra isn’t “you can DOOOO it” .

  2. Great post! I usually try to have a new mantra each week or so, usually based on the events, challenges, or insights I’ve had in the last week. The one I tend to go back to is, “I don’t need to know the future, I just need to know the present.” Keeps me in the moment.

  3. Love your mantra! I think they’re helpful. I have a few that I use for different purposes – you trained for this; keep going; the hard makes it great; and feeling strong and looking gorgeous. Nothing terribly profound but they seem to help!

  4. I tend to keep it simple with “just do it” when I start to question whether I can run that next stretch or if I should walk it. It keeps me focused on the here and now and the fact that I am, in fact, strong enough.

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