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14 Mantras chanted by famous runners

Based out of Dallas, Texas, Mary McCoy is a writer and social worker for disenfranchised women and children. She's a single mom, lover of Texas barbecue, and a die-hard fan of yoga

I think I can! I think I can!

Training for a big race is seriously challenging business that taxes all of your body systems. Employ these mantras to help you amp up your training regimen and push past your plateaus.
Woman with positive attitude running a marathon
Photo Credit: TREVOR JOHNSTON / Eye Meets World Photography
/ Vetta / Getty images

How to use a mantra

If you go running by yourself, you understand the temptation to stop for a walk when your hammies start to burn. Of course, it's much easier to push past the burn when you're running with a friend, but what can you do if your schedule makes it hard to train with a partner?

It's simple: Employ a mantra. A mantra is a short and memorable phrase that you can utter over and over again as your feet keep plodding forward on your run. It's a mental exercise that allows you to imagine your success while ignoring your pain. Sports psychologists swear by mantras because they harness positive energy in your brain rather than allowing you to focus on defeat, disappointment or your body's limitations.

Famous mantras for inspiration

Even though sports psychology is a relatively new field, mantras certainly are not. Famous runners from past and present have used mantras to help them reach their training and race-day goals, and you can too. Consider stealing mantras from these running greats to kick your tail into gear when the going gets tough:

  1. "Run hard, be strong, think big." — Percy Cerutty, distance runner and coach
  2. "I can run faster." — Haile Gebrselassie, distance runner, marathoner and Olympian
  3. "To give anything less than your best is to sacrifice the gift." — Steve Prefontaine, Olympic middle-distance runner
  4. "Negative split every run." — Sean Wade, Olympic marathoner
  5. "Think strong, be strong, finish strong." — Renee Metivier Baillie, middle- and long-distance runner
  6. "All I have to do is manage this moment." — Stu Mittleman, ultradistance runner and coach
  7. "Fighter." — Kara Goucher, American marathoner, middle-distance runner and Olympian
  8. "The will to win means nothing if you haven't the will to prepare." — Juma Ikangaa, marathoner
  9. "This is what you came for." — Scott Jurek, ultramarathoner
  10. "Run the mile you are in." — David Willey, marathoner and editor of Runner's World
  11. "Because I can." — Janet Oberholtzer, amateur marathoner who overcame gruesome injury to run again
  12. "I have met my hero, and he is me." — Dr. George Sheehan, physician, runner and coach
  13. "The only one who can beat me is me." — Michael Johnson, Olympic sprinter
  14. "As we run, we become." — Amby Burfoot, marathoner

Make your own mantra

Of course, a mantra will only work if it resonates with you. You have to believe the words you say with every fiber of your being, both physically and mentally. Since a mantra is so personal, you may have to develop your own in order to make it count. As you sit down to create your own phrase, remember the following:

  • Make it powerful. Use energetic and strong adjectives, like "fierce," "light" or "brave."
  • Turn it into a reminder. Whatever you say, ensure that it gives you a picture of how you want to feel as you're running. For instance, if you feel choppy when you run, you may want to say something along the lines of "smooth like water."
  • Make it short and sweet. No one wants to remember a paragraph when they're pushing through the burn. The simpler and shorter, the better.

Tell us:

What mantra do you use to help you push through your mental and physical barriers? Tell us in the comment section below.

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