Running is always about distance, even if you’re running for other reasons. Running is about perseverance even in the face of seemingly insurmountable obstacles. It’s never about an end goal because there isn’t one. It’s a test of one’s own limits and desire. Of course, when you have something that takes up so much time and energy, you sometimes get down on yourself. You’re having trouble crossing the latest barrier or getting started on your very first runs.
Motivational quotes can come off cliche, but cliches don’t become cliches without having at least a bit of truth in them. Hell, even the most jaded of us can’t help but get something out of a few well-placed platitudes. Running can be a solitary sport, but that doesn’t mean you’re alone. Others–runners or not–know the pain of limitations and setbacks. Sometimes knowing that others have been where you are and gotten through it is all you need to move forward.
Our Favorite Quotes
1- “I think I get addicted to the feelings associated with the end of a long run. I love feeling empty, clean, worn out, and sweat-purged. I love that good ache of the muscles that have done me proud.” — Kristin Armstrong
There are good pains. We don’t mean in the way of sadism (not that we’re judging), but in working out. When you exercise right, your muscles ache. That exhaustion is a badge of honor. You did something difficult, you gave it your all, and you hit that runner’s high. Even if you don’t, the sense of accomplishment is a fine substitute.
2- “It’s very hard to understand in the beginning that the whole idea is not to beat the other runners. Eventually, you learn that the competition is against the little voice inside you that wants to quit.” — George Sheehan
George Sheehan is beloved in the running community. It was his work and his love of running that showed others that running can be an effective exercise on its own with a great upside. Yes, his name carries weight. This quote by Sheehan is an elegant one about the complicated psychology we have when it comes to completing a difficult task. Sure, it’s easy to quit. Deep down, sometimes we just want to, and we’ll look for any reason. Don’t. Just keep putting one foot in front of the other. You’ll get there.
3- “Now if you are going to win any battle you have to do one thing. You have to make the mind run the body. Never let the body tell the mind what to do. The body will always give up. It is always tired in the morning, noon and night. But the body is never tired if the mind is not tired.” — George S. Patton
In the annals of military history, General Patton’s story is one of true badassery. We don’t know how much running he did, but we know that it was always toward something rather than away from it. The metaphor in this quote is clear: “The body is weak but the spirit and the mind are strong.” If that isn’t a runner’s most consistent problem, I don’t know what is. So what do you do? Endure.
4- “Running is nothing more than a series of arguments between the part of your brain that wants to stop and the part that wants to keep going.” — Unknown
Piggybacking on the last quote is this one. Running is all about endurance literally and metaphorically. Your body has limits. Push them. You’ll find you get a little better, move a little faster and for a little longer each time.
5- “Nothing, not even pain, lasts forever. If I can just keep putting one foot in front of the other, I will eventually get to the end.” — Kim Cowart
Finally, the more limits you push, the longer you push them, you’ll get to the results you desired. Running is always, in the end, about endurance. Enduring long distances, enduring pain, enduring setbacks. It’s a perfect metaphor for life, as well. Just keep moving forward.
6- “You miss 100% of the shots you don’t take.” — Wayne Gretzky
He’s one of the greatest hockey players in NHL history. He showed great speed and endurance on the ice. Gretzky knows his stuff. This quote is about not regretting anything and making sure you have nothing to regret. It’s all about risk. Taking the risk. Sometimes it won’t work in your favor, but when it does, it’s the greatest of victories.
7- “Clear your mind of can’t.” — Samuel Johnson
Don’t talk yourself out of something before you even try it. Sure, your goals with running–be it weight loss, increased speed, completing a 10k, or whatever–can seem like an unclimbable mountain, but it’s possible. But you need to take the necessary first steps.
8- “Go fast enough to get there, but slow enough to see.” — Jimmy Buffett
Jimmy Buffett, known for his loud shirts and songs about beach-adjacent alcoholism, isn’t usually someone you think of when you think about inspiring running quotes. Admittedly, this quote doesn’t deal directly with running, but he makes a good point. One of the unsung benefits of running is the exploring you do during the run. Whether you’re on the hard concrete surrounded by acts architectural genius in a big city or the more idyllic landscapes where the skies are open and the air quality is markedly improved, there’s a lot you can miss if you’re too focused on the run itself. Just stay focused enough to watch where you’re running.
9- “We all have dreams. In order to make dreams come into reality, it takes an awful lot of determination, dedication, self-discipline, and effort.” — Jesse Owens
The truest words from the perfect source. Nobody knows about determination and dreams better than Jesse Owens. He was a man who had to overcome impossible odds, physical difficulties, and social prejudice. In the end, he became an icon not only in America but across the planet. Also, yes, he was an amazingly fast runner.
10- “If you fail to prepare, you’re prepared to fail.” — Mark Spitz
Do your damn warm-ups.
11- “Running is alone time that lets my brain unspool the tangles that build up over days.” — Rob Haneisen
Sometimes we all need to clear our heads. Running releases the tension that gets built up in our bodies from the stressors of daily life. This tension is usually mental, but it can easily become physical. Running provides an outlet. It’s an unrelaxing way to relax that does, thanks to the exertion and the focusing solitude, allow us to relieve our unease.
12- “Run often. Run long. But never outrun your joy of running.” — Julie Isphording
Julie Isphording is another Olympic runner, and another great example of someone who really knows running. This is another Reading Rainbow but-don’t-take-my-word-for-it sort of things. Running is tough, but there are amazing benefits to it beyond the physical rewards. Don’t let it become a job.
13- “What seems hard now will one day be your warm-up.” — Unknown
As we’ve said, running is all about endurance. Sadly, our minds sometimes are against us. That part of us that says we can’t is a small part of our minds, but it is also the loudest. Progress happens. It always does. It takes time and effort. You’ll get there.
14- “The obsession with running is really an obsession with the potential for more and more life.” —George Sheehan
The Forerunner of Running is back at it again. We can talk about the physical benefits of running all day every day–and we often do–but there’s more to it. Runners do have a certain desire for more life, not unlike Roy Batty. Life and running are endurance tests. Running increases your health and the potential to live a longer, happier life. Runners see and experience things a little differently over the course of their runs. They’re out there, exposed, and so is the world. Catch the world at the right angle and it’s rather life-affirming.
15- “Running allows me to set my mind free. Nothing seems impossible. Nothing unattainable.” — Kara Goucher
That sense of peace with the world that we talk about in Sheehan’s quote above and a few of the quotes earlier is brought home here. Kara Goucher is an incredibly accomplished long-distance runner. If anyone knows about the mental and spiritual benefits of running, it’s her. Distance running is the ultimate endurance test and comes with the best rewards. The focus you get in the run makes everything else around you melt away. There is only you and your goal.
16- “Don’t stop when you’re tired. Stop when you are done.” — Unknown
It’s always about your goals. The body can seem like the enemy sometimes, and you have to know when to listen to it, but you need to persevere as well. Fatigue tells you you’re on the right road; this isn’t your exit just yet.
17- “I don’t run to add days to my life, I run to add life to my days.” — Ronald Rook
They say that runners are obsessed. That running isn’t a hobby or a sport or simply a means of exercise; rather, it’s a way of life. And you know what? It is. But of all the things to become obsessed with, I’m going to go out on a limb here and say this is one of the healthier ones. We’re talking about more than just the runner’s high or the dopamine drip. There’s a sense of accomplishment–that rarified air of having done something–and excitement that comes with running. The life of a runner is that of a race that never really ends, but along the way you get to see and experience some amazing things.
18- “There is magic in misery. Just ask any runner.” — Dean Karnazes
For those of you still new to running, an ultramarathon is a race over the normal length of a marathon 42.195 kilometers or 26.219 miles. Dean Karnazes has had an amazing career as an ultramarathon runner (itself a very rare type of runner). His greatest accomplishment came in 2005 when he ran for 80 hours straight, equalling 560km/350mi. The amount of pain and suffering that goes into preparing your body for this kind of exertion is second only to the pain and suffering of completing it. Runners are tough cookies.
19- “With self-discipline, all things are possible.” — Theodore Roosevelt
I couldn’t tell you if ol’ Teddy R. was a runner, but I can take a wild guess. He was (besides president of the United States of America) an accomplished athlete who overcame asthma. He played football back when there was no padding and the only helmet you had was that awful-looking leather one. Roosevelt knew physical and emotional pain in his life and endured. He was a man who could back up his words, so when he says that with self-discipline all things are possible, then yeah, it’s true.
20- “One run can change your day, many runs can change your life.” — Unknown
We’ve relied on metaphors a lot in this article. We’ve also tried to search beneath the surface and explore the deeper reasons why runners run and why all that exertion, pain and obsession is worth it. As the best motivational quotes are, this one is direct, simple and clear. Running is all about the long game, and the results are waiting for you if you put in the effort.
21- “We may train or peak for a certain race, but running is a lifetime sport.” — Unknown
In case you haven’t noticed, runners can be an obsessive bunch. Or, passionate and eccentric if you want a few lighter adjectives. There are plenty of little goals made in running, but they’re just buoys leading you from one to the next. A runner, in the end, doesn’t run for a final, particular ending, they just run.
22- “That’s the thing about running: your greatest runs are rarely measured by racing success. They are moments in time when running allows you to see how wonderful your life is.” — Kara Goucher
Like we said earlier, Goucher knows her stuff. She’s great at articulating those hard to define motivations and benefits involved in running. One of the best things about running is the constant struggling. Eventually, that struggling pays dividends; you’ll meet your goals. You’ll break your goals. You’ll see just what you’re capable of, and it’s always more than you think.
23- “Most people never run far enough on their first wind to find out they’ve got a second.” — William James
To round this out, we have William James’ seminal running quote. A philosopher and psychologist, James was likely speaking metaphorically rather than literally, but the quote works both ways. Don’t give up prematurely. Don’t disqualify yourself before you leave the gate. Go for it.
And there you have it. These are some of our favorite inspirational running quotes. What are yours? Tell us below in the comments.