14 Pro Runners Share the Quotes That Get Them Through Tough Runs

Photo illustration by: Aly Lim
Photo illustration by: Aly Lim

Running can be rough. Sometimes, you find yourself aching through every mile. Other times you chafe so badly you stain your clothes with blood. And every so often, after all those hours, days, weeks spent training, you have to pull out of a race you've been working toward when something unexpected like an injury gets in the way. Persevering through it all is just as much of a mental challenge as it is a physical one. So it's no surprise that runners often cling to certain motivational running quotes to get them through the toughest moments.

Whether you're starting to run for the first time, returning to running, or have a decades-long habit built up, you've probably caught yourself turning to a motivational running mantra to help get yourself out the door or keep your pace up at some point in your running journey. To give you access to more words of wisdom when you need it, we asked 14 well-known runners for the motivational running quotes they return to over and over. The next time you find yourself caught on the struggle bus, think back on one of these mantras to help you find your way off of it.


"My favorite quote is 'When it starts to hurt, that's when you get to show how tough you are.' My coach said this to me before a marathon once and it's stuck with me ever since. I always use it in training and races to get me through tough patches. It makes me excited for the hard miles, rather than scared of them!"

Rose Harvey, professional marathon runner for Puma

"'There is nothing more satisfying to the spirit, more defining of our character, than giving our all to a difficult task.' This is from President Barack Obama's inaugural address in 2009. It seemed to sum up my career as an athlete, but I soon found out that it relates to so much of life. I rely on this quote for encouragement all the time, or offer it as strength to others who are going through a challenge."

Deena Kastor, Olympic marathon medalist, former American record holder in every distance from the 5K to the marathon, and advisory board member of the Team Milk's Every Woman's Marathon

"The first quote is from a Shel Silverstein poem: 'Anything can happen child, anything can be.' I read this in the lead up to my first Olympics, London 2012, then promptly forgot it. During the race, the line "anything can happen child, anything can be" popped up in my head during the second half. I repeated it over and over and ended up finishing as the top American, as a 21 year old, and running a big PR. That quote is a reminder to not place limits on yourself.

"Another quote I think of is, 'Make your future self proud.' I want to work every day to put myself in a position where, no matter what the end result is, I can look back and know I did the work. I don't want to regret that I left something on the table. I've trained and competed at a high level for over 15 years and the consistency in work is so important to sustain a long career. If you are consistently doing good work, you give yourself the best opportunity for success but if you fail, you can look back and know it wasn't for lack of effort."
Emma Coburn, professional runner for New Balance, 3000m steeplechase world champion, and Olympic medalist

"The quote 'There is no failure; you either win or you learn' reminds me not to be too hard on myself. Whether it is during training, mothering my daughter, or building Saysh, any failure is a lesson. It empowers me to take more risks, knowing that the worst thing that can happen is I walk into an opportunity to learn and grow." —Allyson Felix, 11-time Olympic medalist in track and field, and founder of women's running shoe company Saysh

Getty | Westend61

"'Fill your mind with courage and your heart with faith. Everything is going to work out even better than you had hoped!' I use this quote when there's any fear involved with a risk I'm about to take or a hard task I'm about to attempt. It allows me to continue to put myself out there by reminding me that no matter if I succeed or fail, I'll always end up better."

Nell Rojas, professional marathon runner for Nike

"Entering the running world, I struggled to find fellow distance runners with a similar background to my own. As a Black, plus-size, and chronically ill woman, finding acceptance seemed daunting. Amidst this, I found solace in a quote that I stumbled across by Florence Griffith Joyner, known to many as Flo-Jo: 'I believe in the impossible because no one else does.' Refusing to accept impossibility, I strive to challenge stereotypes daily, holding onto Flo-Jo's words as my guiding light."

Latoya Shauntay Snell, Hoka-sponsored ultrarunner and body politics advocate

"One mantra I've gone back to a lot is to 'be the eye of the storm.' A sports psych coach taught me this and it's something I use before most big events or races. I'm pretty introverted so it helps me stay relaxed amidst all the chaos! This phrase helps me focus by acknowledging all the hype, noise, interviews, etc. around me exist (and that in fact they can be good for promoting our sport!) but that this doesn't have to affect me. I can be the calm center while everything else is just there around me."

Emily Sisson, professional runner for New Balance, current American marathon record holder and 2024 Paris Olympics marathon qualifier

"I recently saw this quote from Kara Goucher: 'It doesn't matter how fast or how far you're going. If you're putting on your shoes and going out for a run, you are a runner, you are in that club.' In 2023, I went through some personal life events that led to a few month's hiatus from running. When I started to feel ready to return to running again, I pondered what it meant to be a runner and why running played a significant part in my life. I realized that many of my running memories were not focused on how fast I ran but, rather, how I felt at that moment. The reality is, as Kara puts it so well, we are all runners regardless of our bodies, the mileage we put up each week, or our mile paces, and sometimes we need a reminder like this." —Danielle McLaughlin, adaptive athlete, former paratriathlon world champion, and advisory board member for Team Milk's Every Woman's Marathon

"My favorite quote is 'Trust the process.' It is so important in running (and life!) to recognize patience and consistency are key to success. "Trust the process" reminds me of that and helps me enjoy the journey to the goal."

Neely Spence Gracey, professional runner and world record holder for fastest female mile pushing a stroller

Getty | Catherine Falls Commercial

"'Whenever you find yourself doubting how far you can go, just remember how far you have come. Remember everything you have faced, all the battles you have won, and all the fears you have overcome. Then raise your head high and forge ahead knowing you've got this.' This quote [from N.R. Walker's The Weight of It All] is always a good reminder to me, especially when things get hard as they do sometimes during a race or training run."

Jacky Hunt-Broersma, amputee ultrarunner who holds a world record for running 104 marathons in 104 days

"Lately I'm hyped up on 'Have kids and dreams,' which comes from professional runner Makenna Myler, a mom of two who just finished seventh (and ran a significant personal best time) at the U.S. Olympic Team Trials Marathon, 10 months after having her second baby. I love an empowering reminder that women can have babies and raise children while simultaneously pursuing their biggest career-related, running-related, passion-filled dreams."

Ali Feller, host of Ali On The Run podcast

"'I can do hard things.' A lot of people limit themselves when things get hard. Overcoming hard things prepares you for anything. Nothing worth doing is easy, so I've embraced hardship and I let it motivate me."

Gabby Thomas, professional track and field runner for New Balance and two-time Olympic medalist

"'Forward is a pace' is my mantra. I believe that everyone moving their body should feel proud of themselves no matter their pace. In running there is a stigma that you have to move "fast" to be considered a runner, but in actuality, paces do not define your effort, passion or strength. If you are moving forward, you're moving — and that is the most important thing!"

Becs Gentry, Peloton instructor

"'Adversity causes some people to break; others to break records.' I found this [quote from William Arthur Ward] on a card during my training camp in Flagstaff, Arizona, this year. Throughout my life I have faced a lot of adversity and it has always motivated me to be better and to get to where I am today, and sometimes I forget that. The last few months have been really trying for me due to injury. The truth is, just like in other moments where I have faced adversity, this experience has fueled me to want to be better and has made me more hungry to reach my goals."

Heather MacLean, Olympian and middle distance runner for New Balance

Jennifer Heimlich is a writer and editor with more than 15 years experience in fitness and wellness journalism. She previously worked as the senior fitness editor for Well+Good and the editor in chief of Dance Magazine. A regular marathoner, she's written about running and fitness for publications like Runner's World, The Atlantic, and Women's Running. In her free time she leads running tours in Boston, and is working toward her UESCA run coach certification.