45 Best Motivational Running Quotes for Race Day

Motivational running quotes are “attentional cues,” says sports psychologist Dr. Haley Perlus. They can trigger our attention and move it to a more positive space when our thoughts get out of control on race day, or in a tough workout. Here are 45 of the best running quotes to motivate you to do your best.

whitney heins running a race
I’ve used the running quote “Stay in it” for when the going gets tough. It’s from an elite running coach, and helps me remember all runners suffer and struggle. It’s one reason why we do it.

Whether it is in pursuit of our goals or a more positive thought pattern, Dr. Perlus explains that “a motivational cue can act as a ‘reset’ or ‘pattern interrupt’ that can have the power to stop our unhelpful thoughts from spiraling things out of control.” A motivational quote can reset us and point us in the right direction. 

Imagine this: you’re 19 miles into your marathon. So far everything about this race has gone as it should. You feel fit, fueled, and steady. But, mile 20 hits and … well … now it feels different. They say mile 20 in a marathon is “when the race begins” but what more can you do if everything else has gone well? 

You can utilize your powerful, powerful mind. 

Everything we do is connected to our body’s ability to utilize the extraordinary power of our brains. And, running is no exception. The best runner knows this sport is as physical as it is psychological. 

(Download the running mantras here). 

best running quotes pin
Pin these best running quotes for race day for later!

So, how can we tap into the incredible asset that is our mental toughness? The easiest and perhaps most “low hanging fruit” of them all is to surround ourselves with motivational quotes for every stage of our training plan. The simple belief that “yes, I can” will take us further than we can ever imagine.

Related: 9 Mental Training Tips for Runners from Sports Psychologists

The Psychology of Motivational Quotes

A motivational quote is an excellent tool in a runner’s toolbelt of success. Dr. Haley Perlus, a sports psychologist, describes motivational quotes as great “attentional cues,” meaning they are powerful in triggering our attention at any given moment. 

Whether it is in pursuit of our goals or a more positive thought pattern, Dr. Perlus explains that “a motivational cue can act as a ‘reset’ or ‘pattern interrupt’ that can have the power to stop our unhelpful thoughts from spiraling things out of control.” A motivational quote can reset us and point us in the right direction. 

Related: How to Choose a Running Mantra

But, “the best ones are not always the most popular,” she cautions. Like a work of art, “the best motivational quotes are the ones that create some sort of experience for the individual person.” Different people view these words in different ways. 

Whatever words catch our attention and get us going again in the right direction are powerful words. But, the quotes that both stop us from negative thoughts and propel us to take the next step forward are even better! There is power in finding the quote that works best for you.

Related: How to Get Your Running Motivation Back

best motivational running quotes pin
Pin these best motivational running quotes for later!

How to Use Inspirational Quotes to Your Advantage

The following is a non-exhaustive list of motivational running quotes. Not every quote will speak to you, and that’s okay. On your own time, choose one or two that hit you with some motivational fire, write them down, and display them in your own space — somewhere you will see every day. A bathroom mirror or wall next to your home gym are great locations to start. Once you’ve internalized these quotes, extract the most important thing and internalize that small nugget of inspiration for whenever tough runs or tough days come. 

For example, you can summarize the following famous quote by Christopher McDougall into a quick-witted phrase like “get running,” “outrun the lion,” or “run hard; don’t starve.”

Related: 26 Pro Marathon Training Tips for Race Day Success  

“Every morning in Africa, a gazelle wakes up, it knows it must outrun the fastest lion or it will be killed. Every morning in Africa, a lion wakes up. It knows it must run faster than the slowest gazelle, or it will starve. It doesn’t matter whether you’re the lion or a gazelle-when the sun comes up, you’d better be running.”

Whatever you decide, ensure these words speak to that little voice that motivates your inner strength, helps you push past your comfort zone, and set your eyes on new sights.

Enjoy these words below. Let them fuel you to ignite your own power — from the first time you lace up your running shoes to the hard work of race day. Your tough runs will be worth the inner peace that comes when you don’t allow your individual limits to stymie you from meeting your biggest challenge

Find the words that resonate with you, make them part of the routine, and use them for your greatest runs and tough times.

Related: Answers to Every Runner’s Question: WHY Am I Doing This?

Quotes to Motivate You During Training

  1. “We are what we repeatedly do. Excellence, then, is not an act, but a habit.” (Often attributed to Aristotle)
  2. “No matter how slow you run, you’re still lapping everyone on the couch.”
  3. “You don’t have to run fast, you just have to run!”
  4. “Only the disciplined ones are free in life. If you are undisciplined, you are a slave to your moods.” (Eliud Kipchoge)
  5. “Stepping outside the comfort zone is the price I pay to find out how good I can be. If I planned on backing off every time running got difficult I would hang up my shoes and take up knitting.” (Des Linden)
  6. “You don’t get what you wish for, you get what you work for.”
  7. “Hard work pays off.”
  8. “If it doesn’t challenge you, it won’t change you.” 
  9. “Don’t worry about what’s coming tomorrow. Let today’s ‘hard’ be enough.”
  10. “It doesn’t get easier. You just get stronger.”
  11. “Run often. Run long. But never outrun your joy of running.” (Julie Isphording)
  12. My philosophy on running is, I don’t dwell on it, I do it.” (Joan Benoit Samuelson)
  13. Life is for participating, not for spectating.” (Kathrine Switzer)
  14. You will receive what you ask for … no more, no less.” (Mark Allen)
  15. “You are stronger than you think.”
Running quotes can keep your brain on the right track so you don’t give up!

Quotes to Motivate You in the Off Season or When You’re Sidelined by Injury

  1. “No athlete is truly tested until they’ve stared down an injury and come out on the other side.” 
  2. “Turn your setbacks into comebacks.”
  3. “Write your injuries in dust, your benefits in marble.” (Benjamin Franklin)
  4. “Never say never, because limits, like fears, are often just an illusion.” (Michael Jordan)
  5. “The hard days are the best because that’s where champions are made.” (Gabby Douglas)
  6. “Persistence can change failure into extraordinary achievement.” (Matt Biondi)
  7. “The ones who say ‘You can’t’ and ‘You won’t’ are probably the ones scared that you will” 
  8. “Your greatest struggles will be your greatest lessons.”
  9. “Most of us have enough areas in our lives where we have to meet others’ expectations. Let your running be about your own hopes and dreams.” (Meb Keflezighi)
  10. “You have to remember that the hard days are what make you stronger. The bad days make you realize what a good day is. If you never had any bad days, you would never have that sense of accomplishment!” (Aly Raisman)
  11. Progress is rarely a straight line. There are always bumps in the road, but you can make the choice to keep looking ahead.” (Kara Goucher)
  12. Don’t let fear decide your future.” (Shalane Flanagan)
  13. “Runners don’t quit. We fade; we “hit the wall”; we’re sometimes reduced to a walk. But we keep on.” (Amby Burfoot)
  14. “What has passed is already finished with. What I find more interesting is what is still to come.” (Emil Zatopek)
  15. “The past can hurt, but the way I see it you can either run from it or learn from it.” (Rafiki, The Lion King)

Related: Injury During Marathon Training? Here’s What to Do! 

Quotes to Motivate You in the Middle of a Race

  1. Pain is inevitable, suffering is optional.” (Often attributed to Haruki Murakami)
  2. “Run brave, no matter what.” (Alexi Pappas)
  3. “Forward is a pace.”
  4. “You have a choice: you can throw in the towel or use it to wipe the sweat off your face.”
  5. “To give anything less than your best is to sacrifice the gift.” (Steve Prefontaine)
  6. “You don’t run with your feet — you run with your heart.” (Deena Kastor)
  7. “Just keep running. The finish line is waiting for you.”
  8. Focus on where you are instead of where you wish you were. The joy will follow.” (John Bingham)
  9. “Run when you can, walk if you have to, crawl if you must; just never give up.” (Dean Karnazes)
  10. “One step at a time. One round at a time. Know your why. It’s really just one step at a time. Whether that’s a race or in real life. You just have to know your why.” (Allyson Felix)
  11. “I breathe in strength and breathe out weakness.” (Amy Hastings Cragg)
  12. “If you want to win anything — a race, yourself, your life — you have to go a little berserk.” (George A. Sheehan) 
  13. “In running, it doesn’t matter whether you come in first, in the middle of the pack, or last. You can say, ‘I have finished.’ There is a lot of satisfaction in that.” (Fred Lebow)
  14. “Courage!”
  15. “Just keep swimming.” (Dory, Finding Nemo) 

Related: 13 Smart Race Day Tips to Nail Your Marathon PR

Make these quotes yours–and see what big things you can do with a little inspiration!

Note: All quotes are taken from third party sources found through a simple Google search. Any quotes listed without an author are either credited to an anonymous source or simply a phrase used by the author. 

If you need help with going after your running goals, I would love to help. Check out my run coaching services. Also, be sure to check out my free training plans:

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