Things that make you go “Om”: A plodder’s guide to running mantras


“You’re stronger than you think”

“One step at a time”

“I really wish I hadn’t eaten the 5kg bucket of prawn vindaloo I bought at that car boot sale”

Mantras are a useful thing to have in your runner’s toolbox*. Some of you will already use them, some won’t. I’m fairly certain many of you will have been doing it without even realising it. Just in case any of you are scratching your heads and thinking “what is he talking about?” (or “what has any of this got to do with plankton-munching cartilaginous fish of the myliobatidae family?”), a mantra is a short sentence or phrase repeated over and over again**. A good mantra can motivate you through a tough run, help to keep your breathing in rhythm, and generally focus the mind on the task in front of you (or it can work the other way round, serving as a distraction from heavy legs or screaming lungs).

Anyway, there is no set list of approved mantras to choose from, and you’re really only limited by your imagination. I thought I’d share one that popped into my head during a late night 8-miler earlier this week. I’d been idly thinking** about the importance of having a goal-oriented approach to training (and the fact that I don’t have a goal-oriented approach to training), and the following little ditty was suddenly lodged firmly in my brain, to the tune of “Gold” by Spandau Ballet:

“Goal! Always believe in your vole”.


For eight bloody miles.

To be fair, towards the end of the run it was mostly drowned out by the sounds of my own whimpering and teeth-gnashing while trying to stuff my socks in my ears.

Annoyingness (real word) aside, this particular mantra only really makes sense if you have a pet vole that perches on your shoulder during runs, whispering words of encouragement to you in a squeaky rodent voice.

Obviously, such a thing doesn’t exist, and anyone who says otherwise is clearly mad. And anyway, it’s rude to eavesdrop on someone who is asking perfectly reasonable questions in a pet shop.

So, that was my mantra. What are your favourites? The more original the better; let’s leave all the cringeworthy “no pain no gain” stuff to the chaps with the wraparound sunglasses and the bare-chested high-fives. A clumsily-scrawled picture of you with a talking vole will go to my favourite.



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* Along with a sensible nutrition strategy, a mental map of all the best toilet stops and a selection of spanners.
** To be honest, that’s the only sort of thinking I do.

14 thoughts on “Things that make you go “Om”: A plodder’s guide to running mantras

  1. When I first started running I had two mantras. The first, because I felt that running like a duck paddling was a good thing (I knew what I meant) , I used to go “Quack..Quack..Quack..Quack..” in order to remind myself. Oddly, people didn’t seem to consider this made me any more odd than I appeared otherwise, which probably says more about my running “style” than anything else.

    Later, when I’d progressed beyond such childish things, I imagined that I was a paddle-boat on the Mississippi, and used to sing Neil Young’s “Cripple Creek Ferry” under my breath. Only the occasional shoot-out in the saloon interrupted my otherwise languid runs.

    • That made me chuckle like a lunatic. When I’m king, I’ll decree that every year, on the first Saturday of July, everyone must quack industriously while going about their daily business. Whether that be running, prostituting or air-traffic-controlling.

  2. Weird, I mentioned this in my blog today (great minds etc). I saw a card with the phrase ‘the only way you’ll get me to run with you is if a clown is chasing us with a bloody knife and there are margaritas at the finish line’. So as I ran today I was chanting ‘a clown is chasing you, a clown is chasing you’. Very surreal on a sunny morning on Brighton seafront.

    [Nb. I initially mistyped that as ‘a clown is chafing us with a bloody knife’. Now there’s an image for you! ]

    • There will NEVER be a mantra more terrifying than that!

      PS: holiday in Brighton later this month. Any must-run routes, other than the usual seafront promenade thing?

      • Ah the seafront promenade thing never gets old!

        There is an undercliff pass that runs east between Brighton marina and Saltdean. It’s lovely to run along that path then climb the stairs at the end and come back along the top of the cliffs. The top of the cliff runs alongside quite a busy road but it drops off to the side and you can run along the grass by the side of the pavement and I barely notice the traffic. The views of the sea and the city when you are heading back into Brighton are amazing.

        Plus, there are two park runs (Hove and Preston park) so you can take your pick…

  3. If I’m in a good mood I’ll go with ‘run like you stole it’ which always makes me chuckle.

    If I’m really struggling I always repeat what my running buddy from 14 years ago would quietly remind me on the way running up Portsdown Hill: Chin up girl, dig deep.

    Does the trick every time.

  4. Pingback: A Plodder’s Guide to Running Mantras: the Results | Born to Plod

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