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Runners often need a bit of inspiration. It’s not easy to get out of bed in the morning and go for an early Saturday long run or to dig deep for that last kick during the closing mile of a race that seems like it will never end. Powerful words of wisdom can provide that nudge needed to help in your personal battle for strength. We rounded up five of the top motivational quotes and did some research to provide you with their background, so you can learn a little more about the people who coined the phrases that push you.
“To give anything less than your best is to sacrifice the gift.”
One of the most famous running quotes of all-time is by arguably the most famous American runner ever, Steve Prefontaine. The middle- and long-distance runner, often referred to as “Pre,” died at age 24 in a tragic car accident. In college he ran at the University of Oregon under coach Bill Bowerman, founder of Blue Ribbon Sports, later known as Nike. Pre competed in the 1972 Olympics when he was only 21, and before his passing, Pre held every national record between 2,000 and 10,000 meters.
It has been said that Geo Hollister, a retired Nike executive, heard Pre say this powerful statement to a group of high school students while visiting local schools. Pre deemed himself an “International Promotions Ambassador” for Nike and would jog with the high school students on these trips, while Hollister sold and gave away samples of Nike shoes. At the time of his death, Prefontaine was competing for the Oregon Track Club and training for the 1976 Summer Olympics.
“Either you run the day or the day runs you.”
Jim Rohn was an American entrepreneur, author and motivational speaker who lived from 1930 to 2009. This quote specifically can be found in his book The Treasury of Quotes, which contains statements from his personal journals and seminars. While the statement is often applied to fitness, this actually comes from a piece on time management. The full quote reads: “Something will master and something will serve. Either you run the day or the day runs you; either you run the business or the business runs you.” Former mentor to self-help author Tony Robbins, Rohn also coined these runner-friendly gems: “Success is measurable progress in a reasonable amount of time” and “First we form habits, then they form us.”
“Getting your shoes on is the hardest part of any workout.”
This ever-popular quote is often tweaked, with clever marketers and bloggers replacing “getting your shoes on” with “lacing up” or “the first step.” But the original phrase can be attributed to the queen of women’s distance running, Kathrine Switzer. In her book Marathon Woman, Switzer explains this was a popular sentiment even among elite athletes with whom she trained. The first female to enter the Boston Marathon (under the alias K.V. Switzer), she also became the first woman to officially finish the iconic race, although not without a chase: Race official Jock Semple tried to grab her from the course, incensed that a woman was running his race, but Switzer evaded his attack to cross the finish line. She later went on to run 39 marathons, including New York, which she won in 1974. She’s spent the last four-plus decades advocating for gender equality in athletics—and running of course! Switzer finished the Berlin Marathon in 2011 at age 63.
“I may not be the strongest, I may not be the fastest, but I’ll be damned if I’m not trying my hardest.”
The origin of this quote is unknown, but it’s certainly made the rounds onto posters and blogs around the world. It’s possible this mantra was tweaked from a quote by Tim Tebow in 2011 when he was a quarterback with the Denver Broncos—or perhaps he misquoted the original phrase. Either way, when appearing on NBC’s “The Biggest Loser” as a guest, Tebow motivated the contestants by saying, “I am never going to be the fastest, strongest or most athletic but I will always work the hardest.”
“It’s supposed to be hard. If it wasn’t hard, everyone would do it. The hard is what makes it great.”
Eighties kids may recognize this quote from the 1992 family classic “A League of Their Own.” Tom Hanks plays Jimmy Dugan, a former player for the Cubs who was dismissed due to alcohol abuse. Dugan is then recruited to coach The Peaches, one of the teams in the first year of the All-American Girls Professional Baseball League. The film was number one by its second week and made $107 million in the United States. Though not the most famous quote in the film—that award goes to Dugan’s “There’s no crying in baseball!”—a standout saying, for sure, but not one we’d recommend making your race-day mantra.