What maxims, or quotes, or pieces of advice—that have nothing to do with running—do runners think about? (Illustration: Brendan Leonard)

What We Think About When We Think About Running

38 quotes that we interpret for our own needs


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Mark Twain was not a runner, at least to my knowledge. But I think of this Twain quote nearly every time I go running, once I’ve finally dragged myself out the door: “It’s easier to stay out than get out.” When he penned that line in the late 1800s, there’s zero chance he was referring to my habit of procrastinating when it comes to running. Yet I never cease to marvel at how true it is.

So I got to wondering: What other maxims, or quotes, or pieces of advice—that have nothing to do with running—do runners think about? I asked people on Instagram and Twitter, and I got a ton of responses. Here are a bunch of my favorites:


“You don’t have to do this. You get to do this.”
—Tom Kubis (via Mira Brody)


“The point of diving into a lake is not immediately to swim to the shore, but to be in the lake, to luxuriate in the sensation of water. You do not work the lake out.”
—John Keats (via Zoë Rom)


“Sometimes maybe good, sometimes maybe shit.”
—Gennaro Gattuso (via Anthony Cooper)


“Direction is more important than speed.”
—Richard Feynman (via Ben DuPey)


“Everybody wanna be a bodybuilder, but don’t nobody want to lift no heavy-ass weights.”
—Ronnie Coleman (via Lauren DeLaunay Miller)


“Hard things are hard.”
—Plaque on Barack Obama’s desk (via Marc Heinzman)


“It gets easier, but you got to do it everyday. That’s the hard part.”
—Jogging baboon in BoJack Horseman (via Pedro Dipe)


“Never forget to be dextrous and deft. And never mix up your right foot with your left.”
—Dr. Seuss, Oh, the Places You’ll Go! (via Katharine Spector)


“There is nothing either good or bad, but thinking makes it so.”
—Hamlet, Hamlet (via Koen van Meeuwen)


“Though this be madness, yet there is method in’t.”
—Polonius, Hamlet (via Koen van Meeuwen)


Fuck, fuck, fuck, mutha mutha fuck
Mutha mutha fuck fuck
Mutha fuck mutha fuck
Noinch noinch noinch.
—Jay, “Jay’s Rap,” Jay and Silent Bob Strike Back (via Scott Griffin)


“Put one foot in front of the other.”
—From Santa Claus Is Coming to Town (via Carley Anna DeKryger)


“The cure for pain is in the pain.”
—Rumi (from Murat Koksel)


“Compulsive avoidance of embarrassment is a form of suicide.”
—Colin Marshall (via Reid Belew)


“I never saw a wild thing
sorry for itself.
A small bird will drop frozen dead from a bough
without ever having felt sorry for itself.”
—D.H. Lawrence (via Mark Griffith)


“Passion is the bridge that takes you from pain to change.”
—Frida Kahlo (via Candace Gonzales)


“Well, this is gonna hurt like a motherfucker.”
—Michael Scott, The Office (via Henry Lilly)


“Go farther
Go further
Go harder
Is that not why we came?
And if not then why bother?”
—Jay-Z, “Mr. Carter” (via Jason Cartwright)


“I can see no way out but through.”
—Robert Frost, from “A Servant to Servants” (via lots of people)


“If you’re going through hell, keep going.”
—Winston Churchill (via lots of people)


“Just keep swimming.”
—Dory, Finding Nemo (via lots of people)


“Instead of trying to build a brick wall, lay a brick everyday. Eventually, you’ll look up and you’ll have a brick wall.”
—Nipsey Hussle (via Katie Stepp)


“Hold on as long as you think you should—then hold on a little longer.”
—Kellen Caldwell’s music teacher, talking about long, dramatic pauses (via Kellen Caldwell)


“Float downstream
It is not dying.”
—John Lennon and Paul McCartney, “Tomorrow Never Knows” (via Liam Gayter)


“It never gets easier—you just get faster.”
―Greg LeMond (via Mark Roddy)


“First with the head, then with the heart.”
—Bryce Courtenay, The Power of One (via Meaghen Brown)


“A cynic is a man who knows the price of everything and the value of nothing.”
—Oscar Wilde, Lady Windermere’s Fan (via Steve Cizik)


“You miss 100 percent of the shots you don’t take.”
—Wayne Gretzky (via Ronni Bucklan)


“It doesn’t have to be fun to be fun.”
—Mark Twight (via John Cox)


“Not everything that counts can be counted, and not everything that can be counted counts.”
—Albert Einstein (via Anna Papuga)


“Experience is what you get when you didn’t get what you wanted.”
—Randy Pausch, “Last Lecture” (from Liz Coda)


“Nobody realizes that some people expend tremendous energy merely to be normal.”
—Albert Camus, Notebook IV in Notebooks: 1942–1951 (via Emily Hansen)


“Nobody made a greater mistake than he who did nothing because he could do only little.”
—Edmund Burke (via Andrew GottWorth)


“I don’t know anything about luck, just that the more I train, the more luck I seem to have.”
—Ingemar Stenmark (via Gustaf Sjöstrand)


“If you stop now, you’ll be back to where you were before you started, which is wanting to be where you are right now.”
—Martin Atwood Park (via Martin Atwood Park)


“First you master your instrument, then you master the music, then you forget all that shit and just play.”
—Charlie Parker (via Justin Miller)


“I do not compete with the rest of the world. I compete only with myself, for my progress is my true victory.”
—Sri Chinmoy (via Kevin Hancock)

Brendan Leonard’s new book, I Hate Running and You Can Too, is available now.

Lead Illustration: Brendan Leonard

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