It’s pretty common for runners, especially distance runners who do a lot of solo runs, to have a mantra, phrase, or meditation phrase. The word or words are intended to ground the athlete and keep the mind from, in essence, breaking down. When the mind breaks down, the body often follows. When the mind gets sloppy, so does form. When the mind lets you down, the body will too.
Some are concrete, like “One more mile”. Some are abstract, like Kara Goucher’s “I am here now.” But the main thing to consider is that it must be personal and simple.
In the early days of Christian monasticism, there were groups of hermits who are commonly called the Desert Fathers or Desert Mothers. They would basically wander in the wilderness for weeks, months, or years, living on what they could find. As they wandered, they’d often have phrases they’d meditate on. In days when they felt they couldn’t go on, though, many would simply use one word to get them through. That word wasn’t “God”, “Jesus”, or anything inherently related to Christianity. Instead, the word was “Today.”
Greg Boyle, in an episode of On Being with Krista Tippet, relays this story and offhandedly says that a modern evolution of this is “Now. Here. This.” I found that to resonate with me and I’ve used it consistently the last few weeks to get me through a few long runs, including a 17-miler today.
It grounds me and returns me to the present. In doing so, it keeps me mind fully present, allowing me to feel each step, pain, landing, and push off as a blessing. My mind can’t go into “worst-case-scenario” mode when I just take each moment as a present, fleeting, and temporary moment.
Maybe this phrase doesn’t work for you, but I encourage you to find your own. If you already have a phrase, what is it?