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These are my favorite ultra running quotes. Authors, explorers, and–of course–ultra runners themselves have offered their wisdom and perspective to the sport. Here are some of the greatest quotes about endurance and perseverance, and a few of my thoughts along the way.
1. “I’m not the strongest. I’m not the fastest. But I’m really good at suffering.” Amelia Boone
2. “The word adventure has gotten overused. For me, when everything goes wrong–that’s when adventure starts.” Yvon Chouinard
3. “I just took my second nap. They’ve both been about 10 minutes. I have a marathon left to go, and 10 hours to do it in. My feet are pretty beat up. But… the rest of me feels kind of ok, uh, so I’m just going to keep going until I don’t feel ok. And then I’m going to keep going until I’m done.” Eugene Day at the 2022 Walla Trails Hamster Endurance Runs 32 hour.
4. “There’s no way to un-run an ultramarathon. The world is the same but your view of yourself is now fundamentally different.” Paul Butzi
5. “The danger of an adventure is worth a thousand days of ease and comfort.” Paolo Coelho
The Alchemist by Paolo Coelho is a fantastical adventure that is often cited as a source of inspiration for people who try hard things, or follow their dreams. Ultra runners are people who try hard things and follow their dreams. You might like my must-read list of ultra running books, too.
6. “Any idiot can run a marathon, it takes a special kind of idiot to run an ultra marathon.” Alan Cabelly
7. “It is unfair to man’s greatest achievements to behold a mountain sunrise.” PineTreePoet
No matter how highly we think of ourselves, our accomplishments are paled by the beauty of the natural world. This mindset makes trail and ultra running special; the serenity of the mountain forests is as special as crossing the finish line. While you’re here, check out my 61 original mountain poems, 44 adventurous hiking poems, or original poems about love.
8. “Comfort Is A Lie.” Wicked Trail Running
Wicked Trail Running has published quite a few awesome ultra running quotes (they even sell prints with their best). ‘Comfort Is A Lie’ is the foundation of ultra running, a philosophical pillar of the sport. Check out their ‘Comfort Is A Lie’ gear right here.
9. “I must not fear. Fear is the mind-killer. Fear is the little-death that brings total obliteration. I will face my fear. I will permit it to pass over me and through me. And when it has gone past I will turn the inner eye to see its path. Where the fear has gone there will be nothing. Only I will remain.” Dune
10. “Perhaps the genius of ultra running is its supreme lack of utility. It makes no sense in a world of space ships and supercomputers to run vast distances on foot. There is no money in it and no fame, frequently not even the approval of peers. But as poets, apostles and philosophers have insisted from the dawn of time, there is more to life than logic and common sense. The ultra runners know this instinctively. And they know something else that is lost on the sedentary. They understand, perhaps better than anyone, that the doors to the spirit will swing open with physical effort. In running such long and taxing distances they answer a call from the deepest realms of their being — a call that asks who they are …” David Blaikie
11. “Tell me, what is it you plan to do with your one wild and precious life?” Mary Oliver
12. “My first ultra marathon took from me what I didn’t know I had and showed me what I didn’t know I was missing.” Wicked Trail Running
Shop Wicked Trail Running Inspirational Quote Prints
13. “Pain unlocks a secret doorway in the mind, one that leads to both peak performance and beautiful silence.” David Goggins
14. “Sometimes there’s not a better way. Sometimes there’s only the hard way.” Mary Pearson
15. “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.” Christopher McDougall
16. “Do not stop thinking of life as an adventure. You have no security unless you can live bravely, excitingly, imaginatively, unless you can choose a challenge instead of a competence.” Eleanor Roosevelt
Do you think your security depends on choosing challenge and living bravely? Eleanor Roosevelt thought so. We do too. In choosing ultra running, we turn down competence for something greater, a human molded by a trial of discomfort. There is ultimate security in improving our toughness and resolve by voluntary challenge.
17. “Endurance is not just the ability to bear a hard thing, but to turn it into glory.” William Barclay
One of my favorite books for ultra runners is called Endurance: Shackleton’s Incredible Voyage. It gives the reader an intimate look into the massive discomfort and fatigue that befell Ernest Shackleton’s expedition to Antarctica in the early 1900s. His entire crew survived for over 2 years stranded in Antarctica, and their trials and hardships are breathtaking to modern people. Click the link below to buy the book and make sure to check out my list of must-read ultra running books.
18. “It doesn’t always get worse.” attributed to Ann Trason
19. “Awakenings are always terrifying, as they force you to realize that your past has been lived in confinement. The most disturbing part is when you recognize that the shackles holding you down are largely ones you have placed upon yourself.” Dean Karnazes
20. “Only those who will risk going too far can possibly find out how far one can go.” T.S. Eliot
21. “If it’s a nod from society you’re looking for, run a marathon. But if it’s a life-changing experience of personal strength and perseverance that you want, finish an ultra.” Vanessa Runs
22. “Endurance races are a microcosm of life; you’re high, you’re low, in the race, out of the race, crushing it, getting crushed, managing fears, rewriting stories.” Travis Macy
23. “People of mediocre ability sometimes achieve outstanding success because they don’t know when to quit.” George Herbert Allen
This quote is special because normal people accomplish incredible feats of endurance during every ultra marathon. Your ability, athletic gifts, and years-developed skill are often overshadowed by your refusal to surrender to comfort during ultra marathons. And in that overshadowing we find incredible achievement.
24. “It is not the critic who counts; not the man who points out how the strong man stumbles, or where the doer of deeds could have done them better. The credit belongs to the man who is actually in the arena, whose face is marred by dust and sweat and blood; who strives valiantly; who errs, and comes short again and again, because there is no effort without error and shortcoming; but who does actually strive to do the deeds; who knows the great enthusiasms, the great devotions; who spends himself in a worthy cause; who at the best knows in the end the triumph of high achievement, and who at the worst, if he fails, at least fails while daring greatly, so that his place shall never be with those cold and timid souls who know neither victory nor defeat.” Theodore Roosevelt
25. “Find the level of intolerance you can tolerate and stay there.” David Horton
26. “Life is a headlong rush into the unknown. We can hunker down and hope nothing hits us or we can stand tall, lean into the wind and say, ‘Bring it on, darlin’, and don’t be stingy with the jalapeños.'” JM “Red” Spicer
27. “Pain and suffering are often the catalysts for life’s most profound lessons.” Dean Karnazes
28. “Discomfort is the price of admission to a meaningful life.” Susan David
29. “For me, running is both exercise and a metaphor. Running day after day, piling up the races, bit by bit I raise the bar, and by clearing each level I elevate myself.” Haruki Murakami
30. “Sleep and water are my two biggest performance boosters.” Jim Walmsley
If there’s anyone we ought to listen to, it’s the guy who won the Western States 100 three years in a row. More sleep, more water. You got it, Jim.
31. “We can all stop and quit when we hit our wall, when fatigue screams louder than purpose. And we can all take one more step.” Wicked Trail Running
32. “Run when you can, walk if you have to, crawl if you must; just never give up.” Dean Karnazes
33. “Twenty years from now you will be more disappointed by the things you didn’t do than by the things you did.” Mark Twain
34. “To appreciate the beauty of a snowflake it is necessary to stand out in the cold.” Aristotle
35. “Struggling and suffering are the essence of a life worth living. If you’re not pushing yourself beyond the comfort zone, if you’re not demanding more from yourself – expanding and learning as you go – you’re choosing a numb existence. You’re denying yourself an extraordinary trip.” Dean Karnazes
36. “Every accomplishment starts with the decision to try.” John F. Kennedy
37. “Ultra runners can fail like everyone else. But we’re unique in how fast, and gladly, we return to the arena.” Wicked Trail Running
Most ultra runners have failed. These races can be grueling events. This quote gives life to the defeated runner: we don’t run because failure isn’t possible. We run because we know failure is often a stepping stone to massive success.
38. “Thresholds don’t exist in terms of our bodies. Our speed and strength depend on our body, but the real thresholds, those that make us give up or continue the struggle, those that enable us to fulfill our dreams, depend not on our bodies but on our minds and the hunger we feel to turn dreams into reality.” Kilian Jornet
39. “Heroism is endurance for one moment more.” George F Kennan
40. “There’s no such thing as bad weather, just soft people.” Bill Bowerman
41. “Pain is temporary. It may last a minute, or an hour, or a day, or a year, but eventually it will subside and something else will take its place. If I quit, however, it lasts forever.” Lance Armstrong
42. “I always tell my athletes, don’t confuse difficulty with failure.” Eric Orton
43. “People sometimes sneer at those who run every day, claiming they’ll go to any length to live longer. But I don’t think that’s the reason most people run. Most runners run not because they want to live longer, but because they want to live life to the fullest. If you’re going to while away the years, it’s far better to live them with clear goals and fully alive than in a fog, and I believe running helps you do that. Exerting yourself to the fullest within your individual limits: that’s the essence of running…” Haruki Murakami
44. “There are a million reasons to be miserable. It only takes one to be happy.” Amelia Boone
45. “Never give power to your pain.” Jason Mosel
46. “The worst thing that can happen to a man is to become civilized.” David Goggins
47. “Climb mountains not so the world can see you, but so you can see the world.” David McCullough Jr.
48. “I’ve always had the feeling that nothing is impossible is one applies a certain amount of energy in the right direction. If you want to do it, you can do it.” Nellie Bly
49. “I don’t want you to overcome fear of failure, I want you to be afraid of failure.” Jocko Willink
50. “Believe you can and you’re halfway there.” Theodore Roosevelt
51. “There are lessons in life that can only be learned through fairly massive deviations from our normal, comfortable routines. These lessons alter our perspective on life and better equip us to deal with life’s unforeseen challenges. They can sharpen our optimism and generate a deeper appreciation for the simple things in life.” Jared Campbell
52. “Your body will argue that there is no justifiable reason to continue. Your only recourse is to call on your spirit, which fortunately functions independently of logic.” Tim Noakes
53. “The human body is capable of amazing physical deeds. If we could just free ourselves from our perceived limitations and tap into our internal fire, the possibilities are endless.” Dean Karnazes
54. “I am not afraid to fail; to get lost, to dream, to be myself, to find. I am not afraid to live.” Kilian Jornet
55. “Your greatest moments won’t come on race day. They’ll come on those training days when you realize you have what it takes.” Wicked Trail Running
Which quote will you put in your drop bag for race day? During the dark moments of your ultra marathon, a simple quote or mantra can steer your mind away from the doubts and worries that are sure to raise their voices. This list of ultra running quotes is a microcosm of the inspirational words and ideas surrounding the world of distance running. Want more? Be sure to explore my recommended books.
And next time a friend, coworker, or family member want to know just what is so appealing about running dozens (or hundreds) of miles, send them this page. Maybe they’ll sign up with you.
The greatest gift I can give you are the tools to run farther, train better, and embrace more challenges. These 55 ultra running quotes are 55 more tools in your shed; when there is work to do and your mind is tired, pull one of these out and stay your course.
Let me know your favorite quote in the comments below, or recommend another.