Sometimes, you just can’t do it alone.
You might realize it at mile 20 of a marathon, or with a daunting hill looming just ahead during a 100-mile bicycle ride. You might feel like reaching for a Styrofoam noodle midway through an open-water swim, or question your sanity while tugging on your cycling shoes during a triathlon.
Then, just when you’re ready to buckle, someone — your best friend, husband or a total stranger — says something that pulls you out of the gutter. You fight to the finish. Without them, you never would have made it.
We asked readers to share the most inspiring thing anyone ever said to get them through a grueling event. From the high school track coach who advised his team to "Run your own race" to the guy who yelled "The free pizza tent is almost out," we loved what we heard.
Here, we share some of our favorite responses.
Next time you think you just can’t turn the pedals one more time, when you’d rather sit down on the curb and take off your shoes than keep running, remember these words.
They just might get you to the finish line.
"My husband — with tears in his eyes and a break in his voice — telling me how proud he was of me. I think I could have kept going for days on that one …" — Mary Beth Saenz
"A competitor and teammates said I had a fat (butt) on the start line. I spent the whole race thwarting their entire team and beating them at the finish." — Bob McGhee
"A stranger started to pass me at mile 25 of the Chicago Marathon one year. I’d been having stomach cramps for several miles, and another wave of nausea broke just as she passed. I groaned and slowed to a walk. She stopped, turned around, and said, ‘Nope, not gonna just run by. Come on, let’s go — we’re going to finish together.’ We did. When I turned around to thank her at the finish line, she was gone." — Kim Smith Unberhagen
"At approximately mile 18 of the Ottawa Marathon this past May, there was a motivational speaker on a stage at the water stop, and he was the greatest cheerleader you could ever imagine. He just kept saying, ‘You were meant to be here today, you are blessed, you are strong.’ A dude who pulled in for Gatorade next to me said, ‘I’m going to cry now.’ We both did." — Patty Trimble
"In the Livestrong Austin Half Marathon last year, a cancer survivor had a sign that said ‘You’re running for me.’ Seeing that gave me a whole new perspective." — Angela Russell
"You didn’t come to New York to walk, did you?" — Peter Dolan
"Do you want to SAG? Somewhere around 65 miles into a 100-plus mile ride at the ACA Hill Country Classic … on my mountain bike. I rode hard to make the cutoff, so I could do the 100-mile route. Some miles later and I started to cramp up. Kept pushing on, but by this time I was riding by myself, pretty sure I was last. Sure enough, a volunteer in a truck is waiting by a course direction sign and offers to call the SAG if I want. I just put my head down, said ‘no thanks’ and kept going. I felt bad for him having to wait at each sign for me, so I kicked it up a notch. I think he was a bit annoyed waiting for me at first, but by the end he was giving me kudos for toughing it out. What a great ride." — Clark Stringer
"It’s better than a hospital bed!" — Kim Meyer (after recovering from a stroke, to her friend who was recovering from a bike crash)
"It doesn’t have to be pretty, you just have to finish." — Stacy Phillips
"I’m 40, Garrett. If I pass you up, I’m going to run you until I can’t run anymore and then when I recover I’m going to run you again." — Jon Garrett
"Mile 8 of the 3M Half Marathon last year I wanted a ride to the finish. I couldn’t go on, when all of a sudden there was a man playing guitar singing about trains. My mom, who passed away 8 years ago, was a train expert. I’d say that was divine intervention!" — Kat Greene
"Before the race, my husband said, ‘I’ll be disappointed in you if you don’t run the whole thing.’ Those words kept swirling around in my delirious mind the last mile, but they kept my feet moving and I finished well!" — Karissa Hensley Kornegay
"‘Awesome, you’re almost there!’ Yes, it was that simple." — Marvin Jansen
"There’s beer at the finish line." — Rafael Marquez