How I Set Running Goals, And How You Can Too

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Setting goals in running is a big motivator for lifelong runners. It keeps the weeks from becoming monotonous and it gives every run a sense of purpose.


Even when between training periods, runners who consistently set goals will often find that keeping a steady base is important to ramping up their next big thing.

Some might automatically assume that goals are equal to PRs in a race. But goals don’t necessarily have to be clock-based in running. There are so many different types of goals that runners of all abilities in all stages of life can benefit from setting them.

How do I set goals?

Achievable, but big: When I set a goal, I need it to be achievable. Sure, I’d love to run a 3-minute mile, but that’s probably not going to happen. Setting a time goal for my next race should be something that I am physically capable of, but is a big enough goal that I have to work for it.

Adjustable: Sometimes things start to really click in training and the paces start to feel easy. Adjusting your goals should always be an option. Far too many of us are aware that we can adjust when things get tough, but many of us don’t adjust to challenge ourselves even more.

Training goals vs. racing goals: It’s no secret that racing goals are the easiest types of goals to set. But setting goals throughout training can be a motivator. You can do something as easy as mileage per week/month/year. Set a goal to run 1,000’ of hills each month or find 12 new running routes this year.

Big-picture goals: If you have finished a 5K and would one day like to run a marathon, what are the goals you need to reach in between? Or if you desire to one day run a sub-2-hour half marathon, what benchmarks do you need to hit on your journey? It can seem improbable when you look at the big goal, but having goals along the way makes it much more likely.

Don’t stop, get creative: I’ve been setting goals in running for over 20 years. From my first sub-6 mile in high school to setting course records, I love having something to work for. The exciting thing is that there is always something else!

The world of running is vast. Going longer and faster is obvious, but try running and racing in different states or countries.

Volunteer, crew, or pace as often as you race. Raise money for your favorite charity through running. Try a trail race. Try a unique distance like an 8K or 12K. Setting goals doesn’t always have to be serious!

Carissa Liebowitz has run the Boston Marathon as well as dozens of marathons and half marathons. You can follow her running adventures on StravaInstagram and her blog.

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