Set Running Goals You Can Achieve in the New Year

As 2014 draws to a close, and 2015 quickly approaches, it’s time to set your running goals for the new year. No matter what level of runner you are, setting goals can be a fun and easy way to unlock your true potential. However, setting goals that are beyond your reach is unfair, and may discourage you from running altogether. Follow me as I show you how to set achievable feats to keep you on target for a healthy, and happy, new year.

Make Your Goals Achievable 

We would all love to run a 2 hour 30 minute marathon, or tackle a 100-mile foot race, but these may not be “realistic” goals to reach within a 12-month period. Instead of setting the bar too high, allow yourself time to grow into the runner you wish to become. Try shaving off a few seconds from each mile, adding an extra race or two to your calendar, or putting more focus on training. These are all reasonable goals that you can accomplish over the next year. And they will keep you excited about your progress as you achieve each one of them.

Pick Your Goals

Many runners aim to increase speed, distance, and number of races for their new year’s running resolutions. And there’s nothing more rewarding than beating your personal record (PR) on a course you raced the previous year, or racing the longer version of that race (half-marathon instead of 5k, marathon instead of half-marathon).

Decide which area you want to improve, and write it down. Tape it to your bathroom mirror, set it as your computer (or smartphone) wallpaper, or use an application like RunKeeper to track it. Just make sure to keep your target in mind each day as you plug away the miles, inching yourself closer to your goal.

Timed Goals

You may be wondering how to calculate a time-oriented goal. For starters, make a list of your previous races, and take note of your finishing times. If you are unsure of your past results, visit Athlinks and search their database using your name – they track finishing times for every runner in the country. Another useful tool is the Calculator over at Cool Running. It’s great for calculating time, distance, and pace predictions.

Next, determine the amount of time you’d like to improve on each mile. I like to think in 10-second increments. This past year I ran the New River Marathon in 3 hours 40 minutes; that’s an average pace of 8 minutes 23 seconds per mile. For 2015 I’d like to improve my marathon time, dropping 10 seconds from each mile. That would bring my finishing time down to 3 hours and 35 minutes. Still not a Boston Qualifying time, but who says I won’t exceed my goal?

Lastly, devise a plan to put your goals in motion. Schedule hill-repeats, tempo runs, and intervals. Some runners add long runs as a way to improve their overall speed. Running 10+ mile distances will build power, allowing you to put more energy into your shorter (5k) runs. If you have the funds, hire a personal trainer to help you along the way. You can even use music to improve your stride turnover rate, increasing your steps-per-minute.

Missing your Goals

I had two goals for 2014: Run a total of 1,500 miles, and complete my first marathon. Unless I can squeeze 382 miles into the next two weeks, I won’t be completing my 1,500 miles. But that’s okay. As the great Bruce Lee said, “A goal is not always meant to be reached, it often serves simply as something to aim for.” That’s exactly the mindset I want you to have going into the new year. We can’t predict what injuries we may face or setbacks we’ll encounter due to family life. But we can push on and try our best to improve as much we can. Don’t get bent out of shape wondering why you missed your goal. Reassess your goals, set out a new plan of action, and get back out on the pavement.

Here are my 3 goals for 2015

  • Run a total of 1,500 miles (taking another shot at this one)
  • Complete an ultra-marathon (30+ mile race)
  • Beat my previous 5K time of 19:48

What goals are you planning to achieve in the new year?

Header image courtesy: FrameAngel/freedigitalphotos.net

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