The importance of running goals

How to set and achieve your running goals

Whether you're a seasoned runner aiming for a marathon, or a first-timer looking to boost your health and fitness, running is made easier by setting yourself goals. No matter how big or small, running goals will keep you on the track to success and focus your mind. Here's the guide to setting achievable running goals.

Just for a moment, I want you to imagine that a film crew has decided to make a documentary of your running career. They are with you at your first race. They record your greatest triumphs and they are with you through the setbacks. At the end of your career they sit you down and roll the documentary. Ask yourself this question: what kind of movie would you like to see? Do you believe that you are the scriptwriter of your own movie? Are there planned highlights in your movie, or did the best performances just occur by chance?

Setting goals is an integral part of our sport

Goals motivate us to practice in foul weather. They allow us to dream of the athlete we might be (a legend in our own mind?). Our sporting goals drive us to reach deeper into ourselves and lead us to ask: can I become a better athlete? What are the limits of my abilities?

A runner seeking to achieve a goal, must be courageous. There may be setbacks on their journey. Adversity can come in many forms: an injury, a defeat, uncooperative weather, the list could be endless. Dealing with that adversity requires faith and confidence, an inner belief that no matter what, the goal can still be achieved; if not today, then perhaps tomorrow.

Are your running goals measurable?

Sports psychology theory suggests that it is better to state that your goal is to run a race in a certain time rather than stating that 'I just want to have a good race.'

Compatible with your running mission?

Is your racing plan compatible with the goals that you have set for yourself this season? Too often we can lapse into the habit of racing too much and this defeats the conventional wisdom about performance peaking.

Time specific running goals

When do you wish to reach your goal(s)? Short-term goals may focus on the next few races or weeks of your program. Longer term goals will likely deal with the next few seasons, where would you like to be three to five years from now?

Commit to a running goal in writing

Committing a goal to words adds a contractual component to your planning. It can serve as a gentle or brutal reminder of the direction you have decided to go. I knew of a runner who painted his goals on his bedroom ceiling. If he didn’t feel like running early in the morning he would just stare at his ceiling for a less than subtle reminder of his obligation to himself.

Ownership of running goals is important

These are your goals, nobody else’s. They are what you believe will help you become a better runner. Sharing these goals is also important for it allows you to form a mental contract with yourself; "now that other people know my goals, I am going to have to do my best to reach them."

Never give up on your running goals

How did you decide upon your goal? Running to success can be a solitary path sometimes. For a few runners that path seems paved with gold and there is nothing that can stop them. For us other mere mortals the path can be strewn with obstacles: injuries, losses of form, staleness, and other personal demons that limit our performance. Chart a path around these obstacles and never give up.

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