How To Set Successful Running Goals

Ever heard the saying, “if you fail to plan, then you plan to fail?” With running long distances, it couldn’t be more true. 

Goals form the road map for your success. They are essential to reaching your full potential. 

Winner of the Boston Marathon, New York Marathon and a Silver Medal in the 2004 Olympic Games, Meb Keflezighi, says he wouldn’t have achieved these feats without goal setting. “Everything that I’ve achieved physically in running started psychologically, with the simple thought, ‘I want to do this.”

The best goals have certain elements that make success more likely. Try these 5 tips to set a PR during your next race.

  1. Make it personal.

    What’s your WHY? Your WHY should be of deep meaning to you. Training to reach a goal requires a lot of mental and physical fortitude and you will no doubt encounter rough patches along the way. Having a goal that resonates with the heart will help you find a way to persevere.  

  2. Make it specific.

    Setting a goal that lacks ambiguity helps you figure out exactly how you should go about achieving it. Try outlining exactly what pace you need to run and what times to hit for specific training workouts. For example: “I want to run 5 days a week” is a much more measurable goal than “I want to run more.” 

  3. Make it challenging, but attainable.

    Your goals should require you to reach outside of your comfort zone, while remaining in the realm of possibility. We all know that if your goal is too far from your current fitness level, you’ll likely get frustrated and lose motivation. Assess where you are now and what’s possible if you give it your all every day. Make it so your goal is indeed attainable within the time frame you’ve chosen. 

  4. Make it time-sensitive.

    To stay motivated, it always helps to have a date in mind—a concrete deadline to work toward. Having a date by which you want to achieve your goal also helps you choose the right training plan that will help you reach it. If you know you have exactly 12 weeks to train, you need a training plan that is going to prep your mind and body properly in two and half months. 

    Again, make sure your goal date isn’t too far in the future. If it’s too distant, you’ll lose sight of it and start to let it slide on your priority list. The rule of thumb for runners is to set a goal for 3 to 6 months from now. It’s enough time to train safely while staying motivated on a daily basis. 

    It helps to break these larger goals into shorter term goals too, on a monthly and even weekly scale. Decide where you want to be at the end of each month and then break these months into weekly progress checks. At the end of each week, have you improved? Are you maintaining a momentum that will get you to your month-end goal? Did you get stuck? If so, what’s keeping you from progressing? Do a mind-body check each week to make sure you’re staying the course. 

  5. Make it motivating.

    A goal has to inspire you, otherwise you won’t keep your eyes focused on the prize. Decide on your WHY for your upcoming race and make sure it matters enough to you to stay dedicated.

    Then, write your goals down. Keeping them visible in places you frequent most will serve as necessary reminders throughout the training process.

    Also, pick a few people in your trust circle to share your goals with. This support network can keep you accountable and motivate you as you continue your running journey. 


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