How to define your running goals?
Why defining targets?
The question seems fair, why would you need to define goals? Why can’t you just run whenever you want at the pace you want for as long as you want? You can! And to be honest, it is quite refreshing sometimes to just start a Sunday run, without any idea of how long I will run, just a rough idea of where I will go. Nevertheless, on this blog, we know that we tell the truth to each other. So, if every run you do have no goal, no objective, would you really give the best of you all the time? Sorry if you thought “Yes” but the answer is “No”. And it isn’t your fault it is human nature to need objectives in order to go beyond them and improve.
I started to run 4 years ago without any goals and look at me now: aiming to run a marathon in less than 3 months. Damn, I just realized, while writing this line, that the D-day is getting closer… Anyway, I don’t think there would have been 1.3 Million people finishing a Marathon in 2018 if everyone would be just “running whenever they want, how long they want, how fast they want”. This is why you need to set some goals. You don’t have to act like a Big corporate Board of Administration and set targets for every weeks, months, quarters, etc… Just give yourself a guideline, and try to think, “what do I want to be able to say I achieved this year, or before my birthday”, etc… Any objectives would do. But then what are the different choices of goals?
Lots of kinds of goals
Let’s take a non-exhaustive review of all the objectives you might want to choose. Try to think about what kind of objective usually work best for you, as we review them:
This one is an obvious one. For some people, since you grew up you knew that there always was this specific event that you wanted to be part of. I have read the history of this kid who grew up in Gusinje a town in the region of Sandjack. I obviously had to google it, to find out it was in Montenegro. He always wanted to run the New York City marathon and on the 1st of November 2015, his dream came true. But imagined for a minute that this is where he grew up and trained:
Imagined the amount of motivation and determination that it would take to make your way from Eastern Europe to the States in order to run for 26 miles and 385 yards? I think if you have a goal like this one it will make you move mountains to achieve it!
So, if there is a local race you have always wanted to participate. Or even an exotic one, thousands of kilometers away, it is fine. Define that this is your goal and that from now on, you are going to achieve every step of the way to be there and come back home with the medal you wanted!
I have always wanted to run a Marathon. But to be honest, I never had a specific race in mind. Oh now for sure I want to run all the most famous ones, obviously! But back then, I only was fascinated by the marathon because of this extraordinary distance. I loved the story of Pheidippides the Greek soldier who ran from the battlefield near the town of Marathon to Athens to deliver the message of the victory against the Persian army. I think I would just be happy to be able to tell myself: “I can run 42.195 km”. Before I decided to register for the Paris Marathon, I even set myself a challenge: running the marathon distance anywhere I could. I happen to live in the city of Banbury, in Oxfordshire in the UK. And there is a canal going from Banbury to Oxford. The canal has all the way a pedestrian trail to follow it. It is a beautiful walk, you see a lot of longboats, trees, cows, ships. And it really makes a lovely run to go from Banbury to Oxford along the canal. And guess what the distance is? 27.9 miles, ok it is not exactly 26.2 but if I could run for 26.2 I could have walked for the next 1.7 miles easy!
I took this example to say that, it doesn’t matter where you live there is a way to set up a challenge for yourself as I did with this canal. I will tell you later what happened in these runs from Banbury to Oxford as it was quite an adventure…
Have you ever heard about a time-based race? There are races that go on for 24h, and the person who achieves the most distance wins. So, your goal could be: running continuously for X hours. And instead of setting yourself a goal of distance like it is most of the time, you could set yourself a goal of ultimate endurance! You could, for instance, set yourself to be able to run X hours without ever going below a certain threshold speed or just without walking. That way you will focus on keeping a decent speed long enough. And you will avoid making the error that most people make when they run distance races: they start too fast, as their objective is to cover the distance, not the time. This technic is used by a lot of ultra-marathoner as Christopher McDougall explains it in his famous book Born to Run (article to come really soon about it!). He explains how some runners start to run really slow for a really long time to push their bodies to enjoy running and start burning fat instead of sugar, allowing them to run much further. Maybe this is what will work for you.
I have also heard about other types of objectives as well. For instance, there is this wonderful event called Park Run. I will definitely write an article about it in the future. Park Run is a run that always has a length of 5K wherever you go. As you register for this event, it is 100% free and you get a personal account. Every time you come again, your time will be added to the database, such that you can track your progress and the number of times you actually run there.
I have seen people challenging themselves of doing at least 20 parks run in a year. Or running once a week to the office or back from the office, etc… I personally loved all the little virtual challenges like the one you have on Strava for instance. By the way, don’t forget to follow me on Strava to get updates and stats from all my runs! Strava has a lot of challenges like: “run 200km this month” or “run a 10K this month” etc.. each challenge will give you badges and rewards. I don’t know about you but even if it might look stupid, knowing that I will earn something at the end of the challenge makes me go the extra mile.
All of these goals have one benefit in common: they help you grow! Having a goal is what is going to make the difference between staying on your couch on Sunday and getting up to finish this challenge you set to yourself! So don’t miss the wonderful opportunity that defining a goal will give you. Take it!
And you? Do you want to share your goals? Marathon? Half-marathon? Running for more than 1 hour? Personal best on 10K? Reach 100 park runs?