How to Set Realistic Running Goals
We’re just a couple of months away from the Williams Route 66 Marathon, which means you might be starting to think about your goals for race day. Most people use goals to help us improve in our everyday lives, and runners are no different. In fact, setting goals as a runner can be overwhelming because there are so many options and metrics! With so many easily recorded measures of speed and endurance, runners have any number of ways to verify the attainment of old goals and determine new ones. You can set goals all day long, but how do you know if your running goals are realistic – that is, challenging, but attainable? Ask yourself these questions:
- What’s your timeline? Sometimes, a goal might be realistic to attain in a year, but might not be possible to achieve in a month. While it can be challenging to set goals far in the future when it comes to running because abilities, plans, and priorities change, it sometimes works to have one long-term goal that you’re flexible on and then several short term goals that will help you get there. To set the most realistic goal possible, it is recommended to set a goal that can be obtained within one training cycle, such as taking 15 seconds per mile off your 5k time, 10 minutes off your marathon time, or completing your first marathon injury free.
- How experienced are you? The more experience you have, the more information you have to go on. If you’re a brand new runner looking to set a time goal for your first race, consider focusing on something like finishing the race injury free, or finishing the race feeling strong until you have a better idea about your running ability. Once you’re more experienced and have a few races under your belt, you can use your previous race times and current training cycle to get an idea of a realistic goal pace. For example, if your best marathon time is 5:10 and you trained consistently, it is probably realistic to set a goal to break 5 hours in your next race if you complete an entire training cycle. It is probably not realistic to break 4 hours.
- What’s your availability? There’s no doubt about it – training for a big race can take up a lot of time and energy. Consider what the rest of your life looks like – work, school, family, and other commitments. If you feel like this is a great time in your life to train hard and dedicate your energy to reaching your goal, it might make sense to set one that is a bit of a stretch to keep you motivated. If you’re in a difficult season of life and are struggling just to make it out the door for a run, keep that in mind. If you’re planning a cross country move, working tons of overtime, or wrangling a nocturnal infant, it may not be the best time to pursue a Boston Qualifier.
- How do others fare on the same course? While someone else’s ability has nothing to do with yours, you can learn a lot about a race by the results in general. Check results in your age group to discover whether a course is “fast” or “slow,” and consider looking up weather conditions as well. You’re more likely to run a PR on a cold day than a warm one! Read race reviews, too! You might find comments about the elevation changes on the course, tough turns, weather, and more.How have similar races gone for you?: Consider how you’ve fared in events of a similar distance. If you’re already run a half marathon, you should have an idea of what worked and did not work for you during your training, as well as your final pace. Likewise, if you’ve gotten injured every time you’ve tried to train for a marathon, maybe bumping up to an ultra isn’t the best idea. Use previous experiences to your advantage as you consider your next running goal!