Goal setting

This article was originally posted by Ryan at the original HillRunner.com Blogs.


I love this time of the year! Not necessarily for the weather but because it’s the time when so many runners dare to dream. It’s the time when we decide what we’re going to do in the upcoming year and what our goals should be. We dare to think big and be optimistic about the possibilities.

But what happens if we think too big or get too optimistic? What happens if we fall short of our goals? For some people, this can be crushing. For others, we can look at what we did accomplish and be proud of the strides we have made, even if we were short of the ultimate goal. That said, it’s always nice to get a goal.

So, as we think about our goals for next year, how should we set them? I believe there are a few key considerations you should keep in mind as you set your goals:

1) What are you capable of?

What do you believe you can do next year? Don’t ask others what they believe you can do, ask yourself. Based on recent performances and recent trends in your performances, what do you think you’re capable of?

You must believe in your goal and your capability to accomplish it or it will seem like it’s too far out there and won’t be motivating.

2) How will you handle it if you fall short?

Some runners do well by setting huge goals. If they fall short, they look back and can say they have still accomplished a lot. If this is you, dream big.

Other runners need more moderate goals. If they fall short of a big goal, they still feel let down. If this is you, set more moderate goals that you strongly believe are within your reach. If you accomplish them, you can always set new goals.

What excites you?

I always tell runners that your goal needs to be YOUR goal. Don’t let your friends, family, coach, or anyone else dictate what your goals should be.

From what distances to race (or whether to race) to what your goals are, they need to come from you. You may benefit from feedback, for example from a coach who says the goal seems realistic or too aggressive to accomplish in the coming year, but in the end it’s your goal. It needs to come from you.

If the goal comes from you, you will be more excited about it and more driven to accomplish it. In short, you’ll be more likely to accomplish it and it will mean a lot more when you do.

Consider setting multiple goals

Finally, don’t be afraid to set a few goals. If I can use Ed as an example, he was very close to breaking 18 minutes in the 5K this year. I’ve already heard that going sub-18 is one of his goals for next year. I hope he has more goals, though. Given how close he was to 18 and his recent improvement curve, I hope he’s thinking of another number. I’m not talking about breaking 17 or something like that but maybe 17:50 or 17:45. He could set a goal like this after breaking 18 but what happens if he’s in a race heading for 17:50? Some people need that additional goal out there to aim for.

In the end, set goals that you believe in, that excite you, and that motivate you. These are what will get you striving to be the best runner you can be.

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