Every runner needs their own “why”. Running can be one of the most rewarding pursuits to integrate into your lifestyle, but without running goals, it can quickly fall by the wayside. Running goals are what can keep you motivated to progress and reap the benefits, despite the blood, sweat, and tears! When it is 100 degrees outside (you CAN conquer summer running with these 10 hot weather running tips), or 10 degrees (here’s 9 ways to survive winter running). When you are tired, hungry, or cranky. When you are just starting out, knowing how to pick running goals for beginners is an important part of staying motivated, because burnout is real! Check out these top best running goals for beginners, and choose which ones are the most motivating and rewarding to you!
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The Best Running Goals for Beginners
Running goals come in all shapes and sizes – they can be big or small, as long as they help keep you focused and motivated. So how do you know which running goals for beginners are important to you?
11 Tips for Choosing the Right Running Goals for Beginners
Below are 11 tips for choosing, and keeping, the right running goals for you!
- #1: Keep them personal – a running goal that sounds cool but doesn’t mean anything personal to you will not keep you motivated!
- #2: Keep them attainable – be realistic in knowing where you are in your running journey. A goal to run an ultramarathon a month after starting running is probably not attainable. Neither is running to lose 50 pounds in a month. Know what is attainable, to prevent the backlash of disappointment.
- #3: Keep them specific – know exactly what you are going for, and pursue exactly that! Know what success will look like for you, and have a timeframe in mind to keep you accountable. Having a goal of “running further” does not motivate as well as “I want to run a 10k by the end of the year”.
- #4: Keep them incremental – pick a goal that you can work your way up to over time. Goals are not meant to be achieved overnight.
- #5: Keep them timely – that is, involve a timeline. Not just “I want to run a half marathon”, but, “I want to run a half marathon by April”, so I know that I need to start training four months ahead of time in January! Running goals without a timeframe are much more susceptible to procrastination and being put off.
- #6: Keep them fun – running goals should be fun after all! Running is hard, make the payoff something that you find fun. One of my favorite running goals? Run in new destination “runcations”, because traveling and running together are the most fun for me!
- #7: Keep them varied – it is fine to have one main running goal, or several, but over time, keep your running goals varied. If you have the same running goal for two decades, it probably won’t be motivating anymore. It is ok to keep one main running goal, but maybe throw in a couple “side” goals over time, or make your main running goal a little more challenging.
- #8: Keep them measurable – know how you will measure success, whether that is by distance, time, etc. How will you track your progress over time?
- #9: Keep them challenging – a running goal should not be too easy. If you have a running goal of running 3 miles without stopping, but you already run 2.5 miles without stopping, your running goal won’t motivate you very long. Make it something you have to work for and work at!
- #10: Keep them chunked – meaning, your big goals into smaller chunks of goals. If your goal is to run a marathon, it may be helpful to set smaller goals along the way of completing a 5k, 10k, half marathon, etc. If your goal is to increase your pace, then having a smaller goal of running without walking for longer amounts can help to “chunk” your goal.
- #11: Keep them shared – voice your goals to other people. Say them out loud to those in your life, and it can help keep you accountable. It also makes your running goals real.
To summarize, a lot of goal setters reference SMART goal setting, as a simple reminder, which is applicable and helpful in the case of running goals for beginners as well. SMART stands for:
S = Specific
M = Measurable
A = Attainable
R = Relevant
T = Timebound
13 Top Running Goals for Beginners
#1: Run Regularly – regularly can look different to each person, but it is up to you to determine what that means, and then hold yourself accountable. Running regularly most likely means running at least once a week, but maybe several times a week, consistently. The key being consistency! Not only will consistency hold you accountable and help to make running a regular part of your lifestyle, but it is better for your body to learn to incorporate regular running each week, then to cram 3 runs in one week, then not run for 2 weeks, then cram another 2 runs in the next week. This can cause your body to become prone to injury.
#2: Lose Weight – another common running goal for beginners is running to lose weight. Again, keep your weight loss goal realistic, keep it incremental and go at it gradually over time, and know what your timeframe is. Weight loss is naturally easier to be measurable, which is a bonus, but don’t be tempted to become a scale watcher only. Weight loss is a great benefit of running, but don’t forget to take joy and have fun in the run itself, and enjoy the additional benefits of running aside from weight loss.
#3: Run a Certain Number of Miles in One Year – I have done this goal before, and it is a great and – bonus – measurable way to accomplish a running goal. It does take a little bit of forethought to make it realistic, but it is a fun and accountable way to keep running consistently.
#4: Run a Specific Distance – this may occur by running in a race, or just running a specific distance around your own neighborhood. Often, running a specific distance means that you are working your way up to a longer distance. Common specific distances include 5k’s, 10k’s, Half Marathons, and Marathons. 5k’s are generally seen as a good place to start for beginners. If you are working your way up to one of these common specific distances, be sure to do it gradually and over time, in increments. As I have laid out in my own half marathon training plans and marathon training plans, training for a long distance such as these should not be attempted from square one in less than 3 months, but preferably 4 months.
#5: Run a Race – this running goal for beginners is closely related to the “running a specific distance” goal from before. That is because running races are set to specific distances, with common racing distances being 5k’s, 10k’s, half marathons, marathons, or even ultra marathons. For a beginner, a good place to start with running races is with 5k’s. For me, running races is THE biggest motivator for me, both when I was a beginner and now as a long distance running with double digit long distance races under my belt. You can read more about some of my favorite “runcations” at the Polar Circle Marathon in Greenland, or the Great Wall Marathon in China! Having that definitive deadline, the excitement building of crossing that finish line, and the chance to run a race in a new destination as well, just cannot be beat! There is nothing as fun as the camaraderie and sense of accomplishment that comes from crossing a finish line.
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#6: Run Continuously (Run Without Walking) – being able to run longer non stop is an exciting accomplishment and a great beginner running goal to go after. Plus, it leads to more doors opening in the running goals realm! This is a great running goal to gradually build up to, with little pressure. You can run without walking and measure it by time, or by distance. For example, a common running goal for beginners is to be able to run a mile without walking. Or, from a time standpoint, you could start by running non stop for 5 minutes, then 10, then 15, etc. Figure out what works for you as far as how you want to gradually conduct your increments and what your timeframes will be. Keep your goal realistic and attainable, and give yourself realistic expectations as you progress.
#7: Increase Your Pace – simply put, as a beginner runner, you can track how long it takes you to run a mile, and then set a goal to increase your pace over time. Moving from a 12 minute mile to a 11 minute mile, for example, is a BIG accomplishment!
#8: Run Long Term – training for a long distance race for 4 months, is a great running goal! Continuing to run after that finish line as part of a regular routine, while finding enjoyment in it, is also an admirable goal! Many runners are not just aiming for a short term running goal, but a long term one, simply, to incorporate consistent running into their lifestyle for the foreseeable future. This is a running goal that takes great commitment, but the benefits are far reaching! Running long term means learning how to prevent injury, how to fight boredom and burnout, and learning about cross training, recovery, proper nutrition and hydration, and rest days!
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#9: Run a PR – a running goal of running a PR means running a “personal best”. That is, beating your previous time at a certain distance. There is a great sense of reward and accomplishment to see yourself shaving time off of a certain distance after putting in the work. Often, running a PR is seen when running long distance races, and is a sought after running goal by many who run multiple races like 5k’s, half marathons, or marathons.
#10: Run a Half Marathon – the half marathon distance (13.1 miles) is often seen as the gateway to “longer” distance running! Completing your first half marathon race is a HUGE accomplishment, and takes months of dedication, grit, and preparation. If your running goals have you aiming for a long distance race, a half marathon may be the perfect starting point!
#11: Run a Marathon – naturally, running a full marathon is a dream of many beginner runners. Once you have a half marathon or two under your belt, it can be time to start pursuing the prized goal of running 26.2 miles!
#12: Run Every Day for A Set Amount of Time – Many runners find excitement in being able to accomplish running every day for a month, or 6 months, or a year! Just remember to keep your set amount of time attainable and realistic.
#13: Enjoy Running – this may sound like a simple or silly running goal, but it is an appropriate running goal for beginners especially. You will not progress with any running goals at all, if you cannot find the fun and enjoyment in it. Whether it’s chasing destination races around the globe, rewarding yourself with a cool new item of running gear, enjoying time to destress, or running for charity, know what makes running enjoyable to you. And invest in ways to make running fun – vary your routes, run on roads and trails, treat yourself to a fun snack or drink after, run with others, make a fun running soundtrack to listen to. The list is endless! Finding out what makes running enjoyable to you is a running goal in and of itself!
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