Whilst I enjoy a period of total relaxation and doing what I fancy as much as the next person, what I really enjoy is the feeling of picking a goal, working towards it, and achieving it. It’s immensely satisfying. Running is no different; I love the periods of down time after races, where I run when the weather outside the window catches my eye, or I have a stressful day and want to forget the rest of the world for a while. But just as much, I enjoy the process of training for a big goal, whether that’s completing my first ultra-marathon, or setting a new PB over a shorter distance like 10k.
There are all kinds of benefits from setting a goal in running, but one of the biggest ones I find is motivation. It’s far easier to drag myself out of the door every day, come rain or shine, and put in the work, when I have a big goal to be excited about. The process of setting a goal also tends to lend focus and structure to training, and that’s no bad thing, but also to lifestyle- when there’s a big race to train for and structured training to be done, things like nutrition and sleep tend to get more attention as well.
I don’t believe goal setting should just be for the experienced, PB seeking runners either- I believe every runner should set themselves some kind of goal that’s big for them, whether that’s making it around the local Parkrun without stopping, or running the London Marathon. Whatever your goal, I believe it should be something big for you- something that’s outside your capabilities now, whether that’s because it’s further or faster. It should make your heart beat a little faster when you think about it. It should make you animated when you talk about it. Above all, it should be something you really, really want to do, because it’s that that will persuade you to lace up your trainers when the weather is awful and you can think of a hundred reasons why you’d rather not.
That’s not to say goals have to be massive though. The other part of the big goal like a marathon or completing your first Parkrun is to set small goals to celebrate along the way; little milestones like the first time you run for 15 minutes without stopping, or the first time your run is in the double digits of miles. These small goals will act as stepping stones, and provide positive structure to training, as well as keeping you motivated and keeping trying- because the big goal is no use if you can’t motivate yourself to put the work in.
An example? I’m a very new triathlete, but have set myself the goal of completing an Ironman in 2016; a 2.4 mile swim, 112 mile bike ride and a 26.2 mile run. It’s massive. It’s terrifying. Right now, it’s very much outside what I’m capable of. But I’ve set smaller goals of completing shorter races along the way, and I’ve planned how to get there, and I’m excited to start. Having a goal has made me excited to train again.
So, what goal do you think you could set yourself? How big do you dare to dream?