The months of required training can seem daunting. Especially if you are a beginner runner. So, it’s important to set smaller, weekly goals to help stay motivated throughout the training process.

Setting running goals can be accomplished with the help of using SMART goals. The concept of SMART goals is often applied in educational as well as corporate settings, but the same ideas can be helpful in running. The idea is to increase your chance of success by setting regular goals that are specific, measurable, attainable, relevant, and timely. For example, a SMART goal for your 5K race might be, “I plan to run the Buffalo Marathon 5K race in May 26th in less than an hour.”


Let’s say you want to improve your 5K time by incorporating speed work into your training. Instead of simply saying, “I plan to do a speed workout this week,” make the goal more specific. For instance, you could say, “on Wednesday, I will run or jog one mile within 15 minutes.” Also, remember that as you reach these marks that you will be increasing your distance as well as decreasing your time.

Making your goals specific means you’ll know exactly what to do, how and when. You’ll be more likely to get a meaningful workout if you plan the details ahead of time.


It’s important to know if you completed a goal or not, that means the goal must be measurable. For instance, if you are running intervals, go to a track or marked path so you know exactly how far you've ran.

Personally, I tend to wear a GPS watch to help track distance. In fact, I found that a quality smart watch is a great investment to ensure you always know how far you've ran and at what pace during training. You can also use the fitness app that is preinstalled on your smart cellphone. There are several to choose from, just select one that best fits your running needs.


It can be very discouraging when you fail to meet a desired goal. Not everyone will run a sub-four-hour marathon their first time out or get up at 6 a.m. every day to do their training runs. Make sure your running goals, large and small, are realistic for you. That doesn't mean you shouldn't shoot for a personal best or add new workouts to your training. It simply means to be mindful when setting goals.

When you first start out the temptation is to sign up for every race going, but you need time to build up your strength, endurance and speed. I can speak about this experience first-hand.

It’s important to remember when setting running goals, especially for beginners, to make challenging, yet achievable goals so you can feel a sense of accomplishment when you meet them.


Just as your goals should be attainable for you, they should also be relevant to you. With running, this idea can be applied in a few different ways. For example, just because a particular training plan or running routine is popular on social media, that doesn't mean it is right for you. And just because a friend is training for a certain amount of time, doesn't mean you have to attempt the same.

In the running world, there is sometimes pressure to run for longer and longer, but if you don’t enjoy long distance running, then don’t set a goal that entails running a marathon.

You will be much more motivated to complete the goals you set if they are meaningful to you personally. You need to discover your “WHY” for creating and reaching this goal.


Make your goals timely by including a deadline. It’s okay to say, “I want to get a 5k in at some point,” but it is more effective to say, “I plan to run 3 miles next Sunday.” If your goal has no timeframe, you’ll be more likely to put it off and risk not completing it at all.

Finally, set your S.M.A.R.T goals today! It’s good to reevaluate goals throughout the year to keep growing as a runner and athlete.


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