Congratulations! You’ve decided to start running (or running more frequently). You’ve made the right decision and I’m proud of you for taking an active role in your health and well-being. Welcome to the world of running.
You bought your shoes with the help of the experts at your local running store, you have a swanky new moisture-wicking outfit, your schedule is approved by your running coach/guru/trainer/seasoned running friend. Soooooo, now what? Well, you run! Eh, not so exciting. You need a goal!
I am a big fan of finish lines. Be it finals or chutes at the end of cross-country meets, I am a strong finisher (I’m working on the steady-in-the-middle-of-the-race stuff) and I love the sight of the finish line more than most anything else in the world. The sweet relief of being done and the feeling of pride that I accomplished my goal is what I work for in life and in running.
Goal-setting is important because without goals, what are you working so hard for? I find that my clients (and me!) often need goals to stay motivated on the days when working out is the last thing you want to do. When I want to sleep in and go to breakfast at EJs instead of hit the pavement for 15+ miles, I think of the Philadelphia Marathon in November and how badly I want to set a PR. I want to train hard and smart and give it all I’ve got, especially since now my doctor and I have a back-up plan for if my body isn’t cooperating that will avoid a repeat of the tremendously disruptive race I had at the Jersey Shore. Oh no, THAT will not be happening again.
Here’s how to set goals: Start small. If you’re brand-new to running or racing, choose a local 5K fun-run that’s about 3 months away. Tailor your running schedule to that distance and see how you do at that race. Everybody has a different race-morning routine and it’s important to figure out how you best prepare in the hours right before you race.
If you dig the 5K distance, stay with it for a couple of months while you add on some mileage geared toward a 10K. Training for a 5K and training for a 10K are very different animals and you’ll want to prepare accordingly. You may not need water during a 5K, but you find that you do in a 10K. You might need a bathroom break during a half-marathon and you’ve got to figure out how to navigate all that (my own current personal battle). Or, you might find your favorite shorts chafe during a 15K and now you need new shorts for longer distances. At the very least, you will definitely need to pace differently for each race and that takes some refining, so don’t rush yourself right into the longer distance before you’ve switched up your workouts for a month or two.
And you go on from there. I never recommend anyone race for the first time at a distance greater than a 10K. Getting comfortable with how races start, how to avoid traffic jams in the first mile, how to fuel during a race and how you react to race-day nonsense is all very personal and worth taking the time to figure out. Especially before you jump into a marathon.
So, find a 5K for September or October (there are TONS) and grab a friend while you’re at it! Better yet, find a charity you feel passionate about and enter in their 5K. That’ll keep you going! Set your goal and keep it in mind when you’re in need of a reason to lace up your shoes and head out the door.
Now go out and run!