Oct 4, 2022

Below is the latest instalment in my series of running articles.


Setting Goals to Improve Your Running

Some runners are happy to jog at a comfortable pace, reach a reasonable level of fitness, and simply enjoy their time on the road. There’s absolutely nothing wrong with that. Others, however – myself included – like to push the boundaries to see what we’re capable of achieving in terms of our running. And the easiest way to improve is by focusing on specific goals.

Everyone is motivated in slightly different ways. For many runners, the obvious goal is to improve one’s personal best (PB) for given distances. The goal of a faster 5 km, 10 km, half marathon, or marathon is a typical aim for many runners. If you’re a new runner, these are the obvious goals to set.

There are few things as satisfying to a runner as finishing a race with a new PB. This is particularly true when the PB is for one of those universal distances, like the 5 km, that allows runners the world over to easily compare their performances. And the reaching of such goals serves more purpose than just the ensuing feeling of satisfaction – it intrinsically results in a higher level of fitness, better health and, in most cases, a happier person.

But what if you’re not in a position to focus on improving your 5 km or marathon PB? Perhaps the days of PBs are well behind you, or maybe your lifestyle precludes the level of training required to make such improvements? Don’t worry, as there are other goals on which to focus.

Some of the options include choosing a new and unusual race or distance. Try going down in distance and running some track races. Or, why not go up in distance, perhaps trying an ultra marathon? Off road races are another possibility. Or maybe you’d like to see how far you’re able to run in a given time – a 24 hour or 6 day race would then fit the bill. All these options, and many more, are possible goals that create new enthusiasm for a runner.

Here are some examples from my own experience: in 2008 I felt I was past setting any new PBs for the usual distances, so I decided to test myself by trying to run 100 km. I wasn’t entirely sure if I was capable, so it was a very appropriate goal at the time. I did achieve that goal, so the next year I upped the ante to 1,000 km. And this bout of extreme goal-setting culminated a few years later in me running around the world.

So, where did I go from there? In recent times I’ve focused on a more obtuse goal – the very hilly 14 km City to Surf race in Sydney, the largest road race in the world. But I know I can’t run a PB anymore, so instead my aim was to “run my age”. That means completing the race in the same number of minutes (or less) than one’s age in years. It’s a goal few runners ever achieve. And each year one gets an extra minute in which to reach that target. I’m pleased to say that, after a lot of focus and intensity in my training, I finally did indeed achieve that goal in 2015.

Another “run your age” goal, though far harder, is to complete 400 metres in less seconds than your age in years. Very few ever achieve this goal. It’s one I don’t believe is a possibility for me. However, I did manage some personal “age PBs” last year at the age of 60. These included 1K in 3:18, 5K in 19:43, and 10K in 42:24. I was very happy with these achievements, even though they would have been disappointing times when I was much younger.

The attaining of one goal naturally results in the need for another – something that keeps you enthused for running and keeps your fitness level high.

Whether it be how far, how fast, an exotic race, placing in your age group, or something more unusual like a “beat your age” challenge, there are so many ways to set goals that will keep you enthused for running. And when you do have a goal, you have more motivation to put on your shoes and get out on the road.