The most successful runners share one thing in common: the ability to commit to goals. The great runner Meb Keflezighi wrote in his book Meb for Mortals, that, “Goals form your road map to success. You won’t get near your potential without having good goals. We’re wired as humans to dream of what might be and then figure out how to make that dream a reality.”
Keflezighi, who won the New York Marathon (2009) and Boston Marathon (2014) is a wonderful example of how making a commitment to your running and setting goals changes everything.
Whether you’re a high school cross country runner who wants to break through in your next 5K or a businessperson getting serious about the marathon, taking the step to commit has a great deal of power. Here are some tips on goal setting:
Start with smaller goals. Maybe you’re an 18-minut 5K runner right now, but you know there’s more in the tank. Don’t sabotage yourself by setting an overly ambitious goal for running 16 minutes in your next race. Instead, start by setting a goal to run in the 17-minute range.
Be flexible with your goals. Yes, it’s important to commit and to strive for a certain time. But an “all-or-nothing” attitude is counterproductive. Allow flexibility to accommodate other areas of your life like work, school, and family.
Set a goal to train smarter. The very act of setting a goal directs your focus and encourages problem-solving. But while most running goals pertain to time or distance, setting a goal to train smarter, not harder can pay off. That could mean changing up your regular routine and trying something new.
Set multiple goals. For example, if you have a target fall marathon you want to run, you might have a realistic goal of 3:30, a “strong” goal of 3:15, and a breakthrough goal of a sub-three hour marathon. Likewise, a high school cross country runner might seek to a) consistently run the last part of course strongly; b) beat his or her own previous best times, or c) help pull the team to a podium finish.
Remember, the most successful athletes have simple, well-thought out, targeted daily goals. They are people who have goals for each workout. And above all, they are folks who know that daily and weekly goals build to the longer term goal of a successful running future.