5 Prompts to Set Your New Year’s Running Goals

This is that time of year where people start making new year’s resolutions and set new year’s running goals. 

And it’s almost that time of year where people get sidelined or sidetracked and ditch those new year’s resolutions and new year’s running goals. In fact, one recent study found only 8 per cent of people stick to their new year’s resolutions. 

We want to set you up for success in the new year with your next running goals. That’s why we are going to explain in this article:

  • Why setting new year’s running goals is important
  • Plus, 5 steps to accomplishing your running goal including:

1. How to pick the right running goal for you

2. The SMART way to set running goals

3. How to plan your running schedule

4. How to stay accountable to your new year’s running goals, and

5. How to manage setbacks to accomplishing your running goals

So, let’s get started!

5 Prompts To Set Your New Years Running Goals

Why is it important to set new year’s running goals?

Setting running goals in the new year is a powerful way to keep runners motivated and accountable and provide structure for the entire new year. It’s difficult to stay motivated to do something hard if you don’t have a purpose. Goals give you purpose.

“When we have a clear goal, it is much easier to lace up our shoes and get out there in the cold, dark weather. We tend to be more consistent with our training efforts and push ourselves to work harder when we have a goal in mind,” explains performance nutritionist Stephanie Hnatiuk.

5 Steps to Accomplishing Running Goals

Step 1: Take inventory. 

To pick the right running goal for you, Dr. RT Hill, co-founder of The Stride Shop, advises runners to take a realistic inventory of their lives. Answer questions such as: 

  • How much available time do I have in a week? 
  • What has gone good or bad with my training in the past? Are there other groups or individuals also training? 
  • What resources do I have (running location, coaching, babysitters, etc.)?
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Answering questions like this prevents runners from biting off more than they can chew, a big reason why runners don’t keep their new year’s resolutions.

When you set a running goal for the new year, it’s important you set a goal that is both challenging but DOABLE. You need a goal that excites you but doesn’t daunt you. 

For example, don’t set a goal to run a marathon if you haven’t even run a mile

Also, remember your New Year running goals don’t need to be race-related. Some ideas for running goals can be the number of days you run a week or the number of miles you run a month, for example. 

By taking an inventory of what you can practically accomplish in the time that you have, you’re able to map out a real plan to get you to your goal. If you set a lofty goal of say, running 60 miles a week, but only have an hour or less a day to run, then you’re setting yourself up for failure. 

Knowing what resources (including time) are available to you can help you choose an appropriate goal that is challenging yet likely. 

Step 2: Set a concrete goal. 

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The more concrete the running goal, the more likely you are to keep it. Set a concrete running goal using the SMART way of setting goals. 

A SMART goal is a tool used to set people up for success when setting goals. It is an acronym that stands for:

Specific – don’t be vague in setting your goal. Define exactly WHAT you’re going to do, HOW you’re going to do it, and WHEN it’s going to get done.

Measurable – your goal (and training to get there) should be something you can track and measure. Look for metrics and KPIs you can track so you can follow your progress

Attainable – the goal you set should be realistic. Don’t commit to an ultramarathon next month if you’ve just finished a 5k; likewise, your goal needs to challenge you enough that you find it interesting and motivating.

Relevant – the goal should somehow align with your interests, values, and purpose. Try to choose a goal that you feel a close personal motivation to work towards, this will help power you through the months of hard work to come.

Time-bound – your goal needs to have an end date attached to it – for example, running a marathon by the end of October.

The SMART goal-setting strategy is a useful tool for runners. Instead of setting a vague goal to “run more in 2022,” it encourages runners to drill down to actionable tips that can be measured and celebrated. 

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An example of a SMART goal for a runner could be:

“I will train for and run my local half marathon in under 2 hours in September.”: 

Specific: this goal includes the specific event you’re aiming for, as well as a time-based goal.

Measurable: Your progress can be measured by following a half marathon training plan, for example. There’s no random training, it’s all leading towards your goal.

Attainable: A half marathon in 9 months is realistic for a beginner runner – perhaps an ultramarathon or even a regular marathon would be too ambitious

Relevant: The Half Marathon is important to me personally because I’ve attended as a spectator for years and it would be very meaningful to complete it myself

Time-bound: It’s 9 months away, I have that time to prepare. 

Step 3: Make a plan

After a runner has chosen their SMART running goal, it’s time to get specific about how they will accomplish this goal by creating their running schedule. 

Runners should choose a race plan or connect with a running coach. Assess your race plan and determine when during the week you will be able to train. 

Plan for your training days and create the path of least resistance. For example, if you plan to run in the mornings, try to get to bed earlier, lay out your running clothes the night before, prep the coffee, and let your family know of your plans. If you will do your long runs on Saturday mornings, make plans to run with friends and tell family you won’t be there when they wake up.

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Related: 10 Bulletproof Steps to Consistent Morning Runs

When mapping out your running goals for this coming year, many runners find it helpful to break their goals into three categories: long-term goals, short-term goals, and process goals. 

Long-term goals are the big picture goals. They are vaguer and intangible. For example, a runner’s long-term goal may be to run an ultramarathon one day or be able to run for the rest of their lives. 

Short-term goals are stepping stones to those long-term goals. For example, a runner who wants to run an ultramarathon will set short-term goals like hitting a certain monthly mileage or running a marathon. 

Process goals are mini-goals. These goals set you up for success in achieving the long-term and short-term running goals. Process goals can include eating right, sleeping 8 hours a night, and strength training two times per week. 

All three types of goals combine to create a map for achieving one’s running goals. 

Step 4. Hold yourself accountable. 

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Accomplish your running goals by holding yourself accountable. There are 5 main ways to hold yourself accountable when setting new year’s running goals:

1. Write it out. Sit down and physically write out your running plan every week, suggests Hill. 

2. Tell people. Also, tell people about your goals. It’s harder to give up if you feel like you will be letting people down. 

3. Run with other people. Similarly, find a running group or running friend to train with. This will make training more fun and also make it less likely for you to hit snooze and miss your training runs. The more you are around people with similar fitness goals and ambitions, the more you will want to run. It’s almost addicting!” says Hills. 

4. Track it. Also, have a watch or an app that tracks your mileage, heart rate, pace, etc. to keep track of your progress. When you see the benefits of your hard work, it’s hard to let that go to waste! 

5. Reward yourself. Set mini-goals along the way and reward yourself when you accomplish them! For example, if your goal is to run 4 times a week, every month buy yourself a new piece of running gear or treat yourself to a massage.

Step 5: Plan for setbacks. 

Setbacks are a part of life, especially life as a runner. We get sick. We get injured. An emergency happens at work, and we have to work late. 

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The beautiful thing about running is that it is rooted in consistency. If you are forced to take an unplanned running break, it’s okay! Unless it is several weeks of zero activity, you have likely maintained your fitness and can quickly work back up to where you were in your training. (A running coach can guide you in how to safely rebuild mileage and resume your training plan). 

Don’t let perfection get in the way of progress. Expect setbacks to occur in your training plan. Think through how you would approach potential setbacks. 

Hill and Htaniuk advise runners to decrease their chances of getting injured by conservatively increasing mileage and intensity. 

Related: The 10% Rule: Is it a Valid Way of Increasing Mileage

“We want to build in enough rest and recovery time into our training plan from the beginning so we don’t get sidelined with injuries or overtraining,” says Hnatiuk.

Hill and Hnatiuk advise runners to meet with a medical professional sooner rather than later if a runner is dealing with an injury to shorten the recovery time. Then, focus on getting better.

“What is important here is that we don’t dwell on the time missed, and we slowly get back into building our mileage back when we’re able,” says Hnatiuk. 

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Dwelling will only waste energy you could use in your recovery and training.

By being specific and realistic about setting your running goals for 2022, you are more likely to buck the trend by keeping your new year’s resolutions and accomplishing those new year’s running goals! 

If you need help accomplishing your new year’s running goals, check out our ultramarathon, marathon, and half marathon training resources!

Whitney Heins
Whitney Heins is the founder of The Mother Runners and a VDOT-O2 certified running coach. She lives in Knoxville, TN with her two crazy, beautiful kids, pups, and husband. She is currently training to qualify for the 2024 US Olympic Trials marathon.

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