Run The Year: How To Take On A Year-Long Running Challenge

Running challenges are a great way to stay engaged and motivated and strive for improvement in the sport.

A running challenge can be as simple as maintaining a 30-day running streak of running at least 1 mile per day or as involved and long-term as taking on a year-long running challenge.

The concept of trying to “run the year” involves taking on a 365-day running challenge that takes you from January 1 to December 31.

These run the year challenges typically involve some sort of monthly theme or culminating goal that embraces the entire year, but you can also do a year-long running challenge at any point in the year.

In this article, we will share some fun run the year running challenges and year-long running challenges you can try when you want to play the long game and set a 12-month running goal.

We will cover: 

  • What Is a Run the Year Running Challenge?
  • 4 Ideas for Run the Year Running Challenges
  • 34 Ideas for Year-Long Running Challenges

Let’s jump in!

A person looking confident who wants to take on a run the year challenge.

What Is a Run the Year Running Challenge?

There’s no official set of rules for a run the year running challenge or a year-long running challenge for that matter, aside from the fact that the running challenge should last one full calendar year.

For most runners, a run the year challenge spans the normal calendar year from January 1 to December 31, but other runners pick up a year-long running challenge part way through the year and finish the challenge exactly one year later. 

A good example of the latter case is starting and completing a year-long running challenge on your birthday from one year to the next.

You can design your own year-long running challenge or participate in various organized events, which often have fun little perks like a finishers medal, a social media group page, and a T-shirt.

4 Ideas for Run the Year Running Challenges

Most “run the year” running challenges take some sort of spin on the year and use that to frame the running challenge. 

Here are a few ideas for running the year challenges:

#1: Run the Year In Miles or Kilometers 

The classic run the year running challenge is to try to reach an annual running mileage that equals the year date in miles or kilometers.

For example, for 2023, you would set out to run 2023 miles or 2023 km in the year.

Because there are 52 weeks in the year, these annual running mileages work out to about 39 miles per week or 39 kilometers per week.

Depending on your fitness level and the distance you’re training for, 39 miles per week is pretty high mileage, but definitely doable.

For those in the United States and Canada who want to use the run the year kilometers number but with a weekly mileage target, running the year 2023 in kilometers works out to about 24 miles per week.

#2: Run the Year In Days

If you’re a beginner runner or just run a couple of days a week, a much easier take on the run the year mileage challenge is to shoot for 365 miles for the year.

This works out to just one mile per day every day, and while that’s also a perfectly valid way to approach this running challenge, it’s good to take days off.

Therefore, if you run a few miles a few days per week, averaging 7 miles per week, you can run the year by completing 365 miles.

A person running on a road.

#3: 12 Months, 12 Goals

Another fun way to run the year is to celebrate each month with a unique running goal. The year-long running goal will be successfully completing each monthly goal along the way.

You can choose monthly goals as simple as hitting a certain target mileage per month or get more creative by choosing a different theme for your monthly running goals.

For example, you might pick one race per month to run. Or, you might set a goal for each month that deals with some aspect of training that you’d like to focus on.

Consider the following example:

  • January: Work on increasing cadence by 5-10 steps per minute.
  • May: Add 4-5 strides after easy runs.
  • August: Drink an extra 16 ounces of water per day.
  • October: Get an extra 30 minutes of sleep per night.
  • November: Do a tempo run once a week.
  • December: Try to run or cross-train 5 days per week.
A person jumping down to do a burpee.

You can also do a 30-day fitness challenge for each month of the year that supports your fitness as a runner. 

  • February: Do a 30-day legs challenge.
A person overlooking a city with a hoodie on, raising their arms.

#4: Run the Year Virtual Racing

Virtual races can be an awesome alternative to traditional in-person races if you can’t afford to travel or prefer to run in solitude.

There are many options for virtual races, from those that support a specific charity to others that take you on a virtual trip to popular landmarks and routes worldwide.

You can find all sorts of virtual races with pertinent themes for every month of the year, such as Cupid’s Chases for Valentine’s Day in February, Shamrock Runs for St. Patrick’s Day in March, Firecracker 5ks for July, Halloween Runs in October, Turkey Trots in November, and Santa Strolls in December.

Set a goal to run one virtual race monthly and collect fun medals while doing some speed work.

34 Ideas for Year-Long Running Challenges

You can also take on a year-long running challenge that will have some sort of positive impact on your running or fitness.

You can choose to focus on whatever area of your running needs the most work or attention or that most excite you.

That will become the theme of your year, and you will dedicate your next 365 days towards that pursuit rather than changing the running goal from month to month.

A person running on a track.

Consider the following examples of year-long running goals based on various weaknesses or interests:

12 Training-Based Year-Long Running Goals

  • Try to run a certain number of days per week, depending on your fitness level and other workouts.
  • Make sure to take one rest day per week.
  • Do a speed workout once a week.
  • Run a hill workout once a week.
  • Do a tempo run once a week.
  • Run a race once a month.
  • Run a timed mile every month.
  • Cross-train a certain number of days per week.
  • Stretch or do mobility work daily.
  • Do a trail run once per week.
A person running over a bridge.

12 Nutrition-Based Year-Long Running Goals

  • Stop drinking soda.
  • Drink at least 1 liter of water per day.
  • Eat 5 or more servings of vegetables per day.
  • Replace processed snacks with whole foods.
  • Lose a certain amount of weight per month if you are overweight.
  • Work with a nutritionist.
  • Cut out fast food.
  • Cook dinner 5 nights per week.
  • Try one new recipe per week.
  • Eat breakfast every day.
  • Eat at least 3 pieces of fruit per day.

6 General Fitness-Based Year-Long Running Goals

  • Do a 1-minute plank every day.
  • Do 25 push-ups per day.
  • Do 2 minutes of jump roping every day.
  • Do 30 minutes of yoga 3 times per week.
  • Try one new type of cross-training each month.
A person on top of a mountain, arms spread, looking at the view.

4 Mindset-Based Year-Long Running Goals

  • Recite a positive affirmation every day.
  • Write down three things you’re grateful for every day.
  • Volunteer at one race per month.
  • Do 5 minutes of mindfulness meditation every day.

A year-long running challenge gives you 365 days to commit to yourself and your goal. With running, consistency is key, so any run the year challenge will give you a massive foundation of consistency for amazing improvements.

Every day counts. Where will you be on your running journey one year from today?

If you want to check out our 30-Day Challenges to use as your run the year challenge, click here.

A person jumping rope.
Photo of author
Amber Sayer is a Fitness, Nutrition, and Wellness Writer and Editor, and contributes to several fitness, health, and running websites and publications. She holds two Masters Degrees—one in Exercise Science and one in Prosthetics and Orthotics. As a Certified Personal Trainer and running coach for 12 years, Amber enjoys staying active and helping others do so as well. In her free time, she likes running, cycling, cooking, and tackling any type of puzzle.

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