Setting and Pursuing Goals of All Kinds

Setting and Pursuing Goals of All Kinds

Lisa Jhung
Writer and Author of Running That Doesn't Suck: How To Love Running (Even If You Think You Hate It)
August 16, 2023

I saw something posted to the None to Run Facebook group recently about a member reaching a goal—I believe she said she ran a certain distance a minute faster than she had previously. (Congrats, by the way!)

It might have been a race, but the fact that I can’t recall if it was a race or not makes me immediately think: It doesn’t really matter! A goal is a goal, and achieving a personal goal is a wonderful thing, whatever that goal may be.   

In the world of running, we often hear about people beating their “PBs” (personal bests) or “PRs,” like the member who posted about it.

From professionals to amateurs to beginners, improving on a previous time by running faster, smarter, or both, is the most common measure of success.       

It’s important to know that even professional runners usually set three different goals:

An “A” goal, a “B” goal, and a “C” goal for any given race.

The “A” goal is a time they know is within reach if every single thing—from weather to fitness to race strategy, etc.—goes perfectly on race day.

The “B” goal is a goal they’d be happy with and are more likely to achieve than the A goal.

And a “C” goal is something that’s even easier to achieve than their B goal, but a goal they’d still be content with reaching.

Having B and C goals keeps runners from feeling disappointed in themselves if their A goals aren’t met--they’re healthy backup plans.

The beauty of all goals is that they’re highly motivating. They get you out the door when you just don’t feel like running. Having a goal—or three versions of the same goal—in your head helps keep you focused and accountable to yourself. If the goal(s) you set for yourself are truly goals you want to meet, outcomes you can visualize yourself reaching and tasting the sweet feeling of achievement, you may find a deeper connection to your running. You may feel purpose, and in purpose, there is powerful motivation.

Goals can look different for everyone. They certainly don’t have to be time- or PR/PB-based.

Personally, I’ve had racing goals, PR goals, distance goals, etc. in the past, but am also perfectly content to have a goal of being healthy and enjoying a run in a great location.

Next week, I’ll be in my college town of Santa Barbara on a work trip and I’m thrilled about it. The beaches and coastal bluffs near my dorm room were where running became part of identity, part of my being.

Lately, I’ve been dealing with a foot injury, so my goal recently has been to be able to go on a run in Santa Barbara where I can cover some of the same stretches of beach and trails that I loved years (and years) ago. I don’t care how fast or slow I’ll run. In fact, I generally don’t wear a watch. I just crave that feeling, the scenery, the nostalgia.

That goal has motivated me to do all my physical therapy exercises, recommit to lifting weights, which helps my body feel strong and healthy, and gradually, safely increase my running distance over the last chunk of weeks. I’m better for it. Goals are great that way.

If you’re reading this, you’re likely working on a N2R plan with the goal of running 25 consecutive minutes.

That in itself is a fantastic goal!

And following a plan that gives you days off and allows you to listen to your body, repeat weeks when you need to, and adjust on the fly is much healthier than “run-streaking,” especially for beginners.

Run streaks mean runners don’t miss a day of running, ever.

Jon Sutherland, a man in his 70s, had run 19,211 days straight as of a New York Times story about run streakers published January 1, 2022. But again, especially for beginners, run streaks can dangerously give you tunnel vision and keep you from listening to your body.

If you’re looking for goals to mix into your N2R plan, or goals for after you’ve completed the plan, here are a few ideas outside of the normal realm of chasing a PR:

Run a certain time or distance without stopping.

Be it a race, or a distance you set for yourself, completing a distance of any length that you’ve never been able to do before can be extremely gratifying. (This is something you can do once your N2R plan is complete.)

Run to something in your neighborhood.

Choosing a destination in your town, or an interesting route, can be fun. Pick a one-way destination to something like your favorite coffee shop or even, the post-office (run errands!).

You could have someone pick you up of even take the bus, a cab, or an Uber/Lyft home. Each week, your long run/run-walk could be a portion of that total route.

Run to the top of something.

If you live somewhere with hills, or even small mountains, having the goal of getting to the top of that natural feature and reaching toward that goal can create a fantastic sense of accomplishment.

Run somewhere different once a week.

There are those people who put colorful pins in maps of the world, noting where they’ve traveled. You could do the same with running in parks and on paths in your town/neighborhood.

Lose weight, get stronger, and feel better about yourself.

I’m not a huge fan of the goal “lose weight” on its own because it can create a negative connotation for runners pursuing that goal alone.

When we change our frame of mind to “get stronger, feel healthier, feel better,” there’s a more positive association with running, making it more likely to stick as part of a lifelong activity.

Run with a friend/kid/parent.

Whether this is a goal that takes place once a week or an end-goal of doing this once, running with people important to you is a great way to spend time together, and can be motivating on its own.

Enjoy running.

his goal really, truly can be achieved, and is the number one way to ensure running becomes part of you. See my post on “Fighting Boredom” for some ideas on how to really, truly, learn to love running.

Happy running, everyone!

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