Running Goals: What’s most important to you?

In my previous post, I laid out why you should set goals, some different types, and “good” vs. “bad” goals. This time I’ll move on to prioritizing your goals.

Of course to be able to rank or prioritize your goals, you have to establish what they are. My personal motivation for running is a combination of personal fitness for overall health and a competitive desire to continue to improve. My goals are affected by my recent history, factors such as an injury in the fall of 2015; a return to fitness in late 2016; and an “A” race in October where I didn’t perform as well as I wanted to. My goals are also colored by the ever-broadening running community I’m a part of. As a result, my 2017 running-related goals are both general and specific:

  • Stay healthy – run without injury.
  • Run 2017 miles for the year.
  • Purge refined sugar from my everyday diet.
  • PR at the Boston Marathon.
  • Share my love of running with others.
  • Run an ultramarathon in the fall (Arkansas Traveler 100).
  • Balance running with life.

But you can’t just set goals without some specific planning to achieve them. If you only have one or two goals, this is easier. With multiple goals, they may be at odds with one another. In this case, prioritizing your goals is the solution.

The simplest way to prioritize your goals is to ask the question for each one, “if I fail to achieve this goal, what is the impact on my other goals?” So, you might find that your big picture, less specific goals are actually more important than anything else. Here’s my earlier list, reordered with that in mind:

  1. Balance running with life.
  2. Stay healthy – run without injury.
  3. PR at the Boston Marathon.
  4. Share my love of running with others.
  5. Run an ultramarathon in the fall (Arkansas Traveler 100).
  6. Run 2017 miles for the year.
  7. Purge refined sugar from my everyday diet.

To illustrate, I’ve never run 2000 miles in a year before. But I surely won’t be able to do that if I’m not mentally and physically healthy (see #1 and #2!). And, if we’re just talking artificial numbers, I’ll take the PR over the 2017, thank you very much!

I approached the 1750 mile mark in 2014, 2015 and 2016. That number was inconceivable just a few years before that. When I started tracking mileage in 2011 I was putting in 900 or so but never breaking 1000. It’s not that I set out to track mileage at that point. I am pretty anal retentive, but I never logged miles in a training log – probably because I wasn’t ever training for anything before. Garmin streamlined that for me – my first Forerunner allowed me to indulge my numbers geek inclinations in an efficient way. So why do I think running 2017 miles is a good goal? Increasing your mileage volume from year to year should eventually pay off in faster times. 2017 miles is only marginally more miles than I have been running, and it’s a number I think would have been achievable in either 2015 or 2016 had my acute impact injury not truncated those two years. Typically, I haven’t suffered from overuse/chronic injuries, which I attribute to the shift in running form I made 6 years ago. Nevertheless, I do have a specific plan for achieving the opposed goals of staying injury free while increasing mileage. I’ve resolved, so far successfully, to consistently incorporate strength training into my plans. To a certain extent, I am always doing this – I warm up with a 5-10 minute routine of lunges, squats, and leg swings before every run. On the other hand, I go through phases where I emphasize or slack off on core and balance work. I’m trying to make sure I keep that up this year!

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2017 miles is a journey of millions of steps. I can’t run them all in six months. The higher mileage training plan I’ve put myself on had me at new monthly mileage PRs in December and again in February. I ran 246 miles in February despite only 28 days. I’ll be checking in on it, but 2017 miles is pretty far down on my goal priority list. If anything, it will be a byproduct of my plan to achieve my more important goals – but that’s the subject of my next post!