One of the most appealing (or maybe frustrating) parts about running is the fact that there is always room to improve. Whether you’re a beginner runner or have been running for years, the opportunities for improvement are limitless.
A simple way to improve each year is to set running goals.
Setting running goals is an effective way to challenge your body, keep things interesting, and experience the satisfaction of accomplishing something new.
Many runners find themselves stuck in a rut, simply trying to run faster or farther than before. While their intentions may be sincere, they often hit a plateau.
These 14 running goal ideas will provide you with the inspiration you need to continue improving. Here are some of the top running goals for every runner, from beginners to advanced.
Try one or all of these running goal suggestions to jump start your year and set yourself up for your most successful (and rewarding) training season yet!
14 Running Goal Ideas (for Beginners to Advanced)
Run a mile without walking.
As a beginner runner, one of the best goals to set for yourself when you’re just getting started is to run a mile without walking or stopping. A great way to start running is to practice the run walk method, which will help you increase distance, endurance, and cardiovascular fitness.
Once you feel more comfortable with the run walk method, start shortening your walking intervals and running for longer distances at a time. The first time you are able to run an entire mile without walking is a huge stepping stone for any beginner runner – and definitely something worth celebrating, no matter how long it takes!
Complete a 5k race.
Another meaningful goal for beginner runners is work up towards running your first 5k. 5k races are very common – they can bring out small, local crowds for a specific cause, or bring together thousands of people at a huge event.
However, no matter what race you sign up for, the distance is still the same: 3.1 miles. The 5k distance is a great goal for beginner runners because it is equal parts challenging, yet attainable. Signing up for a 5k is also a great way to stay motivated for the long-term, and brings a boost of running excitement and endorphins on race day.
Finish a 30 day running streak.
Looking for a running goal that will keep you motivated and consistent? There’s no better way to stay consistent than committing to a running streak. Running streaks usually involve running at least one mile every day for a designated amount of time.
Setting a goal to complete a 30 day running streak, whether it’s alone or with a large group, can help you stay motivated to run during particularly busy or challenging seasons. A popular time for running streaks is throughout the holiday season or winter, which is a great way to stay motivated as the weather gets less appealing and social obligations fill your calendar.
PR in the 5k, half marathon or marathon.
Regardless of whether you’ve completed just one race or 500, there is always room for improvement. A common running goal is to earn a PR in a distance you’ve already completed. Training to improve your speed is not only a great way to increase your physical fitness, but it’s also incredibly satisfying.
If you’re looking for a running goal idea to keep you motivated for an entire training season, setting the goal of attaining a PR is an excellent choice. Start incorporating those speed workouts on a weekly basis – whether they’re a quarter mile in length or many miles.
Complete an odd distance race – an 8k, 15k, 25k, etc.
Once you’ve been running for a while, it can start to feel like you’ve seen it all. After running many races of varying size, location and distance, the running atmosphere might start to feel a bit mundane.
However, now is the perfect time to set a brand-new running goal: completing a new distance. While you may have covered 8k, 15k or 25k in various other races, finishing a race of these distances is an entirely new experience. Not to mention – it brings an automatic PR for the first time.
Stretch or warm up before every run.
If you’re a seasoned runner, you might find yourself starting to get a little to relaxed about certain activities that you no longer feel are necessary. Once your body adjusts to the activity of running, it’s easy to feel like you can just head out the door and your body will know what to do.
While this may feel tempting, it’s important to remember that these are the times when injuries occur. If this sounds familiar, a meaningful running goal idea might be to stretch or warm up before every run during your training season. Not only do dynamic warm ups take less than 5 minutes, but they have the potential to help improve your performance and comfort on the run as well.
Run your first half marathon.
Conquering a 5k may feel like a massive feat when you’re a beginner runner, but as time passes and things start to feel more familiar, it’s natural to want to accomplish something bigger. Setting a running goal to complete your first half marathon is an excellent choice.
Running a half marathon is a challenging feat – it pushes your body both mentally and physically, in ways in which you might never expect. But while the distance is challenging, it’s also very attainable if you train and prepare. Training to run your first half marathon will keep you motivated for many weeks as your mileage increases, and help you accomplish something that’s definitely worth celebrating.
Finish an obstacle or themed race.
It’s natural for running to feel a bit dull at times. If you’re looking for a bit of inspiration and excitement after months or years of the same old thing, signing up for an obstacle or themed race is a great way to mix things up.
Finishing your first obstacle race may involve even more than just running – many races involve various activities that require full body strength. With so many races to choose from, setting a running goal to finish an obstacle race is the perfect way to keep things interesting.
Run your fastest mile.
Whether you ran a mile for the first time last week or have been training for marathons for years, improving your mile time has the potential to greatly increase your physical fitness.
A simple running goal idea for any time during training is to run your fastest mile. It might involve one attempt or may take months of work to beat your old time, but either way, setting this new PR requires peak physical fitness and stamina.
Cross train twice a week.
A meaningful running goal idea for any type of runner is to cross train twice a week. Whether your training involves short, fast distances or regular long runs, cross training plays a crucial role to overall health, strength and injury prevention.
Incorporating cross training twice a week might involve regular dog walks, trips to the gym or lap swimming in a pool. No matter how you choose to incorporate cross training, all runners should set a running goal to make it a regular part of their training plan.
Finish a long run without walking.
Once you’ve been running for a little while, it’s easy to start to get addicted to the progress. There is nothing quite like the feeling of finishing a run faster than the week before or running a distance that’s further than you’ve ever gone before.
While long runs make a regular appearance on most training plans, many runners take their pace for granted during these endurance sessions. It’s tempting to stop for frequent breaks when you need to fuel and hydrate along the way, but most runners don’t end up doing this on race day. If you want to make the most of your long runs, set a goal to finish one without walking.
Run a full marathon.
This running goal is found on so many bucket lists, but often never gets accomplished. However, finishing a full marathon is one of the most rewarding activities anyone can complete. Overcoming the physical and mental challenges of a marathon requires a great deal of dedication and perseverance, but the reward is so sweet.
Once you’ve been running for a while, you might consider the running goal idea of completing a full marathon. While it might sound crazy at first, you’ll surprise yourself by the progress you make week after week.
Complete a week of technology-free running.
Running is known for its simplicity and accessibility throughout the world. All you need is a sturdy pair of shoes to head out the door and participate. However, many runners find themselves so caught up in the “necessary” accessories – like watches, headphones, music players, and anything to make their runs feel easier – that they forget why they started running to begin with.
Challenge yourself to complete the running goal of finishing a week of running with no technology. You’ll run without knowing your pace or heart rate and be forced to listen to the sounds of your surroundings. Taking a few technology free runs every once and a while is a great way to reconnect with your body and remind yourself of the joy from just running.
Incorporate trail running once a week.
Eventually, we all find ourselves settling into routines and structure on the run. We run the same route through the neighborhood, at the same time, with the same equipment week after week. But by doing so, we’re missing out on one of running’s greatest opportunities: exploring.
A simple running goal idea for those of us who want to get outside our comfort zone is to incorporate trail running once a week. This goal forces you to mix up your routine and get up close and personal with nature. Not to mention the advantages of changing your terrain and running on unstable ground.
These running goal ideas are a great way to kick off a brand new year. As the calendar changes, challenge yourself to work towards something new and accomplish more than ever before.
Let’s start this year feeling inspired, motivated, and ready for the best season of running yet.
More running goal setting ideas:
- 10 Steps to Achieve Any Running Goal
- Printable Fitness Goal Setting Template and Tracker
- 10 Epic Running Challenges for the New Year