Fitness: how to set your running goals

Don’t let time slip away. Set a goal and make things happen, says running coach Mary Jennings

Take a moment to look back over these first eight weeks of 2016. Are you happy with your running progress? Have you a training diary full of runs or is it just a list of excuses? To those who have been dedicated to your running this winter, I salute you. You are no doubt feeling energised, confident and a little bit smug. You deserve to be.

To the rest of you, we need a plan B to get you moving before the next eight weeks also disappear.

What makes a successful runner?

Runners who get out the door on these cold days do so because they have a goal and are following a training plan. They are passionate about their goal and excited enough by it that they ignore the rain and cold, and just run. They know the reward at the end will be worth it and know the training will pay off.

If you don’t have a goal or a plan in place, you can easily make an excuse as there are no consequences and you are not accountable. Start by skipping one run and the missed day turns into days, then weeks, and the weeks turn into months. Time literally flies by and the running shoes start to gather dust. We can all benefit from setting a goal to help keep us on track this spring.

What will inspire you?

Having a race or a running event booked is a great motivator and one of the best goals you can have. Once signed up, you then have a deadline and can start planning towards it. There are races and events popping up all around the country so you are sure to find one on, which has every running event categorised by date, distance and county. If you need a little more motivation than a local run, consider a weekend away incorporating a race like the Great Limerick Run on the May Bank Holiday weekend (see panel). Round up your friends and choose from distances from six miles, half-marathon and beyond.

There is even the added bonus option of running the marathon as a relay with three of your friends. You are also more likely to stick to your training if you know other friends are depending on you for their marathon medal.

What you can do in eight weeks

Regardless of whatever grand plans you have for your running over the next few years, you won’t reach these long-term goals if you don’t start with the first basic steps. Consider what you could achieve over the next eight weeks that would get you on the right track for your long-term goal.

Eight weeks is long enough for most people to plan, but short enough to keep us passionate, focused and motivated.

You can change a lot in eight weeks. As a beginner, you can move from walker to 5km runner. As a 5km runner, you can move to 10km. As a lapsed runner, you can get back into the routine and get your 5km comfortable and enjoyable again.

As a runner who would like to move towards long distance, a half-marathon in the late spring could be a great goal if you are comfortable at 10km now.

Choosing the right goal

Are you excited about your running goal? If so, get moving and get planning. If you are not inspired, then you may have chosen the wrong goal. It’s important to find something that you are passionate about.

You have to decide if now is the right time for you to make your running a priority or maybe there are some other goals outside of running that are more important right now.

Once you do find your goal, write it down on paper, tell a friend and get your weekly training plan created. Keep your goal fresh in your mind. Pin your training plan to your fridge, your desk or on your bathroom door. You need to see it every day and remind yourself why you are doing this. Notice how much more efficient you become as you start keeping track of your life every week. No longer will time run away on you.

Take control of your time

There will always be other things in life that will fill your spare time if you let them. However, so many of these distractions won’t matter in the long term and you will wonder where the time went. Wouldn’t it be better to use the time for something that will make a long-lasting difference to your life? Don’t let another month of this year sneak by unnoticed.

So many of us spend our work days helping our employers achieve their goals, but yet let our own lives pass by in a haze. Isn’t it time we put the same investment into ourselves as we do into our work?

Mary Jennings is founder and running coach with Mary trains beginners and marathoners and everyone in between to enjoy running and stay injury free. Mary is also the creator of all our Irish Times Get Running programmes.

Your plan of action

Looking for a running goal? Or something fun to do on the May Bank Holiday weekend? This year The Irish Times Health+Family is a media partner for the Barringtons Hospital Great Limerick Run on May 1st.

The event provides runners with a few options – six miles, half-marathon and full marathon. And for the younger members of the family, the UL Sport Children's Run is on Saturday, April 30th. See for more and check out Health+Family next week and online for exclusive reader registration discount codes. It's time for this running team to start training . . .

Your training plan

Sign up for any of our three eight-week courses at Beginners will take you from inactivity to being able to run 30 minutes non-stop. Stay on Track is for people who can go for a 30- to 40-minute run three times a week, but who need a kickstart.

10km is for those who can comfortably run for 30 minutes and want to move on.

Courses are delivered by The Irish Times in association with ForgetTheGym.

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