Set a summer running goal. It doesn’t have to be a marathon

Build slowly and sensibly and you will reach goals that seem impossible right now

There is nothing as inspiring as watching the London Marathon on a sunny April Sunday morning from the comfort of your own couch. It is addictive viewing and has the power the make you want to become a better runner, or possibly even a marathoner. The BBC does an amazing job of focusing on not only the elite runners but the recreational runners who have emotional stories to tell about their marathon journey.

Marathon Fever

If you managed to catch some of the coverage last week, I guarantee you had a tear in your eye listening to the inspiring accounts of runners’ journeys to the start line and their passion for chosen charities. One thing is certain, watching the marathon can make you feel a little lazy sitting on the couch while 40,000 others run through the streets of London high-fiving kids and absorbing the incredible atmosphere. It’s no wonder it’s one of my busiest weeks of the year for marathon coaching enquires. The television coverage makes the marathon look like one big party and everyone wants a part of it.

Summer of Running

Before you sign your next six months away to marathon training, take a step back and work out if long distance is actually the right thing for you this summer. A marathon is an incredible achievement but not something that should be rushed into. Although the television images show it at it is best, behind every smiling face is many months of dedication, focus and determination. If it has been a while since you have run, go back to basics and get your 10k distance comfortable before you make any big commitments. If you are ready for long distance, find an event with a realistic timeframe and get a plan in place. Identify what time you have to dedicate to training over the next few months and make sure your reasons for training for a marathon are strong enough to keep you on track on those mornings when you would rather stay in bed.

Boston Surprise

It is not just the London Marathon that captured the public's attention recently. The world famous Boston marathon took place in horrendous weather and ended up with surprise winners. The first man home was Yuki Kawauchi, an incredibly popular Japanese runner who is known as the "citizen runner" as he works a 40 hours a week government job, trains hard in his spare time and doesn't have any sponsors. There was more upset in the women's race when Sarah Sellers surprised everyone, including herself, to finish in second place. Sarah has a full-time job working as a nurse and was only taking on her second marathon. She was not expected to feature anywhere near the top of the field. I'm not suggesting that you all have the potential to be a surprise winner of a marathon next year if you get focused, but we can take encouragement from the fact that both of these runners managed to train to such a high level by planning well and juggling their work and training.

Local Inspiration

Having a goal is key and finding the right challenge to inspire and motivate you is what will keep you focused. Your goal doesn't have to involve a mass participation race either. Some people opt for a more solitary running journey. Two incredible local success stories in the past few weeks had us glued to our social media accounts for updates. Firstly, 65-year-old Mary Nolan-Hickey travelled the entire coast of Ireland over the past few months raising awareness and vital funds for RNLI Ireland ( While Mary was approaching the end of her running journey, another man has a challenge awaiting. From Ballycastle to Castletownbere, Don Hannon ran the length of The Ireland Way hiking trail to help spread the word about organ donation and transplantation ( Don himself had donated half his liver to his sister two years ago and this epic run was to spread the word about organ donation and increase signups to donor cards. Both of these incredible people had a strong passion for their chosen charity and a clear goal to get them through the tough days of their journey.

Finding your goal

Before you concoct a similar adventure for yourself, remember that both Mary and Don are very experienced long-distance runners and before taking on such large challenges had clearly done their homework. I’m not suggesting their path will be one you wish to follow, but I can imagine that they may not have predicted these recent achievements in their future a few years ago. Who knows what may lie ahead for us on our running journey if we made the decision to get focused on our running progress now, whatever our fitness level.

Stepping Stones

We don’t need to see the big picture right now. Start with a small step and that will lead you somewhere. Each stepping stone along our running journey brings us a new challenge, direction and an opportunity to check in to see if we are still on our right path. Committing to something large that you cannot follow through on is demoralising. Removing the pressure from one major event and spreading the success across a series of smaller milestones is better for our head as well as our body. Who knows what potential we may have. Build slowly and sensibly and you will reach goals that seem impossible right now.

It all starts with a decision to put on your running shoes and head out the door today.

Go on.

Sign up for one of The Irish Times' Get Running programmes (it is free!). 
First, pick the programme that suits you.
- Beginner Course: This programme is an eight-week course that will take you from inactivity to being able to run 30 minutes non-stop.
- Stay On Track: The second programme is an eight-week course for those of you who can squeeze in a 30- to 40-minute run three times a week.
- 10km Course: This is an eight-week course designed for those who can comfortably run for 30 minutes and want to move up to the 10km mark.
Best of luck!