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13 Exciting Running Goal Ideas

No matter how long you’ve been running, there’s always room for improvement. Setting goals (especially fun ones) can help you stay motivated even when you may not feel like lacing up your shoes and pounding the pavement. But what do you do when you can’t think of any new running goals to set? If you’re stuck, we’re here to help you get creative with your goal-setting. First, let’s look at what it means to set SMART goals and how to do it.

How to set SMART running goals

Smart goals with its associated word written on notebook.

To set yourself up for success, consider setting SMART goals. Serious runners frequently use this type of goal-setting mentality to improve their performance. To explain, SMART goals are:1

  • Specific: Avoid setting broad goals that lack definition. Instead, hone in on a particular metric, mileage, or aspect of your training you’d like to change. For instance, instead of saying, “I’m going to improve my speed,” say, “I’m going to PR in my next half-marathon.”
  • Measurable: Make sure your new running goal is something you can track. Simply saying you’re going to eat healthier isn’t going to cut it. Instead, quantify your goal by committing to eating four servings of vegetables each day.
  • Attainable: Try to avoid setting goals that are too easy to achieve or completely unachievable. For example, running a marathon in a month isn’t an attainable goal if you just started exercising. Most people train for at least 12 weeks before running a marathon. Goals like this aren’t realistic and may end up being more discouraging than motivating. Make sure whatever goals you set are sustainable.
  • Relevant: Whatever running goals you make should align with your values and long-term objectives. Think about what’s important to you: improving your mental health, getting fit, or developing your social life are just a few options.
  • Time-based: Give yourself a deadline to achieve your goal. Whether it’s a week, a month, or a year, having a timeline may help keep you motivated and accountable.

Now that you’re familiar with the SMART goal strategy let’s look at some exciting and creative running goals you might not have considered before.

1. Run with a friend regularly.

Two friends running together in a park.

If running has always been something you’ve done solo, consider stepping outside your comfort zone and finding a running buddy. Running with a friend is often more fun and will provide more accountability. Skipping a run is also harder when you know a friend is counting on you to show up. Additionally, running with someone else can be safer than running alone.

2. Try out a new location once a week. 

Woman running in city smiling while listening to music.

Most runners frequent the same running routes because they’re familiar and reliable. Try branching out and setting a goal to run at a new place once a week. You’ll likely find some brand new favorites and enjoy your runs even more as you explore a new neighborhood, park, or trail.

3. Run for a cause.

A group of people shaking hands before an organized run.

Running for a cause can feel more meaningful and impactful, especially if it’s something you hold close to your heart. You can run many different charity races, including events like the Wounded Warrior Carry Forward 5K, Girls on the Run 5K, St. Jude Memphis Marathon Weekend, and the Wings for Life World Run. Search online to find charity races near you or travel to another state or city to participate in a well-known one.

4. Incorporate cross-training.

Two people squatting while holding barbells.

Maybe you’ve been running for a while now, and you’ve gotten pretty comfortable with your routine. Shake things up by trying something new! In addition to your weekly running routine, add in a weekly swimming, yoga, or strength training session and challenge your body to work in other ways.

5. Lower your resting heart rate.

Woman checking her heart rate on her watch.

A high resting heart rate means your heart is working harder to pump blood throughout your body, while a lower resting heart rate generally means your heart is working well. If fitness is your primary motivator for running, consider setting a goal like this to improve your physical health and well-being.

6. Run with Vingo.

Woman running on treadmill indoors.

If you typically run outside, why not try something new? Running with the Vingo app is a fun and exciting way to explore new running routes all over the world! With Vingo, you can run from any space with any treadmill and select courses of varying difficulty to meet your training goals. You can even run with friends and chat along the way. And best of all, poor weather won’t keep you from achieving your running goals.

7. Join a local running club.

Group of men and women in a running group at a park.

Joining a local running club is a great way to make like-minded friends. And if lack of motivation is an issue for you, hitting the pavement with other runners can sometimes be the difference between staying in and getting out for a great run. Plus, running with others of similar or more advanced abilities is a great way to challenge yourself to grow and improve. Many clubs (although not all) also run races together, which is great fun!

8. Eat clean for a month.

Woman drinking a green smoothie on running track.

Want to make better eating choices to fuel your body for running? Try eating “clean” for a month by avoiding all processed foods. Focus on cooking all your meals with healthy ingredients like fresh fruits and veggies, lean meats and protein sources like dried beans, grains like oats and brown rice, and dairy. Avoid sweetened beverages and desserts. And don’t forget to keep a journal of notes to track how you feel on your runs!

9. Set a new personal record in a 5k, half marathon, or marathon.

Group of runners wearing numbers for organized run.

If you’re a competitive runner, one way to banish the monotony of running race after race is to set a new personal record (PR) in a race you’ve already run. Attempting to beat your previous stats is a highly motivating goal. After all, there’s no greater competition than yourself, right?

10. Sign up for a themed run.

Group of runners at the end of color run being splashed with blue chalk.

Themed runs can be a lot of fun, especially if you run them with friends! Many themed runs allow you to dress up while you run or provide a special prize at the end of the race. Others challenge you to take on a seemingly impossible task, like running 2.5 miles, eating a dozen Krispy Kreme donuts, and then running another 2.5 miles to the end of the race, all within an hour. (We’re referring to the Krispy Kreme Challenge here.) Search online for themed runs near you to find something you and your running pals can try together!

11. Do a run streak.

Man and woman running on a bridge together.

A run streak is where you run every single day for a set period of time. For example, you might aim to run daily for 30 days. Or, maybe your goal is to run a mile every day for a year. However you do it, consistency is key.

12. Run 1,000 miles in one year.

Man running on beach with the sign "Mile 1".

Wouldn’t it be awesome to be able to say you ran 1,000 miles in a year? Sure, it sounds daunting, but it’s totally possible if you stay committed. If 1,000 miles is too much for comfort, choose a set mileage you feel is achievable and go after it. You might be surprised at what you can do!

13. Run without any technology.

Man and women high fiving on running track.

Although running without wearing your smartwatch or fitness tracker is basically unheard of, try doing it sometime. It’s a great way to unplug and reconnect with your body and your surroundings while you run.

Whatever running goals you decide to make, don’t forget to share them with someone you trust! Doing so will help you stay motivated and accountable to your goals.

Key Takeaways:

Setting creative running goals can keep you motivated and excited about running. If you’re struggling to develop goal ideas, there’s no shortage here! Take your pick and revitalize your running routine.

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  1. The University of California. (2016). SMART Goals: A How-To Guide. https://www.ucop.edu/local-human-resources/_files/performance-appraisal/How%20to%20write%20SMART%20Goals%20v2.pdf 

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