Run Smarter: Goal Setting – RCNW January eNewsletter

December 26, 2007

Goal Setting: Setting your sights on personal bests

Quick: What would Napoleon, Neil Armstrong, and the winner of a competitive eating contest have in common?

Here’s the answer: their focused determination towards a single task allowed them to be successful in what they set out to do. They had ambition, intent and a sense of meaning to what they were doing. They had GOALS that facilitated the success they were after.

Well-crafted goals offer you a road map for the months of training you will undertake—hour after hour—before your big event. These goals will enable you to achieve your highest level of performance on race day by ensuring that your training is focused and appropriate—your mind has honed in on exactly what you want to achieve in your goal race, and you know how to act out your performance to achieve this goal.

Goal setting, like any of the training you regularly do, has a process. To create goals that guide you towards your athletic dreams, make them S.M.A.R.T.:

Specific: Identify a specific action or event that will take place.
easurable: The goal and its outcome should be measurable.

chievable: The goal should be attainable given the time you have and your current fitness and experience.

ealistic: A well-founded goal is one that will require you to improve from where you are beginning, but also allow a strong likelihood of success.

imely: The goal should include the date or time period by which it will be achieved.

Goal setting is a dynamic process. It is appropriate to set several goals in one session. Come up with five items that you would like to work on that relate to your main goal. Make sure to state your goals as a declaration of your intent and not a wimpy wish for an ideal outcome. “I will run 2:43:30 at the Chicago marathon in October of 2008” is a stronger statement of intent than, “I want to be a faster marathoner.”

Develop short-term and long-term goals. I have my athletes set short-term goals that will take them through the next 12 weeks, intermediate goals for the next 9-12 months, and then long-term goals for the next 24 months. This three-tier goal setting process encourages athletes to prioritize events they would like to participate in and determine what their goals are for those events over the short and intermediate time periods (1-12 months). Most importantly, the long-term goals set a course for us to follow in developing our strengths into even greater assets, improving on weaknesses, and encouraging continued education in our sport. These details make up the 1% difference between achieving great results and results that are merely good. These long-term goals tend to be more qualitative and may include a wider variety of ambitions like getting educated on nutrition, studying the lifestyles and training of great runners, or even something tangentially related, like learning a foreign language to use when traveling for a race.

Goal setting is best done with your coach or someone close to you who will be supportive AND objective about your endeavors. Sharing your intentions with others who are supportive of your training and racing will cement the bonds your share with them and promote your success in achieving these goals.

Make sure to write down your goals and put them in a place where you can see them. Many athletes will put their short-term declarations in a place where they will see them on a daily basis, like their mirror in the bathroom. From time to time revisit your goals and be comfortable reviewing and revising your list. Goals are not set in stone, and you are not a failure if you modify them. As with anything else, practice makes perfect, and your goal setting will improve the more you work with it.

For a complimentary worksheet to use in your goal setting visit Complete Running Programs at

Long may you run,

Sean Coster
Complete Running Programs

About the Author
Sean Coster applies education in exercise physiology with his experience coaching runners to enable his athletes to realize their potential in running.

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Copyright 2008 Complete Running Programs – May not be used without permission of the author.