Why realistic running goals are important

The second part of the season has already begun. You might be running your first marathon or the second of the year. You might be trying to run your first race.
Each year, every runner has different goals.
We want to become faster
We want to get in the top 10 of a race
We want to finish our first marathon…
In my opinion, to enjoy a good year without injuries, you need to set realistic running goals at the beginning of the year and re-define or re-adjust if necessary during the coming months.

If plan A doesn’t work, the alphabet has 25 more letters. – Claire Cook


Your yearly running goals

I am a big fan of yearly goals. Each January, or actually December, I try to go through the past year, analyze what I have done – or not. Then I look at the races I would love to run, and try to have a rough idea of my yearly planning.
How to do so?
1. Analyze your shape and fitness. I have a journal where I keep all my information about training, and it’s good to see the evolution through the year.
2. Decide how many A-race you want to run. In my opinion, it shouldn’t be more than 3. But again, it depends on your goals. I want to race fast, and I know I can’t do so for every race.
3. Decide how many training races you want to add to your racing plan.
4. Decide how your training will be structured – Here I have the help of the lovely team of My Goal who contributed to help me, reaching my goal at Paris Marathon.

And yes. You might be re-adjusting during the year. You can predict what will happen and your only weapon to avoid any frustration is to stay flexible about your planning.

Realistic running goals are mind-saver

Before going deeper into some strategies use to meet your goal at the end of the year, or at least to avoid any frustration or running-depression, I think it’s important to note why setting realistic goals for your seasons could just save your mood and self-esteem.

Short and long terms goals are commitments you decide to make for yourself. Nobody will do it for you.
If you want to improve your running or your fitness, you have to set goals. Because it gives you a structure.
Why? Once you’ve set your goal, you will have to set the strategy about how you’re going to get there. It’s like planning a trip from A to B. B is your goal, now find the best realistic and most suitable path to reach that point.

Setting realistic running goals is important to avoid frustration. I once set my goal too high for my second marathon and instead of listening to my body – and my mind – I followed a training plan that was not for me. I ended up injured three days before race day. How frustrating is that?
But there is a lesson here. Failing at reaching a goal is not the end of the world. It helps you grow up. Because you will learn from this failure.
And that’s why failure won’t be a failure anymore…
But just a lesson learned.
That makes you stronger.

Focus on the way to reach the top

Some runners tend to focus on the journey rather than on the end-results, on the goal.
How does it work? Well during training you will have little successes, improvements as well as seem-to-be devastating days. And instead of fearing about the achievement of your goal, you will rather focus on these little improvements you have during your training.
If I can give you a meaningful advice here…
Take it one step at the time. You won’t become a rocket overnight just because your goals are written down on paper. I like the idea of focusing just on the process. This is a good way to learn patience and give your body enough time to evolve and get stronger while keeping your mind in a success-mood.
I am learning to focus on the journey rather than on the goals. But this is also a process in itself.
So be patient and be grateful about the little successes along the way.
Your body will thank you.
As well as your mind.

Your goals during a race

I think some people can identify themselves with this one.
You’ve been training hard during months, you feel ready, it’s your most important race of the season.
And on race day. Well on race day nothing happen as planned.
This is bitter.
That is why I tend to set B and C goals next to the A-one.
For example, your biggest goal is to run a new PB. In case you should realize during the race, that reaching this goal is impossible, your B goal could be reaching the finish line in a certain time-frame that is manageable for your mind. And your C goal could be reaching the finish line healthy and without injuries.
Why do so?
To avoid frustration and a DNF (Did Not Finish).
Of course, it’s frustrating to fail your new PB. I don’t like it either.
But having other goals within the same race helps to keep the mind up and prepare you so you can still enjoy your race. A little bit.
And that is what running is about.
To enjoy it.

Enjoy the view at the top

This is something I learned from wise friends this year.
Whatever the goal…
Whatever the journey…
Be grateful
Be thankful
Appreciate the privilege you have…
Being able to run
At this time…
At this place.
Enjoy the gift of running
In Nature
On the streets
With people
With yourself.

Setting realistic running goals – For everyone?

I realized for myself, that I need to set my racing calendar at the beginning of the year.
One reason is work. If I need to travel, I will need holidays, and I can’t decide spontaneously to travel to France or Spain or wherever I want overnight.
Not anymore.
The second reason is, that I always have post-race depression.
After my Paris Marathon, I had nothing planned and I lost my structure and my fire for a while.
I was totally running-depressed.
On the other hand, I know other runners who do not plan their season in the same way.
I guess they have goals, even if not specially defined.
Like for example being in nature and surrounded by people most of the time.
In the end, we should be able to know what’s good for oneself and set the most realistic running goals to avoid burn-out, injuries or boredom.


Picture Sebastian Wiertz / Flickr CC BY-NC-ND 2.0


  1. I also think that realistic running goals help you keep from beating yourself up if you don’t reach goals that you may have set to high. Great post.

    • Oriane

      Thank you Ivanna. I totally agree. I am the kind of person beating herself up when I don’t reach my goals so I can totally relate. 🙂

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