Running Goals: Can’t Win the Race? Win the Goal

running goals, running resulotuions

Making goals for the year can help keep you motivated. Photo by Charles Thompson.

Runners tend to be goal-oriented people. Sure, there are exceptions to the rule, but so many of us have a few dreams hitched to our running shoes. It’s the nature of the sport; when there are hundreds to thousands of us in any given race, the vast majority of us aren’t in it to win it.

We call them races, but we’re really racing against ourselves more than any of the people around us. Unless, that is, you are national class runner who is fast enough to actually win, like some of my friends and teammates who’ve nabbed victories at races all over the globe like the Red Rock Canyon Marathon in Nevada, the Brooklyn Marathon in New York, and the Antarctica Marathon.

But if you’re a mid-packer like me, you’ve probably never won a road race, unless it was in high school. I know the sweet taste of victory as a swimmer and a rower, but it has eluded me as an adult runner. My best finish was 10th in a local race in Rhode Island. I felt like I’d won the Olympics. Which is why making and then chasing down goals is so important to me as a runner. If I can’t win the race, I can still win the goal.

Back in 2010, shortly after “Run, Karla, Run!” made its debut, I made three simple running goals:

1. Get faster

2. Fast enough to race a sub 2-hour half-marathon

3. Even faster to race a sub 4-hour marathon

I’d been running for almost five years, and racing for two and a half of them. Mine was a slow crawl from out of breath pants after a slow shuffle around the block to relative comfort at my local 10Ks. I joined a running team and was determined to train hard, having knocked off smaller goals like run a sub 30-minute 5K and a sub 60-minute 10K. I worked my way from the back of the pack to the middle of it, and was ready for the next challenge.

By 2011, I’d accomplished my goal of getting faster, nabbing a personal best that year in six of the seven distances I race regularly: 1 mile, 5K, 4 miles, 10K, half-marathon and marathon. Only a 5-mile personal record eluded me. But I failed to achieve the other two goals, largely because I didn’t even attempt them. I ran two half-marathons—the first half-marathons of my running “career”—doing one as a fun run and the other as my first real time trial. I finished in 2:07. I ran the ING New York City Marathon, but after being diagnosed with arthritis and sitting out the most crucial three weeks of my training, I made that one a fun run too. My improvement in fitness paid off and I was able to PR while maintaining a comfortable pace the whole race, even if it wasn’t even close to sub-4.

So for 2011, I tweaked my goals as such:

1. Get even faster

2. Fast enough to run a sub 2-hour half-marathon

3. Work on long distance speed for a sub 4-hour marathon someday.

4. Cross-train more

Once again, I nailed the first goal, logging personal bests in the mile, 5K and 5 miles. I also brought home goal 4, completing my first triathlon, adding swimming, cycling and yoga to my repertoire. But goals 2 and 3 still eluded me, once again for a lack of trying. I ran one half-marathon as a fun run and didn’t even run a marathon.

So here we are in 2012, and it’s time to make some goals anew. Here goes:

1. Get even faster

If it ain’t broke…

2. Fast enough to run a sub 2-hour half-marathon

I’m hoping 2012 is the year this finally happens. But this time I’ve realized that if I really want to achieve this goal, I have to actually race half-marathons. I’m giving it a go with the Tinker Bell Half Marathon next week as a training run and Disney’s Princess Half Marathon in February as my first real attempt.

3. Work on long distance speed for a sub 4-hour marathon someday

I’ll run a marathon this year to make sure I’m training long and try to shave some time off my current PR. I know I won’t run sub-4 this year, but if I keep training and racing those half-marathons, my fitness should have something to show for it down the road.

4. Keep cross training

I’ll likely do another triathlon this year, just to keep things fresh.


5. Race more

I ran 5 races in 2011, compared to other years where I’ve done as many as 11. Racing keeps me honest. It keeps me training and working hard. So that’s what I’m going to do. I’ve already got four races on my calendar in the first third of the year. So far, so good.

There you have it. Those are my running goals for 2012.

Karla Bruning is a veteran journalist and running nerd. She has completed four marathons, trains with the New York Harriers and is a member of New York Road Runners. Follow Karla’s “Notes From a Running Nerd” at, Facebook and Twitter@KBruning.

Karla Bruning


Karla Bruning is a race announcer at the TCS New York City Marathon + other major events, TV host for the New York City Triathlon + contributor to Shape, Redbook, Runner's World + other publications. She used to report for Newsweek but spent her free time squeezing in workouts. Now it's her job. She's run 8 marathons, 30 halves, 10 triathlons + open water swims. When she's not running, talking about running or writing about running, she's snuggling her baby, spoiling her dog + compulsively traveling.


01 2012

3 Comments Add Yours ↓

The upper is the most recent comment

  1. 1

    They’re good goals Karla. Only 5 races?! I think you could do a lot more racing, even if they’re low-key local or club-style events. More short races in the mile to 8k range would be good. I raced 32 times last year and don’t think that was overdoing it. Racing is good training for racing and for running fast. A tempo run isn’t going to be as hard or intense as a race.

  2. Karla Bruning
    Karla #

    I agree. 5 races was abysmal. I’m hoping to do a lot more than that, even if I run some of them as tempo runs (like I did in Disneyland this weekend–I did a half-marathon and ran the first 5K super easy, then the last 10 as a tempo.) So far so good, I’ve already done 2 races in January!

  3. 3

    Good stuff. Aim for a #streak of 2 per month .)