16 Running Goals for Beginner to Expert Runners

Running Goals

Setting goals for running is a great way to improve your health and fitness.

While many see the new year as an opportunity to be ambitious and start something new, you really don’t need a special occasion to set a new goal!

You simply need inspiration, motivation, and dedication

One of the best ways to ensure that you have inspiration, motivation, and dedication is by picking a goal that is just right for you.

Edward Locke, a researcher of goal-setting, found that over 90% of goal setters experienced success when they created specific goals that were challenging, but not too challenging. Essentially, if you find a goal that is just right for you, where you are at, and your fitness level, then you are more likely to see positive results.

Runners come in all shapes, sizes, and abilities. Some runners can run a half marathon at a 7 minute mile, while others may only run one mile at a 15 minute pace. No matter where you are in your running journey, whether you’re starting for the first time, looking to get back to running, or wanting to continue strengthening your running game, we’ve compiled 16 different running goals for people on all “walks” of their running journey. 

As a runner myself, I’ve experienced slumps in my running. I’ve experienced moments when I wasn’t feeling inspired or motivated, and I’ve used many of these running goals to liven things up and bring back my passion. These goals can be set and achieved for any runner, from beginner to advanced, as long as you tailor it to your specific needs. By doing this, you will create a goal that is both specific and challenging; thus increasing your chances of achieving your goal and improving your fitness. 

1. Run a Mile Without Stopping 

Running Goals

For many, running a mile without stopping is a great first step on your journey to becoming a runner. If you’ve been experimenting with alternating running and walking, but you want to increase your uninterrupted distance, start here.

There are many things you can do to prepare to keep running when you want to stop, which include: improving breathwork, strengthening your mental game, improving your form, distracting yourself, and more! 

2. Be More Consistent

If you want to make running more of a priority in your life, you can always set a goal to be more consistent. Whether you’ve run marathons or have yet to run a mile, there could always be more room for consistency. 

As stated above, if you want your goal to be successful, you’ll need to make sure that it is specific and challenging to you. If you have never run before in your life, make a goal to run once a week for eight weeks. Or, if you’re an avid runner who is struggling to keep a routine, set a goal of running 3-4 times a week. 

If this is something you want to work on, you could make a visual to put on your refrigerator or somewhere that you can see it. Maybe it’s a chart that you will check off every time that you run, or maybe you schedule your run ahead of time on your calendar. If it is too cold or raining out, get your run in on a treadmill indoors. Either way, writing out and scheduling this specific goal will help you increase your chances of success! 

3. Complete a 5k or 10k Race

Running Goals

Even if you’ve never run a day in your life, you could be just 8-10 weeks away from running your very first 10k! Isn’t that exciting?! Whether you’ve never run in a race or you’ve run in 1,000, setting a goal to complete a 5k or 10k can really get you running in gear.

I’m not sure if it’s the physical end date it creates, the camaraderie of completing the goal with other people, or that you’re working towards a specific difference, but there is just something about signing up for a race that rejuvenates my love for running! 

4. Increase Your Pace

Thanks to all the technology of smart watches, runners everywhere have access to all kinds of data about their run. Depending on the type of device, you can know your heart rate, distance run, and your pace.

No matter if you are simply running and walking, attempting to reach two miles or you can run 10 miles on a Saturday morning, you can always make a goal to increase your pace. Your pace is your average speed, which is typically calculated in minutes per mile. This is another goal that is customizable and will allow you to determine an ideal pace that will challenge you without being too unrealistic.

For example, if you are running a 12 minute per mile pace, it wouldn’t be very realistic to set a goal to be running 8 minutes miles in 6 weeks. However, you might set a goal to reach a 10 minute mile in 8 weeks.

There are many resources online that can equip you with the strategies you need to improve your pace and reach your goals! 

5. Run In New Places

Running Goals

Often, I will get in the habit of running the same route over and over. When I get in this kind of rut, I will notice my motivation waning. If you have a tendency to run in the same place or you simply want a goal focused more on the experience than increasing your distance or pace, you could set a goal to run in different places.

Currently, my husband was experiencing a lack of motivation in his running and stumbled upon Ricky Gates and his Every Single Street project, where he set a goal to run every street in his hometown of San Francisco. My husband was so inspired that he did this challenge in our town! It’s incredible the amount of motivation he has had to accomplish this goal–not to mention he’s had a blast exploring our city! 

You could set a local goal to run in new places like my husband or you could make things even more interesting by traveling and exploring through running. For example, whenever we go on vacation (whether it’s a quick weekend getaway or a trip to another country), I always look forward to running in the new area. From Reykjavik, Iceland to Boston, Massachusetts, setting a goal to run in a new place is always motivating!  

6. Run Without Wearing Tech

As I stated earlier, technology has completely transformed the running world! It provides runners and other athletes with all kinds of data about their runs: distance, pace, heart rate, elevation gain and loss, and so much more. We can even use technology to listen to music and books while we run. But, have you ever thought about simply going on a run tech free? 

Think about it. This would be such a fun and relaxing change of pace. Especially if you are finding yourself concerned with the numbers and wanting to beat a certain pace, it may be good for you to set a goal to run once a week with no technology. Just run for the fun of running! 

7. Trail Run Once a Week 

Running Goals

If you’re the type of person who needs to change things up to keep your motivation going, instead of running in new places, you could try incorporating trail running once a week. Trail running is a lot of fun, but it also brings some enjoyable challenges to your typically running routine. 

The uneven terrain will require you to use your abs and other muscle groups in order to keep your balance and handle the changes. The scenery would be a welcome and calming change. And, simply put, mixing it up could do you a lot of good! On top of this, setting a simple goal to throw in just one a week is completely doable if you have trails in your area. You can easily tailor this goal to meet your needs by determining the distance and you’ll be good to go! 

8. Complete 30 Days of Running

Maybe you want to set a goal to improve your consistency? The best way to do that is to challenge yourself to complete 30 days of running! If the focus is consistency, the distance doesn’t have to be astronomical. Some days it could be a 5 minute jog (about a half a mile) while others could be longer. The great thing about this running goal is that you can customize the distance, but simply showing up each day will kick-start your motivation.

9. Run Your First Half Marathon

Running Goals

For some, they need a bigger start goal than a 5k or a 10k. Even for the runner who has yet to go for a run, this is an attainable goal with time. According to the Marathon Handbook, you could run from couch to half marathon in as little as 15 weeks! For runners that are more advanced, you could achieve this goal in less time. Either way, signing up to run your very first half marathon is an exciting and noteworthy feat as a running goal! 

10. Warm-Up Before Every Run

As someone who has been running for over a decade, I still struggle to remember (or take the time) to warm up before every run. Even though I am fully aware of all the amazing benefits, I have a hard time making this a priority. 

If you’re like me and you need an easily applicable goal that doesn’t take up a lot of time, has incredible benefits to your health and preventing injuries, consider setting a goal to warm up before every run! Your body will definitely thank you in the long run! 

11. Cross Train on Off Days

Running Goals

Sometimes the best thing you can do for your running is to do something different. That may sound counter-intuitive, but there’s actually a lot of evidence that suggests cross training is beneficial to runners because it works typically underutilized muscle groups. By strengthening your weaker muscles, you are creating more balance in your body and might prevent yourself from running related injuries.

So, if you run a lot and you’re getting a little burned out, throw in some cross-training and see how far it can take you! 

12. Run Your Fastest Mile

Once, during the peak of the 2020 pandemic, my friends and I tried to come up with a fun way to workout together. We ran a timed one-mile run three times per week. We recorded our time on a spreadsheet to see who could run the fastest mile over the course of the month. Our goal was to improve our speed while also making it a little competition. It was a lot of fun!

If you want to focus on your pace, you can set a goal to run your fastest mile. You can set benchmarks and a goal to run timed 1-2 times per week, and if you’re feeling competitive like I was, you can always bring in some friends for a friendly competition! Accountability always ups the motivation for me! 

13. Run an Adventure Race

Running Goals

The world of running isn’t just about road races. There’s a plethora of adventure races that incorporate all kinds of cross training, trails, and so much more that you could find to train for! From obstacle courses to polar plunges, you can find many exciting adventure races that will get you motivated!

14. Finish A Long Run

Maybe you don’t want an ambitious goal like signing up for a race. Maybe you could set a goal to achieve a certain long-distance run without stopping. For some, a long run could be 3 continuous miles, but for others it could be 18 miles. No matter the goal, you can customize it to be for beginning runners, advanced runners, and everyone in between. 

15. PR in a Race

Whether you love running 5ks or marathons, it’s always a motivating goal to sign up for the next one and try to beat your personal record (PR). Create a spreadsheet with your previous results and times to keep track and then set to work crushing your previous records! 

16. Run Your First Full Marathon

Running Goals

Marathons are quite the feat. For beginning runners, it could take anywhere from 6 months to a year to train for. They are grueling and training is very time-consuming. Personally, I have only run one full marathon, and it was an achievement that I treasure. If you’re wanting running goals where you are ready to reach for the stars, then this goal is it.

Photo of author

Jessica Meacham

I’m a former college athlete turned marathon-running and outdoor exploring mom of two little ones. From hiking through Iceland to paddle boarding in Lake Tahoe, our family is always up for a fun adventure that incorporates fun and fitness!

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