You don't always have to go for a PR.

When it comes to setting a goal for your race, the only option seems to be to try for a new PR, right? Wrong! There are endless possibilities for choosing a race goal, meaning you can pick which one is the best for where you are. So how do you know what fits you as a runner? 

First, knowing your options is key—races can be used for a variety of goals.

“As a coach I often use events as ‘breakthrough workouts’ for my runners; this means they aim to work very hard but not necessarily for a personal best,” explains Ronnie Staton, a running coach and motivational speaker. “The extra stimulation of the race provides a great platform for such workouts.”

Staton shares a few more ideas, such as setting the goal of not starting off the race too fast, aiming to hold proper technique and form throughout the course and even trying to run a negative split.

When it comes to actually setting a goal, you should be constantly looking at your progress and revisiting/refreshing them. Staton says this helps boost motivation, maintain focus and keep your training on the right track.

“Set your goal before training begins and then work to short term goals while constantly reviewing your goals,” he shares. “Keeping a training log is vital to do this well—goals are ever changing and there to stretch you.”

Staton says that people often use S.M.A.R.T goal setting principles, but feels it can cause runners to undersell themselves.

“A real goal must be something that you could not achieve now—the training grows you to the point it becomes possible at a push,” he adds. “I use something called the 3 R’s. Is the goal REAL to the runner? Does the goal have RAW emotion behind it to drive them day in day out, is it their passion? Does the goal require the runner to be RELENTLESS in it’s pursuit to be successful? If all three answers are yes, you have a proper goal. Get to work!”

The final thing about goals that you need to realize? You should expect to fail. A lot.

“Understand that in failing there is progress; don’t fear it,” Staton reassures. “Set huge goals and attack them. Fail then get back up and go again. Fail your way to success. Anyone who achieves frequently at a high level or hits their individual best does so because of all the previous failures improved them but ultimately—they did not quit!”