Here’s How You Set And Chase Those Big Scary Running Goals

Here's how to set realistic but challenging goals—and go after them.


I recently had an incredible opportunity to spend four days with a group of amazing female runners. ( Head over to the recap on my blog for the details.) One of the topics that we discussed quite a bit were goals. Some of the women there were chasing what I call “big scary goals” – things like the Olympic Trials. Others were chasing “big scary goals” of a mere mortal variety – Boston qualifying times and personal records. Some of us were still deciding what our goals were.

All the talk about goals of all different varieties got me thinking about how terrifying it can be to actually set those “big scary” ones. As I look forward to two marathons this fall, I keep thinking about what my goals are. Am I doing a good job in setting realistic, but challenging ones? I’ve been hesitant to really declare my goals because that means the possibility of failing or of not reaching the targets that I’ve set for myself.

Setting the “big scaries” is also slightly fear inducing because it brings along with it the comparison trap. I know that my goals would be a terrible day for some people and vice versa. It can be scary to own your ambitions, because that means that you are responsible for either achieving them or not. However, I’ve learned that owning your goals does not mean letting your them own and define you.

Whether or not I chop thirty minutes off of my marathon time in October doesn’t define me. It doesn’t make me a better Courtney or a worse Courtney. Yes, it’s a goal. Yes, I’m working hard to achieve it. But (and I have to remind myself of this often), a marathon is one morning. Whatever time the clock reads when I cross the finish line does not erase all the 5am Saturday wakeup’s, track workouts and steamy, humid runs done in training. I am not defined by whether or not I achieve the goals that I set. I believe what comes next is what truly defines me. If I succeed in my ambitions, do I just sit back and revel or do I continue to move forward with new ones? If I fall short, do I wallow in regret or do I pick up my shoes and keep going? That’s the character defining piece right there. Taking a step back and realizing that my big scary goals are just that – goals. No more and no less. They are great to have (especially the big scary ones) but they don’t define me.

Do you set big scary goals?