I’m not really one who gets worked up about New Years Resolutions. A couple of bad years as a pre-teen shook my faith in the practice and I decided it was best to make goals when I saw that I needed to rather than when the calendar told me to. But despite that, the changing of the year is actually a pretty good time to sit down and figure out running goals for the coming months. You’ve had time to rest from fall races, spring races are just far enough away that you can start training for them, and you can line up any other races you want to run as well. It gives you something to look forward to during the cold winter and a reason to get out there and remind yourself what it feels like to be alive. (That’s what I call it when I force myself to go out and freeze my toes and nose until they are about to shatter: “Feeling alive.”)

But maybe you’re not a racer. Or not sure about running at all. Maybe you just want to test things out a bit. My tip is that as you think about your goals, be as specific as you can. Instead of saying, “I’m going to run a 5K this year,” say, “I’m going to run the Founder’s 5K in Prospect Park at the end of July.” And then if you can, sign up for it.

Instead of saying, “I’m going to run more this year,” say, “I’m going to run 100 times this year. A run has to be at least 20 minutes for it to count.” (This is by far my favorite running goal ever. Wish I’d thought of it.) Or maybe, “I’m going to run 1000 miles this year. That means I need to run about 20 miles a week.”And go from there.

Whatever it is you decide to do — sign up for races, count your miles, set a minimum number of runs for the year, set a personal record, whatever — be specific. Write it down. Come up with a plan for execution. And tell someone you will feel accountable to. Possibly someone who will want to tagalong beside you, or behind you, or in front of you, through the months and miles ahead.

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