Level up your Running Goals

Publish Date
Nov 8, 2018
Over the years, I’ve tried a variety of ways to encourage myself to run on any given day. As any runner knows, it can be easy to dissuade yourself out of running from time to time. Sweltering humidity, ice cold winds, rain, and darkness can all conspire against you at any time or pushing you toward using the dreaded treadmill.
There are a good handful of well-known ways to motivate yourself: running buddies, signing up for races, rewarding yourself with a dessert or beer afterward. You get the idea.
What I want to highlight here though are a few statistic approaches you can use to set goals. Total mileage for a week or month can work, but it can also be a bit of a slog. Try applying a few of these to your tracking and see how they help you take things to the next level!
  • “Workout Points” – I created this as a way to try to assess how much effort went into each run, as no single factor does that. A hard 5k PR-attempt is more exerting than a slow 10k group run, and of course the same 5 mile run in the heat or over hills is tougher than a flat 5 mile run in easy conditions. As such, I assign an arbitrary point value based on all these factors, plus some bonuses for things I don’t like to do (run in the morning, run more than 10 miles, run when it is hot and humid). This ends up being ~80% correlated with distance, but does vary substantially: a five mile run has been worth anywhere from 5 to 9 workout points for me, 10 miles anywhere from 7 to 11. A big benefit to this: you can combine it with different formulas for any other type of workout you do to give you a blended measure of your workout levels over a given week or month.
  • “Runs over X” or “ROX” – I forget who told me about this stat, but the idea is to track how many runs over X miles you do, and if you’ve done X runs over X miles, then X becomes your stat for the month/year/whatever timeframe. So if you do 7 runs over 7 miles in January (but only did 5 runs over 8 miles), then your ROX is 7. I adjusted this concept slightly, adding the fraction of runs that hit the next mile threshold (so in the above case I would add 5 runs /8 miles = 0.625 to the total, for a score of 7.625. This keeps you going while running to make sure you just get each run to the next mileage threshold. Here’s how: say early in the month you are running a nice 7.4 mile route. At that point, I won’t know whether I’ll be able to hit 8 runs over 8, but it’ll be worth stretching this one to 8 if I can manage: otherwise I could end up being one run short at the end of the month and have just missed out by a fraction of a mile. In short, it always keeps you going for more.
  • “Total Climb” – alright, this isn’t revolutionary, but no one likes running hills, and if you don’t track climb, then you are going to end up doing a bunch of flat runs and not getting the most out of it. I had a goal in 2017 to do at least one mile of vertical climb each month, something that I was able to accomplish!
  • “Miles Under X” or “MUX” – as I now benefit from having GPS files for all of my runs, I can fairly easily calculate the fastest single mile splits within a run. This stat would be the total sum of miles that were under a given pace level, I may do two of these: one at 7 min/mi for threshold work, the other at 6 min/mile for true speed work. An alternative to this that I may try is say a “Fastest X Miles” or “FX” to calculate the fastest total 10 miles that I ran during a month. Both of these would encourage speed work. Indeed, both would probably encourage slightly different things: MUX would encourage running just below the established pace, while FX would encourage running just X miles at as fast a pace as I can. Thus, both may have a place, and I plan to experiment with this in the coming year.
In addition to these, there are some obvious stats to track: total miles and/or total hours are important, as is the longest run in a week or month. But adding these statistics can help bring in new challenges and encourage beneficial behaviors that you would not do otherwise. Each of these can have a target each month which, whether attained or not, help motivate a runner to get out there and give it their all!