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New year provides new chance to set running goals

Brom Hoban

Every year, I add marathon training runs to my program in the fall and winter. But it's not until I actually sign up for the race, whether it's the Houston Marathon or the Austin Marathon, that I really get serious.

Commitment changes everything. Without specific goals, your training tends to be random and aimless.

There's no better way to add purpose and motivation to your running then to make goals. And there's no better time to do it then the beginning of a new year.

If you keep a running journal (and if you don't, begin now!), start your goal-setting by looking back over the past 12 months to see how your training has gone.

Did you stick to your plans, put in the works and accomplish what you wanted? If not, your goal for the next year should be more consistency, one of the hallmarks of a good training program.

If you've had injuries in the past year, look for patterns or events that led to them. Maybe you're one of those folks who trains too hard immediately following a race. Or maybe you didn't build in enough recovery. Correcting those errors can have a big impact on your running and lessen the chance of injury in the upcoming year.

The beauty of goal-setting is that you can tailor your plan to your lifestyle. It doesn't have to be running a race in a specific time or breaking your records.

If you're at a point in your running when setting personal bests is not realistic, you can set a goal of running a race distance you've never run. If a 10K is the longest you have run, try a half-marathon (the 3M Half-Marathon is coming up on Jan. 24).

Or if you've done a half, make 2010 the year you complete a full marathon — the Austin Marathon is Feb. 14. Or how about joining a relay team for a race like the Capitol to Alamo Relay (Aug. 7 )? Many people see running as an individual sport without realizing that they can find fulfillment on a team.

Goals don't have to be about accomplishment. A reasonable goal is to stay healthy and injury-free.

My goal is to try new things and break out of my routine. I typically run the same races every year. But this year, I'm going to try something different. Maybe I'll decide to run Pike's Peak Marathon in Colorado or the Marathon to Marathon in West Texas.

"You don't have to make running a marathon your goal," said Jay Hilscher, a local running coach. "A big part of goal-setting is getting specific about what it is you want to accomplish.

"I've always liked the 'smart' acronym for goals: specific, measurable, achievable, realistic and timely. Ultimately, goal-setting should be all about what you actually want to do, not what other people are doing. Sometimes, it's about just getting to the starting line of a race."

Whether you set a goal to run your first 5K or to complete a marathon in all 50 states, just setting the goal will change the way you run.