Setting SMART Goals

Setting SMART goals means your goals should be specific, measurable, action-oriented, realistic and time based. Many of these goal elements are easy enough to figure out, if you can first determine WHAT it is that constitutes a 'realistic' goal for you.


If you are a brand new runner, and you've never actually run any organized road race or completed any measure distance before, setting smart goals is pretty straight forward. Aim to finish with no pre set time goal. There are a couple of reasons for this. Firstly, simply doing something that you've never done before is an accomplishment. Second, with no previous benchmarks to compare your fitness to, you may either make your goal too challenging or not challenging enough. In either case, you run the risk of taking away from the gratification that you deserve for finishing!


If you have completed at least one recent past road race of any distance ranging from 5k to the half marathon, you can use the race prediction chart below to properly select your next goal.

I created the chart using Peter Reigel's prediction formula (t2 = t1 * (d2 / d1)^1.06) for estimated finishing times of longer distances based on times of previously completed distances. It's useful if you have a recent race time and are looking to pick a good goal for a longer distance.


The chart contains finishing times for various race distances. Find your most recent race time for a 5k, 10k or half marathon. To find what time you could reasonably run a longer distance, follow the row to the right.

For example, let's say that I want to set a SMART goal for a half marathon in the spring. 3 months ago I ran a 5k in a time of 22:25. So I find the nearest time to 22:25 on the chart, which is 22:30. To see what I should be able to run based on that performance, I follow that row to the right. In this case, which gives me a time of 1:46:10.

What this number is really predicting, is that assuming the proper training has been completed, this predicted time is a reasonable expectation based on the previous performance. For example, because a 16 year old high school student can run a 17 minute 5k, does not mean that he can necessarily run a 2:50:00 marathon if he has not done the required endurance training. In fact, racing the marathon at a 2:50:00 pace without having done long runs would set this runner up for a very hard and painful lesson not soon forgotten!

All said, recognize that this is a prediction formula, based on physiological factors and studies of other runner's equivalent race times it is not a fortune teller. Just the same, setting SMART goals by using this chart is a great start.

If you're looking to figure out running paces based on past or future running times for different distances, you can also use this handy pace calculator.

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