So, it’s January 2020. What if there is a better way to set goals?

"Runners like to train 100 miles a week because it's a round number, but I think 88 is a lot rounder." American distance running legend, Don Kardong

So, it’s January 2020. It's probably raining and dark out. Peloton is cramming ads down your throat like an over zealous aid station worker at your last race trying to talk you into eating that cold square of grilled cheese. And now a stranger in line at Whole Foods, eyeing your shorts and wet shoes, is asking what you are training for? Oh Brother. But it kind of gets you thinking… What am I training for? If I’m not training for something, then what am I doing? Why am I spending hours on the road, cold, and soaked in Type II fun? Is there any point? What does it all mean?!

So, driving home, you start piecing together a schedule. A race to kick the season off, a few races to get in the groove of racing and a peak race to really accomplish that goal that will finally make you “happy”. But suddenly you realize, as your windshield wipers furiously wipe at the never ending deluge of precipitation, your plan is remarkably similar to last year, and the year before that, and every year in fact since Y2K! You feel like the windshield wipers of the endurance world. Doing the same thing again, and again and... You remember achieving your race goals most years and the short lived enjoyment of the finish line success. You remember the fleeting vapor of happiness of achieving that goal that Strava told you spent 623 hours training for last year. 

Let’s be real. Basking in the glory of achieving an arbitrary time or finish position usually lasts till your first shower, maybe through the post-race nap, and if you are really lucky till dinner. Usually by the next morning the glow is gone, the endorphins have gone back into hiding deep in your pituitary gland and you are left alone foam rolling on the floor of your Airbnb, tired, sore, possibly hungover, definitely scrolling instagram, with an untouched quinoa salad next to four empty bags of skittles.

What if there is a better way to set goals, a way to capture the virtue without the vice, to get to the mountaintop of accomplishment without the valley of darkness? Well sorry for the suspenseful lead up, but that is impossible. Though I do think there is a better way to frame goals and orient the mind that allows for a little more focus on the process. This idea will help you actually achieve your big goals, and as cliche as it is, will make the journey a lot more fun. Here it goes.

Qualifying for Western States is not your goal. 

Qualifying for Kona is not your goal. 

Qualifying for Boston is not your goal. 

Your goal is to…

  • Get out of bed every single day at X o’clock
  • Do the group long run every single Saturday
  • Actually take your rest day!
  • Do your freaking PT and stretching that you lie to your PT about doing every day
  • Not have a bad day just because you had a “bad” workout
  • Realize it probably wasn’t actually that “bad” of a workout
  • Stick to the training plan! Don’t double it just because “But I feel good!”
  • Actually drink your recovery drink on the way to work, rather than making it, letting it sit for 3 hours and then having a sip and pouring it out 

You get the idea. If you make your 2020 goals, the daily but challenging small steps, you will undoubtedly reach a mountain, it might not be the mountain you thought you wanted, but I bet it will be a whole lot better. And if not, remember the words of the ever optimist Winston Churchill, “Success consists of going from failure to failure without loss of enthusiasm.” Good luck and happy training.


-David Laney

David Laney, professional trail and ultra runner

David is a multiple-time all-American at Southern Oregon University, he joined the Hanson’s Distance Project after serving as SOU’s assistant coach in 2011. In 2013 he was signed to the Nike Trail Team, and has worked with Nike product development and testing on trail and road footwear. David works at Steens Mountain Running Camp every summer sharing a wilderness experience with high school cross country runners. David is coach with Trails & Tarmac.

Follow David on Instagram @davidlaney12