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YVR 01 2020

How to set your running goals and succeed.

Goal setting for runners, a conversion with sports psychologist Patrick McCarthy. Patrick and I have designed a case study type blog to help me set some goals around running with Ciara.

In this case study, Patrick asks me a series of questions and to help me shape my goals – we have included all of the questions so that you can use this as a guide to set your own running goals. He has agreed to review my progress and will suggest readjustments if necessary. Follow along and download the templates to complete yourself!


Brian is the founder of a new start-up called my virtual race. He is a busy father of 4 and has decent running experience but it’s been a while since he was training at a serious level. He wants to return to training to complete the Run With Ciara challenge but to also get back to training regularly for all of the other health benefits associated with training. He has always found running to be a great stress reliever, a way to escape from the normal every day both mentally and physically. 

Brian and I sat down to set some goals to help him achieve this. I asked him a few questions and we’ve included his responses below. The answers to these questions will form the basis for using the goal setting template. I have offered some feedback on his goals in the right-hand column.



 Questions and answers with Brian Feedback

Q1. What is the overarching goal you would like to achieve over the next 8 weeks?

I would like to get fitter to feel better about myself, I know that when I am running regularly I eat much better, I sleep better and I have more energy. Between you and me I am less cranky.

I don’t have much commentary here. People have personal motivation for achieving all types of goals. Having clear reasons (as is the case here) is always very helpful.


Q2. What would you consider a baseline measurement right now?

I have always run to a certain heartbeat and I ran 4 miles last weekend at an average heartbeat of 142bpm and my pace was 11:43 per mile. I am not running consistently at the moment and so I am not seeing any benefit from it.

It’s very clear you’ve run previously. This is a good objective baseline to measure your progress from. For a reader who maybe does not have access to some of the equipment to get information like this, a time for the distance would also work as long as you can consistently remeasure. For example, I would run a 5km track which I’m familiar with and time myself to create my own baseline on which I can measure my progress.



Q3. What would a good performance look like for you in 8 weeks’ time?

If I could run 4m 4 days a week so that I can contribute 16m to the Run with Ciara fundraiser. In 8 weeks I would like to be running the same distance with an average heartbeat of 136-138bpm at a pace of 11:00 per mile.

Again this is a very clear and measurable goal - I don’t have much commentary here. If a reader did not have access to a HR monitor a good gauge could be completing the 5km in a certain period of time.


Q4. What time period are you hoping to achieve these results in?

8 weeks - that's how long the run with Ciara challenge is lasting. Ciara is starting on Jan 7th.

This question here is to ensure unrealistic goals aren’t set – small steps are the key to long term progress.

Q5. What are the first steps you're hoping to take to start moving towards this goal?

I'll design an 8 week training program starting off slow and building up to the 4m 4 days a week in week 8. I am not worried about time in the first couple of weeks, I would like to see my heartbeat average to show some improvement

Great – my advice would be to review the program after two weeks to see if it is suitable for what you’re trying to achieve. Questions to consider: Are there enough/too many sessions in the program?



About Patrick

Patrick is a sports psychologist and chartered accountant having qualified from KPMG Dublin. He works with a range of clients to help them apply strategies from performance psychology to enhance business, exam and sports performance.

Topics he is interested in working with clients are goal setting, mindset shaping, developing resilience and wellbeing strategies.

If you are interested in discussing a potential project, please email for more information or connect via LinkedIn.

My goals and how I set them.

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