Setting goals keeps me moving forward. I set different goals for different seasons. For the first two years that I ran, my goals were mostly centered around adding distance to my running. After my second marathon, I started working on speed. This is probably a normal progression as a runner tries to find their favorite distance to run.
The couch-to-5K app helped me in the beginning with alternating running and walking. Each week it progressed with the amount of time I would run versus the amount of time I walked to recover. I did not always hit these running goals, but I kept trying. It took me a little longer than the app allowed for me to run a mile without walking. Everyone progresses differently. My advice is to just keep doing YOUR best.
As you are adding distance to your running, you need to listen to your body and slowly add distance each week. By adding smaller increases, you lessen your risk of injury. A good way to look at it is to add around 1 mile at a time or no more than 2 miles at a time. After 3 weeks of adding miles, it is good to back off and give your body some recovery.
Another way to help you reach distance goals is to sign up for races with your goal distance in mind. Start with 5K races, and as you add miles, you start looking at 10K races. You will progress faster than you think. If you never want to go farther than a 5K, that is okay, too. You will find what you like, and it will also depend on how much time you have to devote to training. You can do a 5K comfortably with three days a week of training. If you want to progress to half marathons and full marathons, you will find that you will train for five to six days a week. So setting goals for distance will be determined on how often you want to train during the week.
If you want to set a goal for how fast you run a certain distance, you will want to add in weekly speed work at a track. You can look online for speed workouts, but I will share what I have done to give you an idea of how it works. You will need a stopwatch, running app on your phone, or a watch that computes your speed and distance. I use a Garmin watch that tracks my speed and distance. For track work, I switch the settings from miles to kilometers. Most speed training plans are set up in meters. If you are running on a track that has lines and lines, you will see different markings. An average running track is .25 miles around or 400 meters. Some will have start lines and finish lines marked. The lanes will have graduated lines to account for the difference around the track from lane 1 (the shortest) to lane 8 or 10 (the longest). Watch some track running on YouTube. When doing speed work, you will also want to run a warm up that is anywhere from 1 mile to 3 miles, and when you are finished, you will want to run a cool down from 1 mile to 3 miles.
200 meters running with 200 meters of recovery walking or slow running
A typical 200 meter plan for me would be to run 200 meters fast and then 200 meters recovery and do it 14 times. I would put it on my training calendar like this:
14 x 200m, (200m recovery)
You would want to pick a goal speed that is faster than your normal speed for the faster running speeds. I started with trying to run a half a lap around the track (200 meters) at an 8:00 minute mile pace which is around 1:00 minute for 200 meters. I use an online speed calculator to help me figure this out. (http://www.coolrunning.com/engine/4/4_1/96.shtml)
As the weeks progress, I will do fewer times of a prescribed distance, and I will increase the distance. Here is a sample:
Week 1 – 14 x 200m (200m recovery); half a lap around a .25 mile track
Week 2 – 12 x 400m (400m recovery); full lap around a .25 mile track
Week 3 – 8 x 600m (400m recovery); one and a half laps around a .25 mile track
Week 4 – 6 x 800m (400m recovery); two laps around a .25 mile track
Week 5 – 5 x 1000m (400m recovery); two and a half laps around a .25 mile track
Week 6 – 4 x 1200m (400m recovery); three laps around a .25 mile track
Week 7 – 3 x 1600m (800m recovery); 4 laps around a .25 mile track (This is like doing 1 mile repeats.)
If you read about a speed ladder, this is what it would look like:
400m, 800m, 1200m, 1600m, 1200m, 800m, 400m
You would do a 400m recovery in between each of these.
Different training plans will prescribe different speed workouts. I am just giving you these as an example that I think is the most common. When you start doing speed workouts, you will have to figure out how to count your repetitions using your stopwatch, app on your phone, or running watch. I think the running watch is the easiest, since I can switch to kilometers and use the “lap” button for each segment. That keeps a record of the run for me, and I can write this information down in my running notebook.
You do not have to race to set goals, but I have found it motivating to have a race to look forward to as I am training.