How to set attainable goals in 5 easy steps

It’s easy to say you’re, oh, I don’t know, going to run a 50K (31 mile) trail race this year in January when you’re on a sugar high from your holiday celebrations. It’s another story to shell out the money, log the miles and actually make it to race day.

There's still time for a fresh start in the second half of 2016, even if your New Year's resolutions fell by the wayside.

I for one followed the format suggested by ultra-runner Mirna Valerio, who writes the Fat Girl Running blog and practically broke the Internet when she was featured on the cover of Runner's World Magazine. Valerio wrote  in Women's Running magazine that you should set SMART goals.


Let me walk you through how I applied her method, including how I have adapted as things have changed through the year:


Back in January, I decided I would shoot for the Bad Apple Ultra in October. It’s a trail race at an apple orchard I committed to running with my BRFs (best running friends).

Unfortunately, the race doesn’t offer finisher’s medals this year and a few fellow runners found that offensive, to say the least. After a bit of noodling, we settled on Run Woodstock in September. It’s a few weeks earlier than Bad Apple, but still gives us plenty of time to train.


My runner friends and I settled on the 50K training plan from Women’s Running magazine and I soon plugged in all of the weeks’ runs/workouts into my monthly planner.

I should note that the 26 miler in August did prompt me to question our collective sanity. It’s been suggested that I instead run the Old Farts trail half because it’s very “technical.” I have learned that ultra-marathoners use that term like obstetricians that say you will feel some “discomfort” when you’re pushing an 8-pound baby out-so I’ve yet to sign up.


Once the holiday glow wore off, I also questioned whether my goal to run a trail ultra-marathon was either attainable or realistic.

Then I ran the Gazelle Girl Half Marathon in Grand Rapids in April and felt well enough that I believe I’ll get to the 31 miles on pig-headedness and stubbornness alone.

Gazelle Girl Half spectator signs.

My familia supports my insanity, always giving me the flexibility I need to fit all of my running and training (and doctor’s appointments, online shopping…) in.

And I’m learning as much as I can about trail running and ultras in particular. If you haven’t, check out my running mentor Brandess Wallace’s Guest Chica post on ultra-marathon must-haves.


I’ve scratched the 5K, half and full marathon distances off my list, so why not an ultra?

(I can hear you laughing. It’s rude to laugh at crazy people.)


I’d already decided that I would focus on distance this year, so having a September race on the calendar helps keep me focused and willing to get up early or head out late for those mid-week runs.

Gazelle Girl did that for me this winter, and I know I need to add a few more races to my schedule throughout the summer to keep me going. I did sign up for the Two Hearted Trail Half in the Upper Peninsula in late June, a marathon relay in late August, and the Labor Day Bridge Run on the Mackinac Bridge. And we all know that I’ll probably end up running Old Farts in August.

I hope you are being smart about your own goals or are inspired to set new ones. It's never too late to push yourself to be healthier and more active.

Written by By Gisgie Dávila Gendreau, 2016 Fitness Ambassador