Do you plan your run routes?

Running is recreational, but it isn’t just clomping out a few random miles on a given day. If we’re really going to stick with this running thing, we need to have goals.

OK, that’s sort of a given.

We have race goals, fitness goals, mileage goals, weight loss goals, and even fundraising goals (if we run charity races).

But do we set goals for individual runs?

When we’re serious about training, we do. We mark our calendars with mile assignments, ticking off each outing, as we complete it. We count the days till the next big race and measure our progress in miles checked off.

But what about goals for more casual off-season runs?

Running is as much a mental exercise as a physical one.

That’s why goals are critical. If we don’t have clear plans, then other stuff tends to get in the way. The famous automaker Henry Ford (1863-1947) said:

 “Obstacles are those frightful things you see when you take your eyes off your goal.”

I’ve come to realize that I need to have a pre-set running course in my head – before I even lace up my sneakers. I plan out the loop I will run, the turn-around for a down-and-back jaunt, the number of track laps I want to finish, or even the mileage total I aim to do on the treadmill or elliptical.

It doesn’t take a lot of busywork to come up with a plan for a run. I might go online and map something out, unless I’m running a familiar route I’ve already measured. Occasionally, I will drive a down-and-back or a loop to check the mileage. I have a Garmin Vivoactive HR watch and various smartphone apps to count the distance as I go, but it helps to have an idea ahead of time.

Today, for example, I picked a landmark. 

This time, it happened to be the state line. I ran there and back. I've been known to drop my car at the repair shop and run one-way home. The turning point might be a school, a park, or even a simple street sign.

Sure, sometimes run plans have to be altered in-process.

Traffic, real injuries, sudden sickness, road construction, trail blockages, flooded pathways, unforeseen weather changes, and various emergencies can alter the course. More than once, I have changed my running route simply because I wanted to avoid creepy or potentially dangerous situations.

Flexibility is a must.

But most of the time, the goal holds.

It holds me to my running plan. When things start to hurt, when I grow tired, or when the wind blows a little too hard in my face, I have a goal to remember. That steels my nerves and reinforces my own fortitude.

I’m pretty sure I’m not alone in that regard. There’s power in planning.

Adapted by Runderdog from public domain art.

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