Whether you're a seasoned competitive runner or a novice who has never toed the starting line, races are one of the best motivational tools you'll find. They are a sure way to get you moving, because they involve goals in both the short-term (training runs) and long-term (the race itelf).
Start by finding a race that fits your schedule. For example, if you're just getting started with running, you'll need at least three months to prepare for a marathon. But you don't have to commit to such a long distance if it doesn't appeal to you. You can opt instead for the quicker paces of a 5K or 10K, or try a half-marathon.
Once you sign up for a race, print out a calendar of all of the days leading up to the big day. Plot out each and every training run on this calendar; then pin it to a wall where you'll see it daily.
Not only is it a visual reminder of your training runs and your ultimate goal, but it serves as a functional tool that lets you adjust your mileage and daily runs depending on unexpected scheduling conflicts, soreness and tiredness, or other variables. For example, if a severe thunderstorm interferes with your Monday run, you'll know exactly how many miles you'll need to make up the rest of the week, and you can quickly plan a way to distribute those miles to prevent overworking your body.
As your training builds mental momentum and physical strength, you'll see that race date fast approaching on the calendar. And when you finally reach the finish line, you'll feel the satisfaction of your commitment paying off.
Read on to learn about running happy hours and other social outings.