Six Trail Running Goals to Challenge You This Year


Trail run­ners are used to set­ting goals: you sign up for a race, put in the hard work through­out a train­ing peri­od, and (hope­ful­ly) cel­e­brate your accom­plish­ment as you cross the fin­ish line.

This year, rather than focus­ing on a sin­gle race, take a moment to step back and think about your trail run­ning expe­ri­ence as a whole. How do you want to grow as a trail runner?

From con­quer­ing new dis­tances to shak­ing up your sta­tus quo to run­ning a streak (no, not that kind), there are lots of ways to take your trail run­ning to the next lev­el this year. Whichev­er goal you pick, the sat­is­fac­tion of achiev­ing it will taste almost as sat­is­fy­ing as that post-race banana at the fin­ish line.

Try a New Distance

If you’re like most trail run­ners, chances are you have a favorite dis­tance, one that you con­sid­er fun, com­fort­able, and just chal­leng­ing enough to push you out the door even when the weath­er is sub-par. Whether you’re a suck­er for 5Ks or a glut­ton for 50 mil­ers, it’s time to mix things up by try­ing a new distance.

While jump­ing from 5K to 50 miles might be a lit­tle ambi­tious, don’t be afraid to sign up for a race that’s a step up from what you’re used to. If you’ve got­ten com­fort­able with the 25K dis­tance, maybe a 50k is in the cards for this year.

This works the oth­er way around, too: if you’re a mid-pack long-dis­tance run­ner, you could choose a race that’s a short­er dis­tance and try push­ing it to see if you can fin­ish clos­er to the front. You’ll find it’s a com­plete­ly dif­fer­ent kind of chal­lenge, but just as rewarding.

Explore a New Backyard

The world is full of crazy, var­ied ter­rain just beg­ging to be explored. This year, pick a trav­el des­ti­na­tion that is known for amaz­ing trails, ide­al­ly in a set­ting that is com­plete­ly dif­fer­ent than the one you’re used to. For instance, if you live by the beach, try a trip to the moun­tains. Used to run­ning in the cold? Head some­where hot!

Whether you have your heart set on a des­ti­na­tion race, you’re plan­ning on join­ing a mul­ti-day trail run­ning camp abroad, or you sim­ply want to explore the trails on your reg­u­lar vaca­tion off-time—the choice is yours. Just pick some­where that makes your heart beat a lit­tle faster and expe­ri­ence run­ning in a new locale.

Switch Your Train­ing Techniques

When was the last time you switched up your trail run­ning tech­nique? If you can’t remem­ber when you last did a hill sprint or you can’t seem to improve your down­hill agili­ty, it’s time to try some­thing different.

Maybe what you need is a new train­ing plan, a trail run­ning coach, or sign­ing up for a trail run­ning clin­ic. Alter­na­tive­ly, you might focus on your off-the-trail con­di­tion­ing by putting in some time at the gym or invest­ing in reg­u­lar massages.

Con­front Your Weaknesses

Few of us have mas­tered every aspect of trail run­ning and though you can often lean into your strengths to com­pen­sate for your weak­ness­es, it is obvi­ous­ly ben­e­fi­cial to improve on the areas that are hold­ing you back. Make this year the one that you tack­le your weak­est points head on. It won’t be fun at first, but the long-term rewards are well worth the short-term discomfort.

Find Con­nec­tions

Trail run­ning tends to be an indi­vid­ual sport, with long hours spent alone on solo runs. While it can be nice to get lost in your own head, there’s a whole com­mu­ni­ty of like-mind­ed run­ners wait­ing for you to join them. Join a run­ning group, a local meet up, or just con­nect with a friend and let some­one else lead your run for a change. Aside from mak­ing friends, you might also dis­cov­er new trails in your own backyard.

Set a Streak

There’s a rea­son that 30-day chal­lenges are so pop­u­lar: they’re tough enough to make you curse your­self for start­ing in the first place, but they also have a knack for mak­ing you remem­ber why you fell in love with trail run­ning in the first place.

A run­ning streak of any length will force you to try new routes, com­mit to runs you might oth­er­wise skip due to bad weath­er, and renew your sense of appre­ci­a­tion for every­thing your body is capa­ble of doing. This one is more fun to do with a friend – not only will you have a com­pan­ion to join you on some of your runs, but you’ll hold one anoth­er account­able to the long-term goal.