How to Set Your PB Goals


As we set out into 2019, inevitably we’re asked, "So, what are your New Year’s resolutions?" But as runners, we don’t need a new calendar to start thinking about setting goals and becoming better versions of ourselves. From the ambitious aims of reducing our times to the mundane marks of a particular route we want to take on our next run, we’re always planning.

But plans don’t always work out, and it can be frustrating when what you see in your head doesn’t translate to your feet. And so, we asked a few Saucony Ambassadors to share their process around setting goals and putting everything in the right place to see them happen. Turns out, there’s a bit of a method to the madness of ever-chasing down your next PB.

Like any good scientific approach, discovery starts with questions. And that’s the case for Matthew Travaglini, 2017 Canadian Mountain Running Champion, who asks himself three important questions before setting a goal.

  • By when do I want to achieve it?
    A time frame for a goal always makes me more accountable. It also allows me to be realistic about my approach. If my goal is to run a personal best in the 10K or to summit a mountain that I have never been able to summit before, I know that by pairing each goal with a timeline lets me break them down into incremental, measurable goals.
  • How will I achieve it?
    Asking this question makes me aware of the work that will be involved in reaching my goal. To reach a personal best, by definition, requires doing things that you have never done before. Every step forward is a new source of potential improvement, and by laying out how you will reach your end goal, you will see the importance of the little things.
  • Does it scare me a little bit?
    This is always the exciting part! By having a goal that frightens and excites you, you can create a goal that acts as constant motivation. If you feel as though your goal is an epic one, waking up early or running after the sun has set just adds wood to the fire. Snow or rain seems less daunting. The human body is something special! Dare to challenge yourself and more times than not you will end up surprising yourself.

Coach of the Ryerson Cross-Country team and Longboat Roadrunners in Toronto, Laura McLean suggests it’s best to work backwards through what she identifies as 3 types of goals, while always staying aware of what you can control and what you can’t. Those 3 types of goals are:

  • Outcome Goals: The Big Picture (e.g. being named to a team). These goals are out of your control.
  • Performance Goals: What you are trying to achieve in order to make the Outcome Goal (e.g. running a time standard to make the team).
  • Process Goals: The small steps taken to achieve the Performance Goals (e.g. cross-training three times a week). These goals are totally in your control.

Now, work backwards. Training three times a week leads to a better chance of running the standard which leads to a better chance of making the team. “When you're engaged in this process,” Laura says, “you have a roadmap to your big picture goals. And if, for whatever reason, you aren't successful in your Outcome Goal, remember it's out of your control, and that you've still hit many great goals along the way.”

For Jonathan Greenwald, who took his PB hunt public this year with #Project25959, it’s slightly different step-by-step approach that constantly pushes him to greater things.

  • Step 1: Believe!
    “Decide what you want to achieve and believe you can achieve it! If you’re goal is to make the Olympic team and you don’t actually believe you can achieve that goal, you’ll never be successful. In fact, you’ll likely be discouraged when you don’t see immediate results.”
  • Step 2: Be Specific!
    “Instead of saying your goal is to finish a marathon one day or run more next year, specify when you want to achieve your goal. I set a goal of running 2,018 kilometres in 2018. I specified the number of kilometres I needed to run and the timeframe to achieve my goal.”
  • Step 3: Write it Down!
    “By writing your goal on paper or posting it somewhere visible, you’re holding yourself accountable. Each time you see your goal, you’ll be reminded that it wasn’t just something you thought would be nice to do; instead, you were determined to achieve it.”
  • Step 4: Share it!
    “Go public with your goals - and recruit the running community to help you achieve them! Many people aren’t comfortable sharing their goals because they are afraid of what people will think if they don’t achieve them. When I shared my goal of breaking 3 hours,, I was overwhelmed by the amount of people who said they also believed I could do it! This not only made me feel good about the decision I made, it increased my confidence and had a positive impact on my training along the way!”

Heather Colasuonno, marathoner and personal trainer – and author of the running blog, The Introverted Athlete – not surprisingly, takes a slightly more inward approach.

“When choosing a goal,” she says, “I try and focus on what is exciting to me, not what will impress others. For me, the goal won't be feasible unless the motivation is intrinsic.” Which isn’t to say she doesn’t look beyond herself for an extra bit of motivation. “A goal has to be a bit more than I think I can chew. Aim high. By setting the bar high, personally I always work harder at it.”

No matter your approach, performing better than you ever have before – or maybe even better than you ever thought you could – is a worthy exploration, if not a daunting task. But as these Ambassadors show us, mindful planning, and a little experimentation, can lead to proven results on the #ThePaceToPB.