As the year winds down and so does running season, it can be tempting to push goals back to next year or decide, “I’ll set a resolution in the new year.” But there are still months left before the ball drops and a new year begins, so why not spend them challenging yourself and your running capabilities? You can do that in many ways — signing up for a late-season race, volunteering with a school’s cross-country team or trying a virtual challenge, like one of the MapMyRun challenges.
Personally, I’m late to the game, but I’m still signed up for the You Versus the Year 2019 Challenge, which wants you to run 1,019 kilometers (633 miles) in 2019. Any runs you’ve already recorded this year count toward your total, so you might already be part-way there.
Here’s why a challenge — yes, even one like this that you may not complete by the end of 2019 — can improve your running.
IT GIVES YOU A MEASURABLE GOAL
Sure, with the You Versus the Year 2019 Challenge, you may not realistically be able to run 633 miles before midnight on December 31. But why not see how close you can get? Signing up for MapMyRun’s online challenge, using the Goal section’s suggested goals or even creating a goal for yourself in MapMyRun can give you the motivation you need to get out running four times a week, log those extra couple of miles, walk that errand to score some bonus distance or power through a rainy workout.
… AND YOU CAN CHOOSE HOW TO HIT THAT GOAL
The nice thing about trying to rack up 1,000K in 2019 (or stick to four runs a week for three months) is you can do them however you choose. Unlike signing up for a marathon or even a 5K, the challenges on MapMyRun tend to be monthly or yearly, so you have time to figure out the best way to meet them. It’s ideal for someone with a hectic work or family schedule that involves things like unplanned travel, since you don’t need to stress about where you’re running, just that you’re getting some running in.
YOU MIGHT MEET A VIRTUAL BUDDY
If you don’t have an accountabilibuddy in real life, this gives you a virtual one — or hundreds of them! It’s a great option for someone who prefers to train along, but wants to have some comparison to other runners, since an accountability partner can actually improve your chances of getting your runs ticked off the to-do list. You can scan the Challenge Leaderboards to see if there’s anyone posting similar runs to yours, and click ‘Add friend’ to start a virtual friendship. When I see the top women in the You Versus the Year 2019 Challenge come in and up their yearly mileage on the leaderboard as I’m about to click ‘continue watching’ midway through a Netflix binge, I pause before I press play … and get out for my run.
YOU CAN ‘RACE’ WITHOUT RACE DAY STRESS
If you find race days to be so stressful that they aren’t fun anymore, a Challenge or Goal on MapMyRun is a great way to take advantage of all of the benefits of a ‘race day’ that you’re working toward (aka your last run to complete the Goal or Challenge) without any of the pre-race panicking. I’ve known many athletes who stop racing because the stress meant it wasn’t fun anymore, and without a goal on the calendar, they eventually stopped running altogether. Rather than worrying that a race day won’t go according to plan, you have dozens of chances to improve with every run, while still feeling like you’re working toward a specific goal.
YOU’LL HAVE A REASON TO LOG
What gets measured, gets managed. Having a challenge with a big mileage goal made me remember to wear my Garmin so I didn’t miss a single step. When every run counts to the year-end tally, every little bit helps. Research backs this up: A study done on people using a weight-loss app like MyFitnessPal that logged daily showed they had better results than someone who was on the same diet but not recording. It’s harder to skip a run when you know you have to log a big zero for that day, so even if you’re not in the mood, you’re much more likely to crank out a couple of miles.