When you set a goal for yourself, be it a 5K, 10K, half marathon, full marathon, ultra, or whatever the distance, it gives you something tangible to aim for. Setting a goal, making a plan to achieve that goal, and monitoring your progress can help raise your self-confidence as you realize that you have the ability to achieve the goal.
Make sure you set a strong goal. Don't be wishy-washy. Goals like, "I'm going to run more this year" or "I'm going to train harder" really aren't very motivating and you'll quickly lose interest. However committing to running your first 10K or half marathon and announcing it to the world...now that's a goal. Sometimes making your goal something that's apart of something even bigger like a charity fund-raiser can help strengthen your commitment even more.
Make your goal realistic but at the same time make it a little challenging by selecting something that's attainable, but a little beyond your comfort zone. A challenge like this will give you something to work toward as well as build and increase your strength and endurance. Be careful though not to make your goal so challenging that you'll become discouraged and quit.
Making a long-range plan will often help you avoid picking a goal that may be out of reach at the moment. For example if you are a brand new runner and you'd really like to run a marathon, make the marathon your long-range goal and make running a 5K, 10K, and/or half-marathon your short-term goal(s). This may take a little longer, but it will help ensure that you reach the long-term goal you desire so much. If you're a new runner, achieving these smaller milestones will help build your confidence as you see the progress being made working your way up the ladder.
Post your goal for all to see. Let your family, friends, and coworkers know about your goal. Knowing that others are award of your goal will make you more accountable. This positive pressure will help you get out there for a run on those days that you're not so motivated to do so. Try to recruit a buddy to join you in your challenge. Running with a buddy can be very enjoyable and you can help keep each other motivated.
Reward your efforts! Attach some kind of treat to your successful completion of your goal. You will have worked hard, so celebrate the fruits of your labor and then get to work setting your next goal.
I'd love to know about your running goals. Email them to me at firstname.lastname@example.org.