For some runners, half the fun's in the planning

Jay Kumar, running columnist for The Salem News 

Here we sit at the start of another year and another decade.

While plenty of folks usually spend this time making resolutions they won’t keep, it’s a good time to do something you’ll actually follow through on and start making your 2020 running plans.

There are plenty of options depending on what your running goals are, so it makes sense to start planning ahead.

Think big. Is this the year you take on your first marathon? There’s no shortage of marathons to choose from, both locally and throughout the country (and the world).

You can set your sights on one of the big events like Boston, New York, Chicago or Marine Corps, but those are more difficult to get into. Depending on the race, you can qualify through a past race time, get a lottery spot or raise money for a charity team. But there are many smaller events that you can register for, so do a little online research and make sure you sign up ahead of time, but marathons often sell out.

Marathon training involves a lot of advanced planning, including figuring out and implementing a workout plan and making arrangements. Even if you’ve run marathons before, you still need to map out your approach to the next several months. That includes signing up for smaller races for training purposes along the way. If you’re running for a charity group, they may have group long runs and coaching that can be helpful.

And if marathons have become old hat, there are bigger distances to tackle, such as ultramarathons (which can range from 30 to 100 miles). You can even find more extreme races that cover 200 miles or more.

Be ambitious. If long distances aren’t your thing, there are many other ways to set goals for yourself. You can set simple goals, like running three times a week. But you can also find more challenging tasks to shoot for, like signing up to run a race series. A few series have already been announced for 2020, including the YMCA of the North Shore Road Race Series, which consists of 10 local races that begin in May with the Backshore 5-mile/5K in Gloucester. Visit for more information.

YuKan is back with 10 half marathons scheduled throughout the North Shore from April to December; in addition, runners can enter the YuKan Six Pack Half Marathon Challenge, which offers special race swag to those complete all six participating races. Visit for more information.

A little further north, the Loco Running Will Run For Beer Series consists of 11 races of varying distances in the southern New Hampshire/northern Massachusetts area. The series kicked off on New Year’s Day with races in Salisbury and Lowell and it ends in June with a 5K and series finale party in Hampton, NH. Runners must complete five of the races to earn a commemorative series fleece. Visit for more information.

Other series may be announced in the coming weeks as well.

Self improvement. Some runners set goals that don’t revolve around races, but instead use running as a way to achieve different results. This could be part of a plan to lose a certain amount of weight during the year, or it could be to get faster or build more running endurance. There are running plans available to attain these goals, either through online sources or by working with a running coach. If you haven’t done it before, it’s best to talk to someone who can guide you.

Some folks love to run but have no desire to enter road races. Instead, they may shoot to run a certain number of miles per week, month or year, and all that’s required is to getting out or on a treadmill regularly. Another goal may be to do more trail running, which cuts down on the pounding your body absorbs from the road but adds different obstacles such as rocks and tree roots and the occasional animal.

The year is in front of you, so if you haven’t already, take some time and start planning the running adventures ahead of you. And then get out there and do the work.


Starts and stops:

The 46th annual Great Stew Chase 15K is scheduled for Sunday, Jan. 26 at 10 a.m. at the Knights of Columbus, 177 Lynnfield St., Lynn. The race course heads into Centennial Park in Peabody and back. Visit for more information.

If you’re training for a spring marathon, the Black Cat 10- and 20-miler in Salem is a good tuneup event. The 10th edition of the Black Cat is set for Saturday, April 4 at 8 a.m. The race has a new start/finish location: B&S Fitness, 90 Leavitt St., Salem. Visit for more information.


On the Run is a biweekly column about the North Shore running scene. Send any questions, comments, or news to

Recommended for you