So we’ve talked about SMART goals in episode 3, and we reset our goals in episode 17. But are you really challenging yourself with your goals? Do all goals need to be challenging?

If you google challenging, the dictionary will tell you that it is testing one’s ability. But how do you know if you are actually testing your ability or just skating along? For example, every year, I set a goal to read 52 books a year. Most years, I read somewhere between 50 and 60. Is it challenging me? Some years yes. 2020 I started off flying through books until mid-March. Then it was pandemic, and my schedule changed, AND I started It. I felt like I wasn’t going to make it, but I worked to catch up when I reviewed my goals and ended at 59.

But this isn’t a podcast about books and reading. This is a running podcast, damnit! Hold on; I’m getting there.

My point is, are you challenging yourself with your running?

For me, I haven’t always challenged myself. I don’t always push myself. I tend to fall into a routine and do way too easy of easy runs. My long runs are slow. I’ve also skipped a lot of speed work in my life. I like speed work, but I don’t do it enough.

My running progression has gone something like this:
2004ish run off and on for years. No plan, no races. It’s just a thing I do when I want to work out.
2012 I decided to get serious and did my first 5k! I picked out a plan and followed it pretty closely.
This started my love of racing. I signed up for a lot of races and finally decided to tackle a half marathon. Again, I picked a beginner plan and followed it as closely as I could. I did this for a few years and would choose more advanced programs, but I often struggle with consistency.

For a little bit, I had a coach, and she helped me get more consistent. I found it easy to follow her plans and discuss with her when I needed to make adjustments. Then it was 2020. And I had all these ideas in my head. Well, we know those all went out of the window.

But it also got me thinking and re-evaluating my running.

We’ll get into that after an ad break because I do have a point.

And I’m back!

So what have I been rambling on about challenges and my running history?

2020 has taught me that as fun as racing is, sometimes you need to do something different. Sometimes racing and following a basic plan isn’t fulfilling. Sometimes you need to shake it up.

I started a few years ago by doing a trail race. I realized how much I love trails and being out in the wilderness. It’s also much harder than road running and challenges your body differently. I highly recommend trying trail running if you are looking to up your running game.

Then I did Every Damn Trail, and that was a mental and physical challenge. I had to plan my routes and then actually run (or hike) them. It was fun and made me think. I also challenged myself to finish as soon as possible, so I forced myself to drive out to trails on days where I’d rather stay home.

A few other ideas are run as many miles as you can in X days. Or run 100 miles in a month. There is almost no end to how you can challenge yourself.

Or if you want to kill yourself, do a vert challenge and see how high you can climb in 25 days. I did 8800 feet. I missed my goal, but it was a great experiment, and I learned a lot.

And since it looks like 2021 will be similar to 2020 and limited in-person races, why not challenge yourself to do something different?

This year I am virtually running across Mexico with a running friend. Team tacos and trails need to run approximately 78 miles a month to make it by December 31st.

I’m also going to attempt the Yeti 24 hour challenge. 5 miles every 4 hours for 24 hours. I’m still working out how to train for this. Lots of back to back runs, I suppose. See? More mental challenges, along with the physical! I am becoming a well-rounded person.

I’ve also been working on continuing the every damn trail idea with a couple of other parks. I’m not doing it as fast as I can this time, but I hope to finish two different parks in 2021. Or at least one and a half parks. I really like trying to complete all the trails at various parks. Eventually, I will have done every trail in the Phoenix area!

I know this was short, but I really want you to think about your goals and how you can challenge yourself this year. So take some time to figure out how you will become a better runner. And by better, I don’t necessarily mean faster. If you are strictly a road runner, try hitting the trails. If you really want to get faster, add in speed work. And actually do it. If you want to get more miles, challenge yourself to do 75 miles a month, then 100, then 120, and so on.

Tell me, how will you challenge yourself this year? You can message me on Instagram at runs_on_espresso, leave a comment on the show notes at, or a voice message at I look forward to hearing how everyone is going to shake it up and become better this year!

Now, coffee corner.

Until next week, may your runs be as strong as your coffee.

Categories: Podcast


Jenna Volden has a degree in business and has spent the last 10 plus years working for others. She believes it is time to start her own photography and writing business. She enjoys running, coffee and helping others achieve their goals. Gluten-free foods are a lifestyle, not a choice, for her due to celiac disease. She is currently based in Phoenix, Arizona.