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Three Rose City Track Club members jogging side by side on a public outdoor track

In the new year, it’s natural to start looking ahead and dreaming up big goals, whether related to fitness or something totally different. We asked Rose City Track Club members for tips they use for setting and achieving their goals.


Start with “Why?” Intrinsic goals—the ones that are meaningful to you for personal reasons—will follow you throughout your journey. Instead of focusing just on the outcome, learn to love the process and your fire will burn brighter and longer. -Ryan Yambra

Ryan Yambra, a Rose City Track Club member, jogging down a damp forest trail

Marla Smith: In the fall of 2020, I returned to school to finish my undergrad with a final goal of getting my masters in mental health counseling. Starting as a sophomore looking at the long road of schooling ahead, felt very overwhelming, and similar to the start of a marathon. I set a goal to focus on one quarter at a time as if each quarter was a 5K in the marathon. Shortening my overall goal into smaller goals, whether that be in school or the marathon has helped make my overall goal feel achievable. Each quarter or 5K is a step to reaching my overall success.

Marla, a Rose City Track Club member, smiling for a photo while running outdoors

Lauren Ross: When it comes to big goals, like my goal of qualifying for Olympic Trials in the marathon, the most important thing has been to surround myself with people who are working towards the same thing. In order to achieve big things, your life needs to be a little different - maybe even a little weird. It's much easier to go to bed early, wake up in the dark for hard long runs, and be disciplined about strength training and prehab work when your friends are doing it too. The collective excitement is an added bonus!

Lauren, a Rose City Track Club member, jumping a hay hurdle during a track event with competitors in the distance.

Liz Derstine: Before even narrowing in the focus on a particular goal, I think it’s important to widen the lens and open yourself to all kinds of possibilities. The more varied your experiences are, the more skills you can add to your figurative toolkit. I sort of pigeonholed myself into a marathon training regimen years with pretty stagnant results. It wasn’t until I broke up the pattern, started running trails, and became open to new experiences that my marathon times improved tenfold. So to get to where you want to go, you might want to try thinking outside the box and change up your usual pattern. Versatility is key!

Liz, a Rose City Track Club member, sporting Showers Pass apparel while jogging on a forest trail

Emma Notario: Running goals can range from absolute to arbitrary. Qualifying for Boston requires running a marathon under a specific time – according to gender and age – and while working towards this type of goal, you can set yourself numerous other goals along the way that are not tied to numeric results, but will provide a significant boost to your training.  One of these could include that loop with the big hill that you’ve run a hundred times but set a goal to charge up the hill at the end, or eliminate a walking break if you’ve relied on this before; or perhaps set your alarm earlier so that you have time for some drills before a track workout or adding some strides at the end of your run – trust me, they’re worth it! 

 Emma, a Rose City Track Club member, wearing a yellow club shirt posing for a photo

In my 13+ years of running, I have found the following steps work best for me. Using a goal that might seem a bit out of reach – goals should be somewhat scary – I write down the training marks I want to hit in the last few weeks of training.  I then break down the plan into smaller blocks of training and I visualize my progress with each section building on what came before it. This will eliminate the possibility of getting overwhelmed at the thought of a specific pace at week 12 of a 16-week plan or the increase in mileage (or whatever freaks you out!)


Most of all, enjoy the process and make sure 80% of your runs are easy!

Rose City Track Club is a grassroots running club and 501(c)(3) nonprofit organization created by friends that value the spirit of competition, camaraderie, hard work, and love for the sport. Our mission is to provide a supportive, team-based training platform for distance runners ranging from locally competitive to national class, and to conduct accessible races for athletes of all abilities. Learn more about the team at and save the date, June 26th, for the annual Rose City Mile.