When I was younger, I used to set New Year’s resolutions as a laundry list with up to 20 items. And you guessed it: I ended up feeling demotivated at the end of the year for not achieving those goals.

But in recent years, I have learned to set my resolutions in a more practical and functional way. At the start of 2017, I would like to share with you what I believe will be good New Year’s resolutions for runners.

1. Run further

The more I run, the more I love my body. Not because it’s perfect (far from it), but because with every kilometre, my body is proving to me that I’m capable of more than I ever thought possible.

I remember back in 2010, my friends dragged me to accompany them to run at the Lake Gardens in Kuala Lumpur as they prepared for the Penang Bridge International Marathon. I could barely run 3km and I was panting and sweating crazily. I felt like my heart was jumping out of my chest. Little did I know that I would manage to (slowly but surely) conquer my own fears and complete my first 10km race by November 2010 and then my first 21km race eight months after.

It took me another year to finally lose my “runner’s virginity” at my first full marathon. And I have never looked back after completing 21 full marathons to date.

So it’s always good to challenge yourself to run further. If you have run a 10km race, go for a 21km half marathon. And hardcore runners who have done several full marathons may want to go a little crazier to run an ultra marathon (50km to 100km).

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One way to jazz up your runs is to have fun costumes, as seen in this file photo of the Malaysia Women Marathon. Photo: The Star

2. Run faster

I have a very close friend who used to tell me this, “I run to complete, not to compete.” But recently, the same friend has been motivated to run faster with the help of his new fitness watch.

Some people might think that running a race feels like too much pressure. And when they see others running faster than them, they might feel demotivated. In fact, I also run to complete, not to compete. But I don’t want to compete with others, just with my own self.

I picked up running only after the age of 40. I don’t aim to stand on a podium to win trophies. But I always look to faster runners as I’m curious how they manage it. I want to learn from them.

So in 2017, I’m aiming to do a full marathon in under three hours and 50 minutes. I know it’s very tough but I am still determined to give it a try.

Embrace new challenges, such as obstacle course events. Photo: The Star

Embrace new challenges, such as obstacle course events. Photo: The Star

3. Run injury-free

You know you are a runner when you get mad that an injury keeps you from running, not that it damaged your body. Whether it’s runners’ knee, tendonitis, stress fractures, ankle sprains, pulled muscles or blisters, it’s never fun to be sidelined.

Therefore, as you aim to run further or faster, prioritise injury prevention. Here is how we can make it happen: Be moderate, don’t increase your mileage in excess of 10% a week. Make sure you warm up and cool down.

Replace running shoes if you need to. Avoid running on uneven surfaces that put unnecessary pressure on ligaments. Do strength training. Finally, know your limits by not over training.

4. Improve technique

Running doesn’t cause injuries. Running wrongly does!

When I sought advice from a few seasoned runners, I found that those who run fast without injuries tend to be technically inclined. This means they read and learn a lot about running techniques in magazines, books and websites.

They also figure out the functions of their fitness watches to help them understand their body better. They constantly improve on their running technique like breathing, cadence, core strength and more.

5. Have fun

There are some runners who just know how to combine running with fun. The inspiring Tan Wah Sing not only runs barefoot and fast, he also wears costumes, sarongs and cute bright glasses while running.

Then there is Kin K Yum who has special tailor-made costumes for marathons. So far, I have seen him wear suits like Santa Claus, “keep out man”, Pikachu, Super Mario and the traditional Malay garb.

He runs a full marathon almost every week in various exotic countries – I’m so inspired by his lifestyle! So far, I have run races in Taiwan, Hong Kong, Indonesia and Thailand. I love to experience running in foreign countries, soaking myself in the local culture and people.

Running is not purely about running. We need to run hard, and play hard too, right?

6. Give back

“Find yourself in the service of others,” said Mahatma Gandhi. As a runner, everything is “served” up to us. Sometimes we forget about the people behind the success of events we take part in.

We might complain about some volunteers not doing their job well at water stations, or a photographer taking an ugly photo and posting it on his/her Facebook. I for one have been guilty of this.

But after learning more about events, I want to show more appreciation instead of complaining. Did you know that a volunteer at a race will spend a longer time than a runner? He/she needs to be there before everyone comes, and only finishes off after everyone leaves.

Did you know that a photographer needs to stand for hours under the hot scorching sun, then go home and upload photos one by one to Facebook for runners to tag?

It’s very time consuming and tiring. I know, because I have done it several times over the last few years as a volunteer photographer. But seeing runners tagging their own photos with joy on their faces was well worth my hard work.

So this year, give back to the running community and volunteer to help out at events. You will appreciate running better.

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After doing road runs, why not try trail running? Photo: The Star

7. Be adventurous

Life is either a daring adventure or nothing at all. After road running, perhaps you might want to try trail running, or even obstacle-filled events like the Spartan Race.

Or how about a triathlon? I joined my first “biathlon” (swim and run) in 2011. In 2016, I completed the half Ironman (2km swim, 90km cycling and 21km run).

Was it torturous? Yes it was. But it was also fun!

So mark your calendar and register for one “adventure”event this year. Don’t give yourself excuses that you haven’t trained, or don’t have a bicycle or don’t know how to swim.

Final tips

Make a public declaration of your resolutions to your friends if you need to, and get their support and encouragement. It took me two-and-a-half years and 12 full marathons to finally achieve a timing under four hours.

In achieving your runner’s resolutions, remember, it’s all the little steps that will snowball into a giant leap. So for 2017, have a vision. Believe in yourself. Stay focused. Get out there. Get inspired.