Make It Happen: Joining a running club's group run is the surest way to find people to run around with. Most clubs offer one or two weekly runs, where the pace, distance and conversation varies widely enough to accommodate almost anyone. You might even meet someone whose pace, personality and schedule matches up well enough with yours that you can arrange other runs together. When you arrive for a group run, you may be asked to sign a waiver, but won't need to join the club. Eventually you may decide to join, as most club dues are a bargain (about $30 per year), with coached workouts, races, social gatherings and store discounts among the typical perks. Find a club at rrca.org.
New Yorker Val Cognetto is typical of runners who blossomed after joining a club. "So many members were happy to share their knowledge about training and racing," she says. Cognetto has forged many friendships, especially at the Sunday morning runs that end with a potluck breakfast. Emotional support is another asset. "After my last marathon, I cried when I saw that I'd missed the Boston qualifier, but then someone from the club gave me a hug and a pep talk. That's what these groups are all about."
Degree of Difficulty: 3
This Year I Will: Beat My PR
Setting new PR's (personal records) may be the most popular of all running resolutions. It isn't easy, as diligence, patience, and luck all play a role. If you've been running for more than a decade—or you're over 40—it's even harder, so chase after your age-group PRs (the fastest times you've run in your five-year age group) rather than your all-time bests.
Make It Happen: Plot a gradual buildup for just one or two race distances, so your workout routine isn't all over the map. Then pick two races in the spring and two in the fall to improve your odds of notching at least one PR. Weather in the winter or summer will likely prevent a PR, and vacation plans may hamper training. If possible, cut back on work and personal commitments in the month before each race.
"Developing leg strength with hill running, core strength with core exercises, speed with intervals and improved fitness with recovery days are all important when you pursue a PR," says Mike Norman, head coach of Chicago Endurance Sports. "Training consistency and good nutrition are also important."
Degree of Difficulty: 9
Ready to run? Find and register for marathons.