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Run4It Journal  •  Running Training •  14.09.2020 •  8 min read

Make Every Run Count - 5 running challenges to keep you motivated

What motivates runners to keep running? In the beginning, it's learning how to run. Slowly building up the miles, and the satisfaction of being able to run a little bit further each time you venture out the door. Once you've completed the Couch to 5K program, you look for the next challenge. Your first 5k race, then maybe a 10k. Before you know it you're building the miles for your first half or full marathon. Or maybe you don't enter races, but join your local parkrun and slowly improve your time. The desire to be better than yesterday pushes us forward, willing us to step out the door and run.

With events postponed or cancelled, and parkruns put on hold, runners found themselves running alone. Some lost the motivation to keep going, missing the pull of the club run and the social aspect of running. Others used the time to focus on their own goals, and are running stronger than ever.

Create your own running challenges

With the absence of organised events, there's no reason why running should lose its shine. The thing I love about running is that you can make every run special. Every run counts.

Run4it race bib

There's no reason why we can't create our own fun. Don't wait for race day to push yourself to the limit. Don't wait for a trail event to make your run an adventure. Be creative and invent your own running challenges. Then make them happen!

By definition, a challenge is a competitive situation in which the goal is to outperform one's own performance or that of others. Whether you want to beat the clock, your running buddy, or simply tackle a new distance or terrain, the challenge will bring some race-like excitement to your training.

What's more, these running challenges can be an effective way to test your fitness or simply be a fun workout to have a blast with friends or family.

I've included some running challenges to help spice up your daily runs or weekly routine.

Ready to #makeeveryrun a challenge?

5 running challenges to try

The family (or buddies) handicap run

The handicap run is a type of run that exists in many running clubs across the UK. They're a fun way to race against each other without focusing on time. The idea is simple. Runners start at different times, with the slowest setting off first and the fastest starting last. The goal is to overtake as many runners as you can, and not let the person chasing you catch up! At the end, the first runner to cross the line takes the win.

Back of two woman running

The handicap run is a good challenge to organise within your family or friends as it levels the field for runners of different abilities. Always a good laugh guaranteed!

It is also the ideal challenge to take on if you lack motivation or if you struggle to push hard when running on your own. This will boost your competitive nature!

  • Distance: can be any distance, generally from 1 mile to 10k
  • Terrain: any terrain, mix it up with hills or trails if you can!
  • Handicap times: the handicap time is calculated as it relates to the slowest runner. Take his predicted time for the run you’re planning: your handicap will be the difference of his/her predicted time and yours.
  • Example
Predicted time Handicap Time
Runner 1 (slowest) 0022:45 00:00:00
Runner 2 00:20:50 0:01:55
Runner 3 00:20:00 0:02:45
Runner 4 00:19:50 0:02:55
Runner 5 00:18:30 0:04:15

Runner 1 starts first, runner 2 sets off 1 minute 55 seconds after runner 1, then runner 3 begins 50 seconds later, and so on. The first to cross the finish line is the winner!

Pace your run with a GPS running watch

Using a Garmin to accurately track your pace and distance can be very helpful indeed. Entry-level models including the feature-rich Forerunner 45 monitor heart rate at the wrist and use GPS to track your pace, distance, intervals and more. In addition to GPS tracking, mid-range models feature more advanced training features like Virtual Pacer/Partner/Racer. The Virtual Partner is a training tool designed to help you meet your goals – you can set a pace for the Virtual Partner and race against it.

One up from Virtual Partner, advanced and top-tier watches boast Garmin’s PacePro feature, designed to help you stay on track with your predicted time. You plan the ideal pacing strategy for your activity, based on elevation and your personal pacing preferences. You simply need to enter your goal time or goal pace, and from there choose a positive, negative or neutral pacing strategy.

The PacePro feature is available on all fenix 6 series watches as well as Forerunner 245/245 Music and the Forerunner 945.

The home or workplace relay

Why wait for an official event to run a relay with the people you like running with? Plan a relay with your partner, your workplace colleagues or with family members, and you can turn one of your normal runs into a really fun session! You can take it as a relaxed run and organise the relay for fun, or you can make it a bit more competitive and set your group an overall time to beat.

It’s very simple to organise. You just need to agree on the distance and the route.

  • Distance: any
  • Terrain: any
  • Number of runners: minimum 2
  • Example: the relay includes 3 runners who are each going to take on a 5k route. The goal is to finish it under 1 hour.

The elevation challenge

A lot of runners dread and avoid running uphill, though it’s been shown to have many physical benefits (helps strengthen the legs and great high intensity workout). While tough, it can be a nice change to your usual flat route and can spice up your running routine.

The aim of this challenge is simple: rack up as many vertical meters as possible in a certain amount of time. Depending on how comfortable you are running uphill, you can choose 15 or 30 minutes. The idea is to try to go all in and sustain your effort for the full duration.

Conic Hill runners

You can choose different strategies to get your best results:

  1. Choose one long hill and try to climb as much as you can in the allotted time
  2. Choose an undulating route and do several climbs

The route options are up to you! With option 1 you’ll cover less distance and quickly increase your elevation. But the effort will be continuous without flat or downhill sections to recover. Option 2 means you’ll probably cover more distance, using the flatter sections and descent to recover and then go hard on every climb. Choose wisely!

  • Time: 15minutes or 30minutes
  • Terrain: road or trail

Track elevation with a GPS running watch

Performance and adventure watches from Garmin (including the Forerunner 645, 945 and fenix series) feature a built-in barometric altimeter which provides elevation data to accurately monitor ascent and descent for activities, and display it in real time. The barometric altimeter provides more accurate altitude and elevation data than GPS alone.

The scavenger hunt run

The scavenger hunt is a fun run where you can forget about time and distance! The best way to do it is to group together with a set of friends to run at an arranged time and find the items on a predefined list. These can be local landmarks, buildings, statues or simpler things like a red car, a stop sign, etc. Take a selfie with each item, and I guarantee you these runs will be memorable!

The focus is not on distance or pace, it’s really about making the run fun and having a good time with your running buddies. Be creative and have a good laugh!

The munro/summit bagging special

This challenge will be quite daunting for most people. But I can assure you that this is one of the best running challenges to accomplish.

We’re not all able to run for several hours, and furthermore on hills. However, this challenge isn’t about performance but about trying something new and having a good time. You can make most of it a hike and only run the flat/easy sections, no pressure! At the end of the day, looking back at the distance and the number of summits covered will fill you with a great sense of achievement.

Munro bagging is a real discipline in Scotland, so why not mix it up with your running training? Conquering munros is always worth the effort as you’ll be rewarded with some of the most stunning scenery, Scottish weather permitting!

If this is too much for you, you can start with some of your local hills or trails.

All you’ll need is to pack some layers, snacks and fluids!

Note: on the more challenging terrain, please ensure that you follow the Mountain Rescue guidance regarding the kit to bring with you.

Munro hills

Create a course and navigate a route with a Garmin GPS running watch.

Navigating on the hills isn’t always an easy task. But Garmin watches offering mapping and navigation functionality, make it much more manageable. With the Forerunner 245, 645, 945 and fenix watches, you can send a course from your Garmin Connect account to your watch. After it is saved to your watch, you can navigate the course on your device. (You can import a GPX file of an existing route or create a new one.) With the map on your wrist and turn by turn navigation, you’ll be able to concentrate completely on your run/hike.

Make Every Run Count GIF


Thanks to everyone who took part in our #makeeveryrun Instagram photo contest throughout September. Andrew @eoin231 clinched the win, taking home a Garmin Instinct® Solar GPS Smartwatch! While our runners-up @lindylovesfitness, @alexsophielong and @more.2explore earned a £20 Run4It voucher as a wee reward. Checkout the incredible entries here:

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