16 Running Challenges to Keep You Off Your Feet

Athletes are constantly looking for ways to challenge their skills. When they get used to what they’re doing, their bodies stop pushing harder. That’s why running challenges are lately becoming a trend in the running community.

Runners want to challenge their skills and set new goals, and that’s precisely what these challenges are providing—a break from the conventional running pattern.

Here, we have multiple running challenges for both beginners and pros.

7 Running Challenges for Beginners – Take It Easy

running challenges: runner at start line

While beginners can enroll in as many challenges as they want, they need to go easy on themselves. For example, preparing for a marathon in a month may be doable for a pro, but the training plan will be too hard for beginners.

So, here are some running challenges designed for runners still at the start of their journey.

Run a Trail Twice a Week

Your regular race track eventually stops being challenging. When you’re used to it, it’s not hard to run it anymore. You should start incorporating some trail run into your workout routine.

Trail running is challenging, and it drastically improves your endurance and resistance. The variety of elements you’ll see will teach you how to run anywhere, no matter how bumpy or pebbly the ground is.

After practicing trail running, you’ll find yourself running race tracks like they’re a piece of cake.

Start by running a trail twice a week, and see where that gets you. And remember to buy a pair of shoes suitable for the new challenge.

Maintain a 30 Day Running Streak

If you’ve been running for a while now, you may start testing your endurance by having a 30 day running challenge. The runs don’t have to be long; you may run for only a single mile, or whatever distance makes you comfortable. Here, the key is consistency rather than mileage or speed.

You can also have your runs on different surfaces. For example, if you have a treadmill, run on it when you can’t go outside. And maybe run a trail a couple of times a week to keep your feet challenged.

It’s worth noting that all runners need rest between days of running. Since you won’t be having any rest days, make sure some of the runs are short and easy, so you don’t develop overuse injuries.

Start a Walking-to-Running Challenge

If you’re only recently getting into running, you can challenge yourself by going from walking to running. This won’t only encourage you to reach your goal, but it’ll also build up your endurance and motivate you to go further.

You can plan a month of walking-to-running, starting the first week by increasing your walking distance. Then, start short jogs on the second week and go your way up.

Start a Couch-to-5k Challenge

Running a 5k is not easy when you’re a beginner, but that doesn’t mean you can’t challenge yourself and do it. There are multiple couch-to-5k challenges available on the internet because beginner runners constantly want to upgrade their skills to be able to run a 5k.

The challenge is so popular that there’s currently an app for it. You can use it to track your routine and progress, and you can use it to keep your fitness goals updated.

You can download one of the challenges already available on the internet or tweak it to fit your needs.

Run Your Route in Reverse

If you run the same route or track every day, you may want to start tweaking your run. If you’re not ready to upgrade your speed or mileage yet, you can run the route in reverse for a change. It’ll be a needed change in scenery, which will break you out of your routine.

You can also change the route altogether and try a new one to challenge yourself with its turns and new directions.

Set a New Record for Your Mile

Woman checking run time

If you run a mile in 20 minutes, start working on running it in a shorter time, even by a minute. Changing your mile personal record will encourage you to keep going, and you may be motivated to run a 5k or join a race.

Of course, that doesn’t happen in one night. You need to plan for it; start monitoring your speed and work on increasing it by a bit every day.

Many exercises can help you in this phase, like half-mile repeats and interval running. Set a goal and set a duration for it, then see how far you’ve come. It may take you a month or two to achieve the goal, but you’ll eventually get there.

One last piece of advice: keep your goals realistic. For example, if you run a mile in 20 minutes, you can train for a month or two to get them to 15 minutes. On the other hand, if you run your mile in 10 minutes, you may be able to decrease your time by 20 seconds or so.

The shorter the duration, the harder it is to cut it shorter.

Run a Month-Long Marathon

For beginners, running a full marathon will seem like an unachievable goal—at least not without months of hard work. Having said that, there’s nothing to keep you from running a full marathon. Only, you’ll do it over 30 days.

Create a running plan so that you cover the full 26.2 miles of a marathon in a month. The consistency will be challenging, but you’ll feel much better about yourself when you’re done with it.

If you love to have a lot of rest days, you can adjust the plan so that you run many miles in a single day, then have a couple of rest days. Adjust it any way you prefer, as long as you cover the whole marathon.

9 Running Challenges for Pros – Go Big or Walk Home

While we were going easy on beginners, there’s a fat chance we’ll do it now!

Since you’re already viewing this section, you’ve probably been running for a long time and are ready to tackle new challenges. Here are some pretty good ideas to amp up your performance.

Warning: These challenges aren’t for the faint-hearted!

Do a Full Plank After Every Session

Man doing planking exercise in gym

After finishing every running session, drop to the ground and do a full plank. It’s pretty challenging because your body will already be tired from all the effort, and you’ll be tempted to go home and take a shower. However, there’s an unrivaled feeling of achievement when you manage to hold a plank for even a minute after finishing a run.

Here, the goal isn’t to challenge your running as much as to challenge your muscles. The plank engages all of your core muscles. Creating a routine of planking after every run will benefit you in the long run, and you’ll end up with stronger muscles.

Increase Your Long Run Mileage

Long runs are an integral part of every runner’s routine. If you want to challenge yourself, you can always increase the mileage of your long run. You should make it out so that your long run increases by 4-5 miles after a month.

If you’re running a 5-mile long run now, try to get it to 10 miles in a month. Aim at increasing your mileage by 1-2 miles each week, and you’ll eventually reach your goal.

It’s worth noting that you don’t need to run that increased mileage every month. You can get back to your 5-mile long run after you achieve the goal.

Run to Work

For pro runners, running is more than a workout they do a couple of times a week. It’s something they can’t stop doing, and they can do it anywhere and at any time.

If you’re one of those, why don’t you try running to work? Incorporating running into your regular daily activities will increase your weekly mileage and keep your fitness level up. Plus, if you’re preparing for a race and don’t have enough time to train, it’ll be a good opportunity to work your muscles.

You can run from or to work, depending on your schedule. Just make sure to wear appropriate attire and enjoy the outdoors while you’re at it. Also, it’s worth noting that you should still wear your runner shoes during running, so you can wear your work shoes when you arrive.

Break Your 5k Personal Record

If you’ve already run your first 5k, but you’ve yet to run a marathon, you can start challenging your 5k personal record. It’ll take a lot of time to prepare for a marathon, so instead of doing it when you’re still not ready, you can instead attempt to finish a 5k in a shorter time than before.

Aim at reducing the duration even by a few minutes. Any progress will give you a feeling of achievement, and in time, you’ll be able to finish 5k races like they’re a training session.

Run Up More Hills

You’re already a pro at running race tracks, trails, and all kinds of terrains. What’s next? Running up more hills.

Running uphill challenges you to your limits. It puts considerable pressure on your muscles and helps you build impeccable endurance.

You can start tracking your climbs using an application. Polar Flow is one example of that; it enables you to monitor your uphill distance and constantly set new goals.

You can also create a real challenge for yourself, saying you’ll climb up Everest over the course of four months. Everest is 29,000 feet high, so you have some calculations to make!

Increase Your Sprinting Speed

You’re able to sprint for five minutes non-stop. Great, but what next?

You need to increase your sprinting speed if you want to challenge your muscles. Increasing your speed is better than sprinting for longer because you’ll stay within the same time frame, except that you’ll be faster. So, you won’t be loading your muscles up to the point of pain by sprinting for more than a couple of minutes.

To increase your speed, you can start running at equal intervals and have someone time you. You can use the Flying 30s concept; create distances of 30 meters each and monitor your speed while covering them. You should aim at covering the 30 meters in 20 or 30 seconds less.

Run 12 5ks in a Year

If you want to really challenge your skills, you can adopt a hardcore challenge like this one. It’s a long-term challenge, covering a whole year. When you finish it, you’ll have a never-ending boast of your skills, and your body shape will change drastically.

Running a 5k a month is by no means easy, but it’s doable if you’re a practiced runner who has run plenty of races before.

To break the routine, you can create mini-challenges within this one. For example, set a goal to increase your 5k speed every three months. So by the end of the year, you’ll have increased your speed four times.

You can also change the surface you’re running on, attempting to run a 5k on a trail once for a change.

Set a 40% Mileage Increment Over 30 Days

All runners at some point want to cover more mileage; it’s in their nature. If you’re the same, you can challenge yourself to increase it by 40% over a month. That’s a 10% increase per weak, and it’s not easy per se.

You’ll want to start with small increments and go your way up, or else you’ll be prone to more injuries or burnout. Aim at covering a 40% increase over a full month.

Incorporate Bodyweight Exercises

If you want to really challenge yourself, it’ll take more than just running to do it. You’ll want to start incorporating some bodyweight exercises into your daily workout schedule. The way you’ll do it, you’ll do a set of lunges and push-ups before running. Then, after your run, you’ll do a set of side planks and squats.

You can vary the exercises as you’d prefer, as long as you do them before and after every running session.

How to Keep Yourself Motivated for Your Running Challenge

It takes a lot of will for any runner to stay motivated. The easiest thing is to get demotivated amid your challenge and lose sight of your goal. So, how should you keep your motivation amped up?

Don’t Forget to Reward Yourself.

Woman getting a massage at a spa

To maintain your motivation for the longest time possible, make sure to reward yourself after crossing every milestone. For example, after finishing every week of your challenge, give yourself a day off your diet and have a pizza or a greasy burger.

You can also get a bar of chocolate after every mile faster you manage to run.

If you don’t prefer to break your diet, you can reward yourself with a massage at a luxurious spa. Anything rewarding will do because when you lose motivation, the reward will keep you looking forward. Even if you only do it for the reward, it’s okay, as long as it gets done.

Buy New Gear

If there’s one thing that all humans can agree on, it’s that new things make us happy. The same goes when buying new gear or a new outfit for your training sessions. If you want to stay motivated, go to the nearest store and get a new outfit for your challenge.

You can also get some workout gadgets, such as a smart bottle that filters the water and keeps it cold or a heartbeat per minute sensor. Or, you can get a new pair of earbuds so that you can listen to songs while running.

Generally, wearable technology gadgets are loved by many in the running community. For example, runners who wear fitness watches and performance straps are more likely to stay motivated because they see their progress firsthand. Not only that, but they also enjoy using their smart gadgets.

Keep Things Exciting

If you run the same route every day, you’re bound to get bored and lose your motivation. To keep your pace up, change the route you run. Plus, to keep things fun, you can join a club and run with a group.

That way, when you lose motivation, you can find it with the members of the group. You can also join a health club and go on a diet so you tone your body for the challenge.

Alternatively, you may run in a nearby park and watch the people around while you’re running. Seeing people around will keep you entertained.

Monitor Your Progress

For any runner, seeing progress is important. If you keep running at the same mile per hour speed or stay within the same weekly mileage, you’ll lose motivation faster than you can blink.

Try to keep a calendar and fill it with milestones of your progress. Constantly measure your weight and see if you lost any, and download an app or get your smartwatch to calculate the calories you burn running.

You can also get an in-body and know the percentage of fat in your body. After each month of your challenge, see how much fat you’ve lost. When you see how much progress you make, you won’t lose motivation.

Don’t Be Too Hard on Yourself

Any runner knows that being too hard on yourself will only end in burnout. If you feel too tired to continue the challenge, you’ve likely been going too hard on your body. In this case, the best you can do is take a couple of days of resting.

There’s nothing wrong with resting for a while then continuing the challenge. As long as you finish it, it doesn’t matter how long you take to do it. Plus, pushing yourself won’t do you any good.

Closing Thoughts

If you feel like your passion for running is getting loose, a running challenge is probably what you need to keep your muscles amped up. Choose a challenge that fits within your skills, and try to focus on each challenge at once to stay focused.

After tackling a lot of challenges, you can enroll in a year-long challenge to really test your limits.

However, remember to keep yourself motivated by rewarding yourself, taking enough days of rest, and keeping track of your progress.