What's Your Running Goal?
June 11, 2012 at 11:31 PM
So you’ve signed up for the HMBIM marathon, ½ marathon, or 10k (the 5k is already sold out) or are thinking about it. Now what do you do? Well if you’re in the thinking about it group you should immediately sign-up or your fate will be decided for you. All too often I’ve planned to run a race only to postpone registration and later find out it was full. It’s a depressing experience that I curtail by volunteering, sharing the moment with friends without doing all the hard work and training - although I’d rather be running! The question stands, what next? After much thought this week I continue to come back to Setting A Goal as a critical first step.
Why’s a goal so important? Well, fundamentally your goal will drive many training decisions: your training plan, the # days per week you’ll train, when you’ll start training, if you could benifit from a coach, etc. As an example, a runner that has moderate running/racing experience, has run 4-5 marathons already, and whose goal is simply to have fun and enjoy a first-time stay in Half Moon Bay that includes a tour of the coast will have a different training experience than someone who wants to use HMBIM as a Boston qualifier. These runners will have different training based on their varying goals.
Here’s a snapshot of what I use to determine a race goal and something that you could use too:
1) Closing my eyes, I visualize the last 100 yards to the big HMBIM finishing arch! It’s a wonderfully sunny and clear September day with the perfect touch of Pacific ocean chill. I can hear the dull roar of the finish-line crowd and the distinct cheers of my wife and two kids. Finishing is exhilarating and a huge success (it always is while dreaming)! I then scan my physical state, embrace the uplifting feelings of success, and glance at the imaginary race clock. Then I ask myself:
- Is this the finish you want?
- Are you willing to work hard for it?
- What % effort did you give?
2) Still with that image in mind, I then build specifics. It may be running to finish, running for a specific time, running for a place, or most importantly running to have FUN. I allow myself to dream then rein in my goals to being rooted in reality. This a difficult process for even the most experienced runner. Personally my biggest success in getting a dose of reality is a quick discussion with my wife, Jen. She’s great at keeping me grounded yet fosters some of my loftier goals. For you, I suggest talking it over with a spouse, friends, or ultimately a running coach. Anyone that can match running experience with your ability to help you build a challenging yet realistic goal. Some example doses of reality are:
- What’s my current fitness? If you’ve been running consistently for 3 days a week that’s a great start! If you’re starting from scratch you need to allow ample training time to start slow.
- How much time is left until race day? Don’t try squeezing in a sub 3 hour marathon performance from a 0 mile per week base with 4 weeks left until race day! Again, allow ample training time to build towards your race goal.
- How much time during the week do you have to train? Can you run 5-6 days a week or simply have 2 running days with some cross training? This should direct your goal.
3) The next step is to build a plan because: “A goal without a plan is just a wish” --- Antoine de Saint-Exupery. Building a training plan is a post unto itself (I’ll cover a simple example of this next week). There are many online training resources, books, and finally coaches that can assist with this. I’ve compiled a few options on the HMBIM Training Page. With your initial training plan in place, compare the dedication and time required in the plan to your race goal. Can you set aside that time in your current life schedule for training? Don’t overlook time needed for family, work, or other commitments. Make the required adjustments to your goal until the resulting training plan fits a schedule that works for your life. However, don’t overlook being creative with your time to create training opportunities. I’ll touch on this in a future post too!
Don’t be afraid to dream big, but trust that your reality will be based on a plan and hard work!
Enjoy the Run!
Franz Dill is the Director of Training for the Half Moon Bay International Marathon, and is responsible for organizing all online and in-person training resources for athletes participating in the HMBIM. Franz is an accomplished ultramarathoner who completed the coveted Grand Slam of Ultrarunning in 2011 and is also a Certified Coach with the Road Runner's Club of America (RRCA).