As a professor of teacher education, I am always asking people, “What do you want to be when you grow up?” I ask the same question of potential & current students regardless of their age or present job. I ask it of college freshmen & graduate students. I ask it of principals, teachers, and future teachers.
Lately, I have been asking myself the same question regarding my running. “What do I want to be when I grow up?”
The problem has been in translating into running terms. I thought the question might be, “How fast do you want to run a marathon?” or “What will be your lifetime PR in the marathon and/or half marathon?
With this as the question, I was shooting in the dark. There are so many unknowns. I haven’t mastered the art/science of a marathon just yet, so I couldn’t really anticipate how fast I might get. I knew that at some point, I ran a half marathon in 1:20:48. Based on that, I thought that a 2:50 or 2:45 marathon would be a reasonable lifetime goal. After studying the work of Dr. Jack Daniels, I thought that perhaps I might be able to go a little faster.
Some folks would tell me to not worry about the numbers, “Just go out and enjoy the run.” I AM enjoying the run. I am also enjoying setting goals and working towards them. Setting specific goals should never spoil your fun. If it does, then you need to rethink your goals.
Still, I never felt comfortable with any specific goal that I set. Today, I figured it out. I finally know what is wrong with the way I was setting my goals. There are way too many variables involved in marathon running to be able to set my lifetime running goal based solely on that. Weather, illness, hydration, nutrition, electrolytes, hills, …. all of these things and more must be considered and you can’t control all of them. It is shaky ground.
When thinking about my training today, I set a goal which I believe is the final word.
P. Mark Taylor’s Lifetime Running Goal:
I want to run 10 mile repeats at a 5 minute pace.
[10 x 1 mile repeats with a short rest in between]
Why is this a better goal? Because it is about training rather than racing. I am not dependent on the weather being right on some particular day. If I am ready and the weather is bad, I can wait a day or two. If it is too hot, I can run it earlier in the day. If it is too cold, I can wait until it warms up.
In fact, when it comes down to it… I think I really love training more than I like racing. There is no pressure, just me and my goals for the day. I can tweak it if I don’t feel 100% or I can supercharge it if I feel great.
Anyway, what happens to the marathon and half marathon goals? If I meet my lifetime goal for training, I will surely have some excellent PRs in those events. Setting my goals this way means that on race day I can follow their advice and “just enjoy the run.”
Setting your goals this way may or may not be best for you. Set your running goals in a way that makes sense to you and allows you to get the best out of yourself and your running.
So from now on when you ask me what my goal is for an upcoming race, I will not respond with a time. I set my goals for training and let the race be a happy byproduct.
“Train hard, race easy, & enjoy the run!” — P. Mark Taylor