Like many people, I try to find a goal for to work toward at the start of each new year. While this isn’t the only occasion to look for a goal, the start of a year is a good time to easily set time-based objectives.
Determining a running goal (or goals) can set the tone for the next year, or at least the next few months. Having a running goal helps me find and set a training plan, keeps me motivated to train and stay healthy, and often ensures we have a long-weekend away (so we can participate in a running event and get some mental recuperation). I find that without a specific goal, my training tends to be mediocre.
Last year my goals were rather generic and less motivating: stay healthy (avoid injury), participate in three events, get faster at the 10km. I achieved these, and while doing so wasn’t demanding, this was the point for last year. I needed a bit of a physical and mental break. After two years of overuse injuries that left me sidelined for months, it was nice to make it through a whole year feeling healthy and fit. (I don’t bounce back the way I did when I was a bit younger!)
This year, I’m ready for something challenging again. I have spent the past few weeks a little undecided on what I wanted to tackle. However, I have some unfinished business with the Half Marathon and have decided to come back to a goal I set myself back in about 2013 – break 1:45:00 in the Half.
I set this goal after I cut about 11 minutes off my Half in one race. This was on my third or fourth half and I had smashed through the goal set for that run. Deciding I needed more of a challenge, I decided that I would break the 5 min p/km pace – mostly because it was a nice number. And while I got closer, I also massively plateaued. I haven’t really gotten any faster and that was frustrating. Then I got injured, twice.
Looking back, I think I’ve made two errors in my attempts to break 1:45:00.
1) I really wasn’t training correctly. I think was I was pushing too much on easy days and not enough on hard days.
2) The goal wasn’t completely SMART (Specific, Measurable, Achievable, Relevant, Time-Based).
I believe in the value of making SMART goals because they help keep you honest and set goals that are obtainable. Where I think I went wrong was that I stopped believing it was achievable, but also, I never set myself a time-frame by which I would reach the goal. This led to pressure to reach the goal on each race, then continued disappointment and erosion of my belief it was possible with each successive failure.
After some thought, I have decided my new goal is:
Break 1:45:00 in the Half Marathon by the end of 2020.
This gives me a specific and realistic time to achieve the goal by. It also means I should complete to goal as I approach 40. Realistically, I am aware that at some point I am going to struggle with getting faster, so I want to get this goal before that happens. Two years seems like a more realistic time frame to work with for a few reasons; it’s less overwhelming, I need the time to rebuild my endurance and speed, and it takes into account our upcoming six-week ski holiday. While I won’t be running as much, skiing is still a decent workout so it will be an interesting experiment to see how this affects my power, speed and endurance.
My plan is to maintain my fitness and focus on my ski strength for the next few weeks, then enjoy our epic trip/honeymoon. When I get home, I will really focus on the running and plan to blog about my training and success (because if you don’t believe it will happen – it won’t.)
Hopefully, by comparing my training with my previous efforts, I can share some learnings and insight with you along the way!