Only a runner would understand the response “well, I have three” in response to the question, “what’s your goal for this race?”
I always have three pace goals for a race: 1) the “reach for what you cannot,” pie-in-the-sky goal – what I train towards. I’ll be ecstatic if I ever hit this one; 2) the more realistic goal – what I think I should be able to achieve on that day; 3) the fall-back goal – the “it’s not my day, but I’m going to take something away from this race” goal.
For instance, during last Saturday’s Garmin Marathon, these were my three goals: #1 BQ minus 1:30 (probably sufficient to get into 2015). #2 BQ at under 3 hours, 15 minutes. #3 just finish (given that I had just run the Boston Marathon on Monday, I had a fairly forgiving fall-back goal).
I realize that two marathons in six days is probably not a recipe for success for marathon #2. However, I felt really great at Boston, recovered quickly, and decided to go for it at the last minute. I went out ahead of the 3:15 pace group and stayed on my pace for 8-9 miles. However, due to some GI distress Friday and race morning, I was feeling pretty lousy by the time I saw the RHSW and one of my sons and College and Woodland. I said “I’m thinking about bailing out.” At this point, my pace was slowing by about 30s. I was shifting gears pretty quickly from goal #1, to #2, and then #3.
I hung on to my lead on the 3:15 pace group until about mile 17 or so. By group, I mean the solo pacer who was staying on pace, and everyone who started with him well behind. I made him a pace group again and ran with him for a few miles. We talked about Boston and I expressed how I just wasn’t feeling that great, it wasn’t my day, but I had resolved to finish today. The way he put it is, “sometimes you just have to make it a mental race.” I appreciated that. I was already in that place – with my numbers goals a fading memory, at least I knew that I had fought through the tough miles where I had to convince myself to keep going despite the urge to stop. Anyhow, I was fading and he was staying on pace so I let him go.
Sometimes you get to set new goals during your race. Around mile 21, I found a new goal. Or I should say, the goal found me. I had been hearing some footsteps, fairly close to matching my cadence. So I guessed, it’s either a minimalist runner or a female (i.e., shorter stride length from height, not foot strike). It was the latter. It was her first marathon, and she was doing great but wanted someone to run with those final 5 miles. I was more than happy to try to help pick her pace back up (thereby picking myself up). We ran together to the finish, with me babbling encouragement and being a course tour guide the whole way. She finished 2nd overall female. Nice debut! I came in at 3:18:19 – which was 1:51 slower than my Boston time earlier that week. I’m glad I ran it though – because it reinforced the lesson that if you have several goals, you are bound to meet one or two of them and take away something positive from the day!
If you can smile at the finish line of Hospital Hill, you’ve accomplished two goals!
After your race, it’s time to re-evaluate and set new goals. Always have a new goal!