My usual tactic for goal setting is to set the bar as low as possible. My first half marathon was Fargo 2007 and my goal was just to finish. I came in at 2:15 and I was very excited that I ran the whole way without walking. (The picture above is of me at that race. Yes, I know it looks like I'm walking, but that is how I look when I run. Sad, isn't it?) For my first marathon, my goal was to beat Katie Holmes' time of 5:29:58. Given my half marathon effort, that was a conservative goal. Even though I walked a lot of the race, I still came in at 4:58 which was well ahead of my goal. After I hired my coach, he helped me set a more aggressive time goal for Twin Cities. My goal if everything went right was 4:15. My secondary goal was 4:30. Running in the pouring, freezing rain with bronchitis, I finished in 4:27. I was ecstatic.
So now it's time to look ahead to the Fargo Marathon on May 9th. My coach would like me to try to improve on my TC time. That is a reasonable thing to expect and I get where he is coming from. Over time and with practice I should be able to learn and improve my performance. For Twin Cities I was sick and the weather was crappy. My head says that he is right and that I should try for that 4:15. But...
I don't want to. Sure, I want to train hard, use what I've learned and try my best. I just don't want to use the finish time as the yard stick for success. I'm 41 years old. I've had just about every injury a runner can get including the Plantar Fasciitis that I'm getting treated for right now. I'm slow. No amount of speed work, weight training or stretching is going to alter the fact that my body just doesn't move very well. If I finish in 4:25 vs. 4:35, will anyone really be impressed? I know the PR is the Holy Grail for runners, but a PR for me won't make me a Boston Qualifier. I think this race needs to be about something else.
Now that I've just committed Runner Blasphemy by saying that time won't be the standard for me for this race, what will my goals be? I want to toe the start line of this race pain-free. I want to be relaxed and make idle chit chat with those around me. I want to not be worried whether I may lose a minute or two because I need to make a bathroom stop. I want to practice my race day phoblography* and bring along my camera. Basically, I want to have fun. Yes, I want to run my best. Yes, I know that 26.2 miles is going to suck after 18 miles no matter what. Yes, I want to feel like my training prepared me for the day. If I run whatever my best is on that day, have a few laughs, and finish the race uninjured, then I think that should qualify as a success. Now, if all of that should happen to take place in less than 4 hours and 27 minutes, then that will be icing on the cake.
* My friend Nate asked me what it is called when you take pictures for your blog, and I made up phoblography.