Runners are a funny group of people– funny, in the sense that people will quickly label us crazy, inspiring, driven, motivated, stubborn, type A, and maybe even selfish all in one breath. That’s quite a list, but I honestly think it’s to our advantage that we have all of these, or even some of these, characteristics: and especially when it comes to improving ourselves as runners, on our individual quests to get fitter, faster, and stronger over time.
For many of us, we began running, in general, or marathoning, more specifically, because there was a goal of some sort involved. For some, it’s just to complete the damn race vertically, not horizontally—my run club in Chicago went for the “beer tent, not med tent” at races—and eventually, that “just complete the race” sentiment might change into “compete in the race,” as we runners decide to go after a certain time, a PR (personal record, the fastest time you’ve posted for that distance), a BQ (Boston Qualifier, a marathon time that qualifies you to run one of the world’s oldest and most prestigious marathons), or a particular AG (age group) or OA (overall) placement, relative to the other participants in the race that day.
Running and goals, or goal-setting, go hand-in-hand. While running just for the sake of running can be really invigorating and a good way to hit a mental ‘reset’ button, having a goal is a good way of making sure that you get yourself out there day in and day out, do all the ancillary stuff that is so pivotal to your success, and even be more attentive to the other aspects of your day-to-day existence, like sleep habits and nutrition, that are also hugely important to you realizing your race day goal.
If goals are such good things to have, then, how do you know what type of goal you should set in the first place? And, once you have that goal, what the hell are you supposed to do with it?
- if your goal doesn’t slightly terrify you, it’s not crazy-ass enough. What’s the point of having a goal—a big, rockin’ goal—if you’re confident you can realize it in the first place?
- have intermediate goals that will help you get to your big, rockin’, crazy-ass goal. If you’re a 4-hour marathoner, and you want to run a 2:45 in your lifetime, setting some stepping-stone goals that will help you along the way will be to your benefit. Promise. If nothing else, it’ll keep you honest and accountable in your training from now until you realize your goal, and really, intermediate goals can help provide direction and feedback as you progress toward your big, hairy goal. Rome wasn’t built in a day, right?
- be bold—maybe even audacious. Tell people—your running family, your non-running friends and family, anyone who will give you two minutes’ worth of their time—what you want to accomplish. Telling people what you’re going after is like sealing the deal; you want other people’s support, and they want to support you!, along the way. Give them the opportunity. Don’t sell them, or yourself, short.
- don’t be afraid of failing. Truly. It’s part of the process. This was the real kicker for me because who the hell wants to fail, or, worse yet, to do so to an audience of their friends and family? The audience aspect here is key, though. You might have heard this as “burning your boats.” The basic premise is that when you set a crazy-ass goal, people should know about it because the stakes then become higher for you; now, if you fail, people are going to know… and that sucks. However, just the same is true: if you do, in fact, realize your goal, whether it’s an intermediate goal or the big crazy-ass one, people will know what you’ve been chasing after in the first place and can be that much more supportive of you and your work. Failing to yourself is one thing, but failing to an audience is something else entirely. It makes the stakes higher for you, and, realistically, makes you work that much harder toward realizing your goals.
All of our personal characteristics that make us well-suited for our running and marathoning exploits—like our tenacity or even our selfishness to chase after our own unicorn pursuits, whatever they may be—will serve us all well as we go after our crazy-ass goals.
Put that stubbornness, that type-A personality, or that crazy commitment to the test this year as you become a better, stronger, faster, and fitter runner, and get after that crazy-ass goal of yours and all those intermediate ones that’ll get you there. It’s still January, still New Years-ish, but have a conversation with yourself and ask yourself what you really want to accomplish this year with your running. What steps will you take to get there? Once you have the answers, go tell it on the mountain: to everyone, everywhere. We want to hear ’em.
I’d be a hypocrite if I didn’t publicly admit what I’m going after, myself, so in the interest of full disclosure:
- to break 3:20 this year in the marathon – this has been at least two marathons in the making –and specifically, to go 3:15 in my spring races
- to improve my last TSFM time by at least 30 minutes
- the real crazy-ass goal? to go sub-3 in the marathon (whoa, did it just get warm in here?)
Running a marathon, or any endurance event, is a crazy-ass accomplishment in and of itself, and I am so genuinely excited to partake in such an extraordinary event, in a such a wonderful city, with you at The San Francisco Marathon in late July. It really is a one-of-a-kind race, and I am just thrilled to run it with you and celebrate our crazy-ass goals (and accomplishments!!) together in just a few more months.
In the mean time, get to work. There are unicorns to be pursued and goals—crazy-ass as they might be—to realize.