Thursday, March 10, 2011

Setting goals, without setting yourself up for disappointment

My next race is coming up on Saturday. This will be my fourth race. So far, I've done 2 5k races and 1 10k race. This will be my second 10k race.

My first and second race were amazing. It was my first time for each distance and my main goal for each of them was to finish. The experiences were full of victory and accomplishment, the overcoming of barriers and achieving something that I never thought possible.

My third race was frustrating and disappointing. I don't look back on it with good feelings. The reasons? The congestion at the start line, my poor pacing, the confusion of where the start line actually was, the short course. Looking at those reasons though, there was only one of those items that was in my control. Yet, at the time, I let myself get worked up and stressed about it all, which surely didn't help my performance.

So, looking at my goals for this next race there's a few criteria I need to consider. I need to keep my goals realistic. I also need to keep them flexible. If race day logistics aren't what are expected, I'll adjust my goals.

When I first signed up for this race, it was with the thought that I might be able to achieve a sub-60 minute time. I am now reconsidering that.

I am still a very new runner. I've been running for less then a year, and have only done a few races. I do very little speed work, focusing instead on building my running volume.

I also haven't really trained for this race. That's not to say that I haven't been running. I have. But, I've been training for a half marathon. My long runs are up to 16-18km and are long and slow. I usually do three shorter runs a week in the 6-8km range. As I get close to this 10km race, I'm realizing it isn't really a distance I feel prepared for. I know I can go faster then I run at almost twice the distance, yet it's not such a short distance that I can get away with going too fast and pacing poorly.

For all of these reasons, my goals for this race are not really time based. My goals are:

1. Control what I can and let go of what I can't.

This means that I'll arrive early to find parking, but I won't start freaking out if it's really busy. I'll try to line up in an appropriate spot for the speed I plan to run, but if I get stuck in a crowd and have to go slower at first, I'll accept that and pick up the speed when I can. If the course is long or short, that's life. I'll run it and finish it.

2. Pace myself well

It's easy to let race day adrenaline carry you away at the starting line. In my last race, I also got caught up in trying to "make up time" after a congested first kilometer. This time, I intend to find a pace that pushes me, but is sustainable, and then hold that pace when I can. I do have an approximate pace in mind, but I'm going to play it partly by ear as well, depending on how I am feeling.

3. Push myself and finish strong

While I'm looking to find a sustainable pace, I'm also shooting for one that challenges me. I want to finish this race feeling like I gave it my all and I pushed myself as hard as I can.

Right now, my races should be about the execution, not the time. Once I have more experience, and I consistently execute well, I can start shooting for time goals and personal bests. I truly believe that this approach will yield some personal bests regardless, but I want to finish races feeling good about how I ran the race, rather then then just the time I get.


  1. Those are GREAT goals Deb. Good luck and most important.. ENJOY :)

  2. This is a great list! I have to tell you, the race that I am MOST proud of is a 10 miler where I truly ran my race plan down to the last mile. I could have probably run it faster, but I owned my race plan and executed it to perfection. It was a great feeling!

    (loved your comment today - that happened to me recently too, though I believe *ahem, that I noticed the transparency BEFORE there was a real issue...

  3. You will do awesome! I think you will surprise yourself! It's good to not get too worked up about time goals though.