As we approach the new year, most of us are planning our races for 2017 and will likely begin training soon. When we start to plan race logistics, we also start to plan the almighty time goals. It can be tricky to differentiate between a goal that is realistic and a goal that you may not be ready for – and I have set both of those.
For the 2017 Pittsburgh Marathon 13.1, I have the time goal of…drum roll please…
My half marathon PR is 2:15, and that was in 2015. 2:10 would be a huge PR for me, and I think that with some hard work, I will be able to pull it off. I’m also looking forward to the training!
A question I am asked quite a bit, though, is how to set a realistic time goal. I have a lot of thoughts on this, and I hope my insight as a coach and a runner can help you set some challenging – but realistic – running goals going into 2017.
Keep in mind that any goal can be reached, but the timeline must be realistic! I truly believe that you can achieve any running goal that you set. The issues arise when your timeline and your goal do not coincide. Some people need more time than others to meet the same goal, and while this is probably common sense, it’s difficult to internalize when you’re knee deep in the desire to further your achievements.
In the 2016 Akron Half Marathon, I set the goal of sub 2. I missed it by a long shot because I came out of the gate running at sub 2 pace, and I just wasn’t ready for that goal. I wore myself out within the first three miles. That is when it dawned on me that it isn’t that I can’t rub a sub 2 half, but that it will take longer to get there than I thought.
The 2:10 goal requires some strategic training that includes tempo runs and hills, but I do think I am ready for it. I didn’t do a lick of speed training or hills or even know what a tempo run was when I hate that 2:15 PR! I’m prepared to train for the 2:10 and think I have a very good shot at reaching this goal.
Running still needs to be enjoyable; don’t set a goal that makes you hate training. Another lesson I learned last year. Most of us are not elites. We aren’t headed to the olympic trials. That doesn’t meant you shouldn’t strive to meet amazing goals in your running career; it means that if you despise the type of training it will take to reach that goal and can’t look far enough ahead to a payoff, you might want to reconsider.
Keep in mind that I am not referring to the normal “I would rather binge watch Netflix than get on the treadmill tonight” moments we all have. I’m referring more to absolutely dreading running, on a constant basis, because the training you’ve tied yourself to isn’t enjoyable at all.
I HATE speed drills. Hate. When I was trying to reach my sub 2 goal, I couldn’t even wrap my head around doing speed drills once a week. I started skipping them, which then made me feel guilty and like I wasn’t dedicated. However, I can run hill repeats like it’s my favorite thing in the world (and it isn’t, but they’re way better than speed drills).
Look, if you can internalize and know full well that the payoff of all the intense training is whatever goal you set, go for it. But if you aren’t sold on the goal for one reason or another and feel like all the training isn’t worth it, you shouldn’t sacrifice your love for the sport just to prove some kind of point.
Keep your “why” in the forefront of your mind during training. Why did you set the goal? What makes you want to achieve the time goal that you set for yourself? There really isn’t a right or wrong answer, but remembering why you started is especially necessary when the training gets tough.
My reasons for setting time goals are always because I want to show myself what I am capable of. Sometimes I set them to honor other people, too – last year’s running of the Pittsburgh marathon was dedicated to my runner in the IRUN4 program. My last half marathon, Akron, was dedicated to my late stepfather as it fell on the day he died.
Whatever your why is – keep that in front of you at all times.
Figure out a schedule that actually works and doesn’t make you hate your life. A training schedule that works for you is the only way you’ll keep training. This is why working with a running coach is valued over apps. Apps don’t really know you, your family schedule, your work life, or how many days per week you can dedicate to training.
If you have a training plan that intimidates you time wise, it’s time to look for a new plan. Believe it or not, you can train for a marathon by running three days a week. Whatever works for you, get it done – and get yourself a coach!
Happy training – looking forward to seeing everyone’s progress!