Reach For Those Times – Setting Goals and Benchmarks Along the Way

There’s been a lot of talk about goals as of late. As you remember I’m the anti-New Year’s Resolutionist (I’ll make that a term) here but I’m all for goals. If you want to get faster and set a new PR then you have to first VIE for that time, right?
runner breaking tape
True you could just ambiguously go out there and hope you wind up faster, but it’s a proven fact that setting a black and white, specific target to shoot for will work best. When your motivation may be lagging you have that goal kicking you in the tush. When the middle of the race is hurting so bad you’re contemplating just running straight in front of the shot-put, you think about the time you want and you keep on taking those left turns.

Going a step further, putting it out there, telling people your goal is another way to up the ante. But if you’re not confident enough to do that, or shy, at least say it to yourself, maybe write it down somewhere where YOU can see it.

The other thing is that the time may sound crazy, insane even to you. That’s okay, shoot high (within reason of course, if you’re a girl and say you want to break 4 minutes in the mile, be aware you’d be the first actual female to do that…) and you’d be surprised. Often it is our own mind that puts the glass ceiling on us and gets in our own way. To a certain degree you have to adopt a pseudo-egomaniacal self (you can only bring that side out in your own mind, you don’t have to actually be a Kanye) and tell yourself, “I’m gonna bust X-time” or “I’m gonna freaking own that race, I’m going to win.”
punk kid
* Own it like a rapper. You don’t have to start pushing your own drink but build up the self confidence. You have to tell yourself you can do something; and the honest truth is at the beginning you may not even believe it. But you fake it ’til you make it. This is where a coach really comes in handy because they can usually predict your abilities really well, set the bar high enough for you to reach but not so high it’s unrealistic. I’ve been lucky to have a couple really great coaches and I had enough faith in them that if they said I could do such-and-such I just made myself believe that I could. I wouldn’t have had the guts to think I could run that myself, but knowing that THEY knew I could do it gave me the confidence to then accept I must be able to…then you just get out there and get the work done.

* Mini-goals. The end all goal, what you want to achieve by the end of the season probably (and at times it should) seem like it’s too high. That’s what makes you reach, but you also have to remember that you have TIME, the whole season to get there…you’re not doing it today. So set mini-goals, or benchmarks along the way. The mini-goals seem more attainable and they keep you going on the right path. By the time you get to the end of the season it doesn’t look like a quantum leap to your end goal. Also, having benchmarks allows you to adjust and see if things are on track, and if they aren’t you can take measures to get back on the path.

* Patience. This is a huge one, and it’s hard at times in our sport especially when you get excited. But there is such a thing as being too eager too soon, especially in the early season. Don’t do too much, don’t race your workouts, remember you still need easy days, and all the other intangibles. (sleep, nutrition, stretching, etc.) It takes more confidence to be patient actually…trust in your ability and your training program enough to stick to it and ultimately it will pay off in the big, end of season meets.

* Consistency. This one may sound like I’m going back on what I just said, but it’s not. Yes you need to be patient but at the same time it still takes a huge amount of dedication and personal accountability to put the work in. It’s a grind, but that’s our sport.

* Get your head on. Another thing about running and racing is that it is so mental, ask any racer and they’ll tell you that it aint pretty or a walk in the park…it hurts like a beast. Work on the different mental tricks; really becoming a tenacious racer is an ongoing process. Just when you think you’re ‘tough’ you have one of those races or workouts where you think, “Wow, okay, I just broke through to another level.” There will be times when you may admit you had a weak moment, that’s okay, learn from it and remember the feeling of disappointment so that the next time you’re tempted to give up or give in you don’t.

You might have just ended one season, be gearing towards the next and it’s a good time to set the goals you want to achieve. Even if you’re not racing for a team it’s good to have things you want to achieve, push yourself in one kind of way…whether it’s to run a faster 5k or 10k or push yourself to run your longest race yet. Think about it, write it, you can broadcast it, and you can even strut like Kanye about it so long as you remember to keep the ego in check. ;)

1) If you’ve got a season starting, race on the schedule, or a time you’d like to hit, would you like to share? C’mon, don’t be shy.

2) How do you set the bar for your running goals, do you have a coach, do you do it yourself, do you want to try to beat a friend’s time? If you have a coach how do you make yourself believe you are capable of it even if you think it may sound crazy fast?
I was pretty confident in anything my coach said. If they said it then I just told myself I’d get there…and honestly they were for the vast majority right in the end.

3) I want to remind you all this is still anti-New Year’s Resolutionist…mmmk!

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8 thoughts on “Reach For Those Times – Setting Goals and Benchmarks Along the Way

  1. resolutions are for people who need to MAKE themselves do something they don’t actually currently like to do (I resolve to lose weight…so I’ll eat healthy things when I’d rather have pizza and work out when I’d rather watch tv etc). GOALS are for people who want to get better at what they already love! (runners, dur).

    I know what you mean about having a coach set goals for you – sometime I never even considered trying my hand at an OT qualifying marathon until I became friends with a former Brooks-Hansons runner who told me that I not only could, but SHOULD. I never saw myself as capable of that level before, and still sort of doubt it – but its amazing what someone else’s opinion of you can inspire you to go after!

  2. I like what Kate said about resolutions and goals! I think that resolutions seem so negative, like you’ve done something wrong and need to force change. I think goals are definitely more positive and show that you have initiative and truly desire what you are going for!
    I love the idea of “owning it like a rapper” – my trainer noticed yesterday how I am so lacking in confidence. I struggle! I don’t set really high goals because I’m afraid of failing. This year, my goal is to have confidence and believe in myself, because even if I fail, I’ll probably get further than I would have if I wasn’t shooting for the stars!

    • i agree, i like kate’s distinction between goals and resolutions too!

      hehe…u work on that rapper strut of u’rs, okay?!?! built the self-confidence girl!!

  3. I have never really set myself running goals before, other than to just reach the finish line (and I am always surprised when I actually do), but this year I am aiming for two half marathons, a few 5K fun runs and some 10Ks as well. The best thing about these goals are that I get to share most of them with my little sister because we will be racing together. Now my only running goal is to cross the finish line with her by my side! Sweaty sisterly solidarity, that’s what it’s all about :)

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