Achieving Goals- It’s As Easy As Running A Marathon
After three miles of steady uphills, the final mile of the Carlsbad marathon begins with a terrific downhill that propels runners through the crowds toward the finish line. Just two years ago, I got to the bottom of that hill, hot and dehydrated, and decided with half a mile to go, I needed to walk to the finish or I would pass out. Sure finishing a marathon is an accomplishment but walking to the finish left me a bit disappointed.
Having run 12 half marathons and 4 marathons, I’ve developed a hierarchy of goals; priorities if you will. Here they are:
- Stay Alive (After going to the hospital in my first race, this became priority one)
- Finish the Race (Walking, running, crawling, whatever…)
- Run the entire race without stopping
- Achieve a specific time goal– break 4 hours or better yet 3:50 in the marathon.
Let me preface the rest of this post by saying, I have no illusions of grandeur. I am not remotely close to being an elite runner. I’m a good runner, finishing in the top 20% of most races I enter but much slower than many people.
After the disappointment at Carlsbad two years ago I decided to make another run at conquering the marathon. Knowing the infamous definition of insanity which is “doing the same things but expecting different results” I knew I had to change my approach and increase my commitment to my goals. With 1 and 2 being given and ingrained in my running DNA, I focused on 3 and 4. Here are the things I did to achieve my goals:
- I picked a reasonable goal. I picked a goal which had been elusive but I knew that with the right conditions, I could achieve it.
- I picked an Advanced training plan. This was a 16 week plan that had me running 6 days per week and peaking at 60 miles per week. That’s a 100% increase in my weekly mileage and increasing from my normal 4 days of running per week.
- I mostly stuck with the plan. To make this plan jive with my family it meant getting out the door by 5am every day. Out of 96 total runs I think I missed 8 for whatever reason. (injury/family/work/holidays/etc)
- I changed my nutrition. One essential to running is listening to your body. Learning from upset stomachs and dehydration in past races, I changed my approach and ran with a hydration pack filled with water and consumed energy gels. Of course I incorporated this into my training.
- I put myself in the best situation to succeed. Knowing my propensity for overheating, I chose the Carlsbad Marathon because it’s in January, it’s cold and the course features nice, rolling hills and beautiful ocean views.
- I shared my goals with others. Having run most of my long runs with a friend, I shared my plan and goals with him and we talked about our race day plan for achieving them. My wife was also extremely supportive through the entire process.
Fast forward to this past Sunday. The weather was absolutely perfect; overcast and 50 degrees the whole way. Heading into that final mile and down the hill toward the final stretch I knew breaking 3:50 was going to be close. I took the hill fast and reached back and found that I had energy left in the tank to sprint to the finish. There is nothing like running through that crowd at the end of a race. Coming around the final turn, there was my wife and 4 year old son. After a slight detour for a high five, I finished strong in 3:51:03; a personal record by almost 2 minutes!
Did I achieve my time goal of breaking 3:50? No. I did however achieve goals one through three which I had never done and came darn close to number four.
I’ll bet that in my lifetime, I don’t make one penny from running but I hope you see at this point that I’m talking more about my learning process of setting and achieving goals. These my friends are call Valuable Life Skills! The mental, physical and spiritual benefits of lacing up running shoes and heading outside are off the charts and I’m living proof of that. My greatest take away from this latest marathon is that I learned how to set goals and what it took to achieve them. In the book “Raving Fans” by Ken Blanchard (@KenBlanchard), he talks about improving by 1%. From a running standpoint, I have done just that. Don’t get me wrong though. While I’m relishing the success, I’m already thinking about how I can improve by another 1% which hopefully means 3:49:59 or better!