When Setting a Goal = Failure


My half-marathon is coming up on Saturday, and with a 10-mile run last weekend that went superbly, I’m feeling a lot better about the upcoming race. It had seemed like all of my long runs (just about, anyway) during this bout of training had been uphill battles that I was continually losing—I seemed to lose energy, get terrible side stitches, and feel like throwing up every time I laced up my sneakers.

Last Saturday’s long run finally went as planned, which gives me hope that I might be able to get through the race this week with my  head held high.

I once read somewhere (probably in Runner’s World magazine) that it’s unwise to set just one goal for yourself for a race. Many times, serious runners (a category I now have to class myself with) get so latched onto one “dream time” for their race that they will often feel like failures if they don’t hit that number, even if everything else about the race (or training!) had gone well.

So, in order to not be classified now or ever as a “foolish runner that is setting herself up for failure,” I have set three possible goal times for my upcoming half :

1. My “if-the-stars-align-and-I-magically-feel-like-I-can-fly” time,

2. My “tough-to-reach-but-actually-really-do-able time,” and

3. My “I’d-better-get-this-time-or-else-I’ll-beat-myself-up-for-weeks” time.

My out-of-this-world time would be 1:59:59 (aka, anything under two hours, which is one of the goals on my life’s bucket list). Considering that this goal would require me to average about a 9-minute mile the whole way, it’s still pretty “out-of-this-world” for my current body and speed. Like I’ve mentioned before, I may be a devoted runner, but I’m not exactly fast.

My hard-but-possible goal is 2:07. On my 10-mile run last Saturday, I ran 9:30 for about the last 6 miles, which should set me up nicely to do a 2:07 (if I can average the rest of the miles to be at about 10-minutes apiece). I will seriously be thrilled if I hit 2:07 on Saturday because it will mean that everything has gone really well.

The time I’m absolutely going to force myself to beat no matter what is 2:17, which is half of what my marathon time was two years ago (4:34). Considering that I’m overall faster than I was two years ago and that I’m only running 13.1 miles instead of 26.2, I really better beat that time.

The race is this Saturday at 7 AM, so here’s hoping I cross that finish line at 9:07 or earlier!

Have you ever run in a race before? Do you set time goals for yourself? Or is your general goal just to finish?

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