Last week I put up a few thoughts regarding Shalane Flanagan’s win at the 2017 TCS New York City Marathon. I mentioned that Shalane was considering retirement from marathon racing, one of the reasons being that she believes her days of setting personal records are behind her. Running a smart race in New York allowed her a big victory, despite being more than 5-minues slower than her personal record.
Often when we set out to run in a race we set a time goal. Time goals are referred to as outcome goals. How to properly set (because it cannot be an arbitrary time) outcome goals and achieve them is a completely different future blog, maybe even two blogs. But one thing that happens to runners is that they don’t want to say out loud what their time goal is. Primarily because if they don’t say it out loud, they will not feel pressure to perform or have the feeling of failure if the goal isn’t met. Which really is kind of silly if you think about it, because how many people actually have the courage and make sacrifices to take on training and competing in a marathon? Less than 1% of the population is the statistic I’m sure we have all heard here or there, so there should be great pride in completing a marathon or any endurance event for that matter, goal met or not. No shame in that game!
Additionally, for some runners to express an actual time goal, it feels like a challenge too great, especially if I tell one of my runners, “I think you can run x:xx in the marathon”. The time may be scary if they come up with it themselves or even scarier if I suggest it. My time suggestion would always be based on what they have accomplished in training, of course, but a time goal may seem like they are just staring at an enormous mountain, doubting how they could conquer such a conquest.
This weekend I ran in the Avengers Half Marathon at Disneyland Resort. Like Shalane Flanagan (not that we compare as runners), I have come to accept that my days of personal bests are behind me for various reasons, including a shift in my focus (on others, not myself). This is something I am happy with. That doesn’t mean I will stop running in races, but my race focus is running smart and I did just that during the Avengers race by setting process goals. Again, a time goal is an outcome goal and process goals are goals that you achieve throughout a process towards the outcome, I know, I know: self-explanatory. So, I lined up at the starting line and told myself, “Your process goals are; first mile somewhere in the 9:00-9:30 min/mi range, first 5k the slowest segment, five miles sub-8:00 min/mi (preferably in a row), overall race pace to be sub 8:12 min/mi”.
So how did I do? First mile 9:07 min/mi, first 5k was the slowest, five miles sub 8:00 min/mi, not in a row though due to slowing up to take a GU gel and again through Angel Stadium and overall race pace at 8:11 min/mi (per my Garmin). As far as I’m concerned, I think I get about a B+ on process goal execution…maybe even an A-, as I’m feeling generous and I did have the five sub 8:00 min/miles just interrupted by a few seconds.
What can you do with this information? You can run race after race and still have that awesome feeling of victory even though a personal best wasn’t met by setting and achieving smaller process goals during a race that doesn’t feel quite as overwhelming as going after an outcome goal. My example is only one example, but should really be formulated before getting to the starting line. Other examples of process goals would be; shooting for a specific negative split, slowing your running pace down instead of walking when you feel tired, taking in nutrition at a specific time or distance frequency, walking every other aid station instead of every aid station, or maybe even executing a very specific walk/jog plan if in the past you have always walked unplanned and feel disappointed in yourself, but you wouldn’t if it is incorporated into a plan, or my other personal favorite process goal is planning to run x amount of miles at a designated pace and then dropping the pace every so often in segments. The possibilities are endless for process goals!
The Avengers Half Marathon was slower than my personal best half marathon time by 14 minutes!!!! More than a minute per mile slower, yikes! I am currently nowhere near my peak level of fitness and haven't been since starting graduate school in 2012. But you know what? I felt like I ran a personal best because I ran smart, stuck to the plan, and was able to stroll to the finish the last two miles because I accomplished what I set out to accomplish and my work was done. Be smart, race smart!