The A-B-Cs of race goal setting

Chicago Marathon is tomorrow. Woah. I’ve been waiting for it for months, and honestly I just want to get it over and done with already! I’m this annoying mix of excited, nervous, anxious and elated. I know good things are going to happen tomorrow, I just need to get out there and run.

As a way to get my thoughts in order, I wanted to chat a bit about setting race goals. Earlier today, I realised I needed to write this post and take a spoonful of my own medicine, because I was getting too caught up in outcomes and stressing myself out (as per usual) about the need to run a particular time tomorrow. But that is a recipe for disaster, and there is a much better approach to planning for a marathon.

The typical wisdom for goal-setting is to create a series of goals which you would like to achieve, with your A-goal being your dream outcome, your B-goal as a fallback, your C-goal as a second fallback etc.. This may look something like:

  • A goal: run sub-4:00
  • B goal: run sub-4:15
  • C goal: run sub-4:23:17 (PB)
  • D goal: finish, having had a great time!

I love the idea of setting multiple goals for a race but to me, this method sets you up for disappointment if you don’t happen to achieve your A-goal. Because your focus is entirely on achieving a time-result, as soon as you fall off-track, your probably going to stop enjoying the race… and therefore your D-goal is also lost! If you completely fall off pace and finish in 4:39:02, you are very likely to feel disappointed with the race, which is not how you want to feel!

Instead, I suggest the following: flip your goals on its head. Always start with your A-goal being to “have a great time”: because if you keep that in mind, disappointment disappears. You can’t be disappointed with a race where you had fun, no matter what time you run! Then, choose 2-3 time-based goals and place these in descending time order from slowest to fastest, with the fastest being the goal you’ve created your race plan for. I then like to add 1-2 stretch goals which are ‘dream-come-true’ scenarios but aren’t the focus of your race.

For example for Chicago Marathon tomorrow, my race goals are as follows:

  • A goal: Finish with a massive smile on my face, having had the most incredible time running through the city of Chicago, in one of the world’s biggest marathons, at my first US marathon and 3rd World Marathon Major.
  • B goal: PB! (Any time quicker than 3:28:41)
  • C goal: Run sub-3:20. I know I am capable of this, and have mapped out a race-plan which will get me there.
  • D goal: (If all the stars align, I become a god upon earth & don’t freak out from going off-plan) Run sub-3:15

These past few days I’ve been vocalising my sub-3:20 goal and I 100% believe that it is going to happen tomorrow, because I’m going to get out there and give it everything. However, if something does go wrong, by writing out this list I now have my priorities in order and have set myself up for success no matter what the outcome. I hope it helps you too 😀

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