What time are you going to finish? Or How long is that going to take you?
This is what all your friends and family want to know when you tell them that you are signed up for a race. It’s a question all of us, as runners, ask ourselves as we put together our training program.
Everyone should have multi-level goals.
Level one: Finish the race.
Your first goal should always be to finish the race. Each day when you set out for your training run, your goal should be to finish the run. When you start with finish, things only get better from there. When your goal is to finish the distance, you have two competitors, the course and yourself.
It’s important to start with the goal of finishing because it helps us remember why we are out there in the first place, getting across the finish line in one piece, with luck, smiling. Whenever we start getting time goals stuck in our heads, it’s hard to let go of them even when we really need to in order to prevent injury or to get the most out of our training.
If finishing is your first goal, then you can ease up when you don’t feel good. You can take an extra rest day when you feel the heaviness and grouchiness settling into your bones, which signal over training. You can cross train when you twist an ankle. You can do what your body needs without freaking out about missing your time goal.
Level two: Personal Best Time goal
The “personal best time goal,” is your goal finish time if the gods are on your smiling on you that particular day. It the goal when the weather, your body, and the course cooperate with you.
Level Three: What I can live with and not feel bad about time goal.
The “what I can live with goal,” is the time you can live with and not beat yourself up about if you don’t hit your personal best. It’s respectable and says you trained hard, but today just was not your magic day.
Level four: I am not feeling it today time goal.
The “I’m not feeling it today goal,” is the time you know you can hit even on a bad day.
By having multi-level goals, we give ourselves a huge gift when race day arrives. If you slept like crap because your two year old was vomiting all night or the neighbors decided to have a drunken brawl with police at 2:00 a.m., instead of saying screw it I’m not running because I’ll never hit my personal best goal, you go out there and run your “What I can live with,” or even your, “I’m not feeling it today,” goals instead of not going and throwing all your training out the window or letting down everyone who was planning to run with you.
The multi-level goals, gives you permission to let go of your Personal Best Goal and be satisfied with another level depending on race conditions, which may be out of your control.
Many things can go wrong in a race, setting multi-level goals allows you to be prepared to face them all.