Goals for the Big Race: Not Dying, A Strong Finish and FUN
As the big races approach, FBM Susan shares her goals for her back-to-back half-marathons!
I’m in the final days before my first-ever half marathon, and the first of two that I’m running over the next month. I’m tapering and carb loading, and alternating between being super excited and a little bit freaked out.
I’m ready for the 13.1 miles; I ran 15 recently and didn’t die, which is always my goal for any long run (or any run, really). I’m only half joking when I tell people that my goal is not to die: I trained for a half marathon last winter, but instead of packing my bags and heading to Austin to run, I went to the emergency room with what I thought was a heart attack. Fortunately, my blood pressure was just out of whack. The cardiologist was able to change my medication and get me up and running again, but it was a long, slow recovery that included a blood clot in my leg and weeks of struggling to run two miles at a time. Nine months later, I’m feeling healthier than I ever have, and confident that I can totally make it through this race. Without dying.
So this already feels like a win to me.
This week, as I watch the weather and try to strategize what to wear for Sunday’s run (tights? shorts? both???) I’ve started thinking about what my real goals are for this race, the concrete things I hope to achieve. Because apparently running 13.1 miles isn’t enough of a goal for me. Go figure.
My Half-Marathon Goals
Finish. The first goal is the simplest—I just want to cross the finish line. I’m 99 percent sure that’s going to happen, but I’m also aware that anything could go wrong, and I’m trying to prepare myself for that. It’s like getting ready to give birth and having to come to grips with the fact that your birth plan may go right out the window at some point. (Mine certainly did, and yet it all turned out just fine.) I’m not planning to drop out of the race, but if I have to, I’m not going to beat myself up about it. There will be other races. Plenty of them.
Finish in 2:15. I’m a little hesitant to set a time goal for myself, both because this is my first half marathon and I don’t really know how it will go and because I don’t want to set myself up to fail (or feel like I failed) if I run slower than I think I will. But I’ve been consistently running between a 9:30-minute and a 10-minute mile, even on the long runs (I ran my 15-miler in 2:27:56), which means that I should be able to finish this half in about 2:10. But I’m giving myself a little extra room just in case. I’m also giving myself permission to finish in whatever time it takes, because finishing is the real goal. That, and not dying.
Run the entire race. For some of my long training runs, I ran with a local group that sets up race-style water stops along the route. I would walk through these, stopping for 20 to 30 seconds, because I’m not someone who can drink and run, nor am I someone who is okay being covered in sloshing Gatorade. But other than these quick fuel stops, I’m not planning to walk at all. It’s hard for me to do the run/walk thing. Although I know runners who swear by it, I can’t get my pace or rhythm back if I walk for more than a few steps. So run it is!
Have fun. Honestly, I don’t know what the point of all this is if it isn’t fun. I want this to be a good run, not a death march. I want to feel good at the finish line and through the rest of the day. I want to get up on Monday and be ready for the week, not paralyzed from my race. I’ve thought fleetingly about running a full marathon some day, but the honest truth is that I’m not sure I would enjoy it, and I’m certain that I wouldn’t enjoy the recovery. And if having a good run—a fun run—means slowing my pace down, then that’s fine with me. Back to the birth plan example: you do what gets you to the finish line, so that you can celebrate the finish.
What are your running goals? Do you push yourself to finish fast, or do you promise yourself that you’ll enjoy the moment? Or do you do a little of both? —Susan