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  • Writer's picturecoachmk

Targets, Not Goals

runner new year resolutions running goals

What defines you?

What an odd, vague question. The way I define myself might not be the way others define me, how do I reconcile the two? How do I want to be seen? What do I do to get there?

All of these questions swirl around in our minds in one form or another whether we acknowledge them or not. Hopefully by this point I’ve asked (forced?) you to acknowledge a few of them. I wanted to take a minute to reflect on that very point: the definition of success.  

As runners, we tend to think of our race day goal times as ‘goals’ and that arbitrary standard we set for ourselves tells us how we compare, rank, fit in with every runner we see. When we fall short of these ‘goals’, we think we have failed. No matter what. It is a binary, horrible, wretched function: "You attained the standard? circle yes or no".

Runners all too frequently tie their definition of success not just to a number but to a number on a particular day.  That is a setup for disaster.  There are SO MANY factors that will be out of your control on race day it can be overwhelming (and unproductive) to list them all, but knowing what you're up against doesn't make it any less crushing when mother nature or #alltheviruses JUST WON"T cooperate.  When that happens, you didn’t fail. Race day did.

You will not be defined by race day’s failure.

You will not conflate that failure with your own.

You will not use that race to benchmark your progress, test your training, or define you in any way.

You will not use that race, good or bad, to determine if this program was worth the money or I did my job to the very best of my abilities. I refuse to let you hold me to that standard. Most importantly, I refuse to let you hold yourself to that same ridiculous standard.

Training, when done correctly, is never wasted.   Failing to hit a particular number on a particular day isn't tantamount to wasting training, it's bad luck.  That is not the same as losing.

The only thing we lose when we have bad luck is perspective. I cannot do anything about bad luck but I wouldn’t be doing my job if I didn’t at least try to encourage you to hedge your bets by putting an egg or two in a second, very pretty, basket.

Please take a moment to look at a race calendar and select a secondary target. We call it, a “B Race”. The ideal B Race is at least 2 weeks after our half or 4 weeks after our full. It has predictable weather and doesn’t sell out. It is not in a cool location that could turn into a family trip or a location so exotic that you would need to use precious vacation time at work. It might not be perfect, but it is the perfect backstop should race day fail you.

When I was 16 and learning to drive my parents would lose their minds. “BE CAREFUL!!!!” they would screech and remind me to wear my seatbelt. I found this concern offensive, didn’t they trust me? “It’s not YOU we don’t trust, it’s all the other drivers on the road.”

Now, me asking you to pick a B race doesn’t mean I don’t believe in you. I do, I absolutely do. I believed in your limitless athletic potential before you signed up for my program and want to be worthy of all that you will become. I want you to be happy.  I want you to succeed. I want you to love running. I want you to have the most positive running, racing and coaching experience imaginable. I want the stars to align for you and for all of your dreams to come true at once. If I was Harry Potter, I would do that for you. Luckily, this muggle loves strategy and wants to make sure you are ready for EVERYTHING, both good and bad.

I am more than happy to help you choose your B race. Once you have done that, I will help you plot your DNF strategy, the points in your A race where you say, “this isn’t working, I’m stopping and saving my taper for my B-race”. One step at a time.

In the meantime, please know that whatever secret goal you harbor is your ACTUAL goal. Your race is a target. A training target just like the workouts in Polar Flow. Nomenclature is important: if your target blows up, that says nothing about you and everything about your race day. The #coachedandloved amongst us know that forward motion always gets you closer to the finish line no matter how slow you have to go. They will pick a secondary target and keep moving forward with that same fire and grit in their bellies that defines them in our eyes. When we look at these guys, we don’t see a loser or a failure. Nothing is more badass than tenacity.

You are coached. You are loved. YOU ARE WELCOME.

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