Not being a fan of setting myself up for disappointment, I’ve never been one for making New Year’s resolutions (maybe yours don’t turn out that way, but mine do).  However, I strongly believe that goals are extremely important, both in running and in life in general.  They are critical to improvement and maintaining focus and motivation.  Every year is a new journey and it always helps to start any journey with a clear direction.  So every November or December, while coming down from my last race high for the year, I start to think about what my running goals and focus will be for the upcoming year.  Last year, around this time, I set two running goals for 2013.

Goal #1 was to break 2 hours in a half-marathon.  I had been painfully close several times, but the sub-2 hour half-marathon continued to elude me…that was about to change.  On April 28, 2013, at the Nike Women’s Half Marathon in Washington, DC, I achieved my goal, completing the race in 1:55:53 for which I was handed this little guy…
I’ve always wished that it was socially acceptable to wear my race medals around and now I can 🙂
Goal #2 had two parts: (A) to get to the start of a marathon feeling strong and injury-free; and (B) to finish that marathon in under 4:15.  In prior years, marathon training had not gone well for me and I was resigned to the fact that marathons weren’t an appropriate distance for me but even so I wanted to try again.  I set my sights on the Marine Corps Marathon and in June I began an 18-week training cycle with a focus on staying healthy.  I ran only 4 days per week (much less than previous training cycles), did conditioning classes 3 days per week and strength/stability training classes 3 days per week.  On October 27, 2013, I achieved the first part of this goal when I stood at the start line of the Marine Corps Marathon in Arlington, VA at 7:55 a.m. as the howitzer went off.  I had not missed a single day of training for injuries or fatigue/overtraining and I felt strong and ready to run.  I accomplished the second part of the goal 4 hours, 2 minutes, and 15 seconds later when I crossed the finish line.  I had done what I set out to do destroying my time goal and setting a new personal record.
Oorah indeed.
After MCM, I was feeling pretty strong and (in my post-marathon depression) signed up for the Philadelphia Marathon.  Initially, it was going to be a more relaxed race for me, no time goal, just relax and enjoy the ride.  A week and a half before the race, someone (we’ll call him Professor Smallwood) said something to me that changed my mind.  To paraphrase, he very candidly told me that he was concerned that I would take it too easy and end up injured; MCM was so successful and I recovered well because I was focused and prepared.  It took a full day for that to really click with me but what I ultimately extracted from our conversation was that although the goal is different the second time around, the focus and intensity MUST be the same.  Then I did something that I almost never do, I set another goal…

Goal #3 was to run the Philadelphia Marathon in under 4 hours (only 3 weeks after MCM).  In retrospect, this was a pretty extreme and crazy thing to do (even for me) but on November 17, 2013 on Ben Franklin Parkway in the City of Brotherly Love a little after 11:00 a.m., I crossed the finish line in 3:59:39.  It was the most physically and mentally challenging fight of my life and I have never felt as proud as I did in that moment when I crossed that line.  This is evidenced by my finisher’s photo…
You can’t see it through my sunglasses, but I was in tears.   Best. Day. Ever.
In the past year since setting these 3 goals, I have run 12 races, nearly 1200 miles and 200 hours.  It’s been a very long road (literally and figuratively) but it was worth it.  Even more impressive is that through it all I remained strong and injury-free.  I credit several things for this:

But it really all started with a few simple goals.  I drew a target on the wall and all year long I focused on hitting the bulls-eye.  There are a thousand excuses and I am very easily distracted.  So many mornings, I woke up feeling too tired and ____ (fill in the blank) but I was on a mission.  I have no doubt that if I wasn’t fully committed and focused on my goals, I would be summing up a very different “year in review” and I know that because I’ve been there before more times than I care to tell you about.  I have learned the hard way that lack of focus is a very dangerous thing and without a destination you will only get lost.

So here I am again, mind still clouded with the euphoria of what I have accomplished in 2013 and it’s time to consider goals for 2014.  Not sure yet where the next year will take me but if one year from now, I am this satisfied with my 2014 performance, I truly could not ask for much more.  Bring it, 2014!

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