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…
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.
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…
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:
- I’m older now and more self-aware.
- I’ve learned that sometimes less really is more and that you have to rest and recover because strength comes from the re-building not the tearing down.
- Having suffered (and come back from) some pretty serious over-training injuries (ex. dislocated foot joint, fractured hip) in recent years, I no longer harbor delusions of invincibility. I respect my body, what it can do and its limitations.
- I have an incredible support system in my wonderful husband, mom, sisters, family and friends whose unwavering faith in me gives me the strength to believe that I can accomplish anything. I am unbelievably blessed.
- I have some of the most incredibly talented coaches and trainers (Corey, Luke, Byrd, Steve, and Randall at GoPerformance) whose guidance built the foundation that allowed my body to get stronger with every mile/class rather than slowly breaking down as it had always done in the past. It’s also worth noting that with their help, I have racked up a number of pretty impressive non-running accomplishments this year as well. This incredible crew has taught me that the person I thought I was is no match for the person I really am.
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!