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Successful Goal Setting from Your First Marathon On



Successful goal setting for your first or 50th marathon is about more than just nailing down a time and pace. I take a different approach to goal setting for my clients and myself: a qualitative rather than quantitative approach!

The Catch-22 of The Rise of Running

In talking with my trainees and reading blogs, I get concerned when I see so many are focusing on numbers and times. The fact that running and marathoning has become so popular and prevalent is so fantastic in many ways, but it also encourages a great degree of competitiveness, a sense of pressure, and exceptionally high expectations

calm down

I know because I got caught up in it, and the sheer excitement of marathon training and possibilities, myself when I was training for my first marathon two years ago. I was running and seemingly able to handle running hard, so I thought to myself, “Holy Hell, I’m running my long runs at 8:00, and everything feels great. Holy Hell, not only could I get sub-4, I could BQ!” Well, then I angered my IT Band and could barely run for the last 1 1/2 months of training.

Classic pre marathon face

Classic pre marathon face

I made it through the marathon itself (read about it!), but let’s just say that such an experience, coupled with a series of injuries the next winter, left me with a very different perspective for my second and third marathons, and again for my fourth (Chicago).

Successful Goal Setting for Marathons as well as for Life

Generally, we like to speak of our goals in terms of A, B, C Goals.

  • A Goal: BQ (Sub 3:35 for my age group)
  • B Goal: Sub 3:45
  • C Goal: Sub 4 

But I challenge you to reformulate your thinking from A, B, C Goals to Goals 1, 2, 3, 4…. How do I mean?

When you look at your goals in terms of A/B/C Goals, you are creating a ranking system and basing you entire experience on capturing a particular standard. In a way, It kind of belittles your accomplishment unless you hit your A Goal. 

Let’s think about Goal 1, Goal 2, Goal 3. How does this alter our perspective? Because rather than pursuing a higher goal (think about it as always going after the first place), we can accumulate goals and be increasingly successful. We can have our goals be more than just numbers (which is ironic, at least in this example!).

Successful Goal Setting Qualitative Goal Digger

Encourage Success through Goal Accumulation

  • Goals 1-4 should be Qualitative, unaffected by numbers
    • Goal 1: To make smart decisions during my race. If I am hurt, pull up, if I can push, push it. But to be SMART.
    • Goal 2: To finish the race.
    • Goal 3: To finish training and the race happy (aka avoid burnout) and healthy (aka uninjured).
    • Goal 4: To nail my nutrition plan and have a happy tummy (or something rather superfluous, but nice)
  • Goals 5+: Quantifiable goals that are specific to the event, such as timing, and think of them in descending order:
    • Goal 5: Sub 4:15
    • Goal 6: Sub 4:00
    • Goal 7: Sub 3:45
    • Goal 8: Sub 3:35 and BQ

That way, regardless of what your TIME goal is or regardless of even finishing, I am successful. When you reach the marathon–or anything that might be your marathon–you have to prepare yourself for the possibility that absolutely everything might go wrong. Obviously I hope otherwise, but if it does, you have to learn to be HAPPY (yup, I said Happy!!) and PROUD of yourself, as long as you have made smart decisions. 

Then everything else? Gravy, icing, or whatever your little heart desires (likely carbs and sugar. And beer).

susie beer phoenix marathon


Everything else? Living beyond expectations, baby.

rwcoversearch entry 437 susie suzlyfe

For all of my friends out there who are setting goals with me, I encourage you to redefine your goal setting in such a way that will allow you to feel proud of your performance regardless of whether or not you hit a time goal. Reward your reaction and your performance in a qualitative way first and foremost. 

Be a Qualitative #goaldigger for successful goal setting #runchat #marathontraining Click To Tweet

Before I go–I had a totally hilarious “run in” yesterday with a certain Tina Muir on the Lakefront Path! She was HAULING ASS in the middle of a workout going the opposite direction, so we couldn’t stop to accost each other, but it was awesome.

seeing tina

Even more hilarious, I hadn’t originally planned to run yesterday but ended up being a bit behind and just deciding last minute it would be easier. Kismet!

Meeting at the Chicago Marathon!

Meeting at the Chicago Marathon!

Thank you to Amanda for hosting the thought provoking link up!

What do you think? Will you be a Qualitative Goal Digger with me?

Those of you who are setting goals, do you find yourself getting caught up in the numbers?

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