1. Get married by 27.
2. Buy house by 28.
3. Have first baby by 29.
4. Have second baby by 32 …
We’ve all at least heard of someone with these kinds of deadlines. Some people impose these deadlines and don’t even have a potential mate lined up! As most of us who have settled down and started a family can tell you, relationships have their own timeline and an organic flow to them. When we try to force things along to meet arbitrary deadlines things don’t tend to go so well (hello sky-high divorce rate!) In the end, does it matter if you achieved your goals by 32 or 42? No.
And of course, the same is true for running.
We make a big goal for our fall marathon and expect to work towards achieving it in 12 – 20 weeks. We line up to knock that sub-4 or BQ or 2:50 off the list of goals and it doesn’t happen and we end up wondering what went wrong. The reality is that sometimes one training cycle is enough time to make the fitness gains we need to achieve our goals, but often it’s not. And what’s really hard to stomach is that there really was nothing else we could have done differently to achieve our goals in that time frame. There was nothing wrong with our training, our race day nutrition or ourselves. We just didn’t give it enough time.
Running is not a math problem. 12 weeks * (Fast track workouts + fast tempos + high mileage) ≠ goal achieved. Instead, training is a physiological process, which may or may not happen within a desired time frame. If any of you reading has tried to get pregnant or been pregnant, you know no matter how much you want that baby by a certain date, there’s not a whole heck of a lot you can do to guarantee it, no matter what those old wives say. Achieving the fitness we need to get the race times we want is the same thing.
Besides the fact that it may or may not be possible, these deadlines put an awful lot of pressure on us, very very unnecessary pressure. Believe me, I know this from personal experience! When you line up at a race with the belief that it must happen now or never, the pressure can be overwhelming and way counter-productive. It’s hard to run relaxed when you believe that you MUST.RUN.A.HUGE.PR.RIGHT.NOW! And do not see the future beyond the finish line. And then it’s hard to feel the run-love after the race when you feel perpetually disappointed.
Sometimes, in fact often, it takes two, three, four or more training cycles to make the gains in fitness we need to achieve the fitness it takes to achieve our big dream goals. Why not be open-minded with each training cycle and instead of training to run xx:xx goal time, train to improve and run whatever you’re capable of. Chances are, whatever that is will be a PR or at least a large improvement from where you started the training cycle.
I’ve recently come out of the hoping-for-an-OTQ (Olympic Marathon Trials Qualifier) closet. Note I never said when I hope to get an OTQ. Perhaps I will make the gains in fitness I need by 2016, but perhaps it won’t be until 2020. Similarly we have several bloggers with the goal of snagging a BQ this year. What if it doesn’t pan out this year? But next spring or the following fall? Does it matter?
Of course, there’s nothing wrong with hoping to achieve a certain goal by a certain date. Sometimes having a firm date to achieve something can be just the kick in the pants we need to go for a big dream kind of goal. Some goals are time specific, like a BQ or an OTQ. There’s also the whole aging thing which puts some time limits on us, too. We might also have incremental smaller goals leading up to our achievement of a bigger goal, but even that might be expecting too much out of one training cycle. In all these cases, it will never be the end of the world if we have to wait another training cycle or two to achieve our goal.
Believe me. This is advice I need to take myself. I know I don’t have a prayer of meeting my goals if I continue to pressure myself with arbitrary time limits. This is all very hard to do, especially when I feel very antsy to get back into shape during this postpartum period when 15 pounds over my in-shape weight, still relatively slow and without much free time to run as much as I’d like. But it will get better. Maybe not by the time I’m 38 or 39 or 40, but it will and I will get to where I want to go. Eventually.
How about you? Do you put deadlines on achieving your running goals?
Hi! We’re taking a break from fresh content to rerun some of our 2013 favorite posts. This post originally ran on April 4, 2013. Cinnamon and I were just discussing this post as we’ve both needed to remind ourselves to practice patience this year. Cinnamon ended up not meeting her BQ goal and struggled to regain her confidence in her ability to do it in the wake of a bad race. And me … oh me. I ended up “injured” only to discover that my ab muscles separated somewhere during one of my pregnancies and are now so debilitated, I suffer severe back pain if I attempt hard training. So, I’m working on it and trying to learn to enjoy each mile rather than viewing each mile as a means to some end goal. It’s a process, but I believe that this is an opportunity for me to become better at running and life and I’m taking it!
Have you met your 2013 goals? Was this a year where you were forced to practice patience?