Taking the Long Road: Staying Focused on the Big Goals

Think big! Don’t lose sight of the forest for the trees.

I will toe the line this weekend in my seventh marathon, and here’s hoping that seven is a lucky number that day! For this is the day that I go after one of my “big G” Goals: qualifying for my first Boston Marathon.

Basil recently wrote about getting through the no-man’s land of marathon training, and it’s been a long 18 week training cycle. However, that’s only at first glance; 18 weeks doesn’t quite do this one justice. Not only was there this snow- and ice-filled training cycle, but the one before that, and the one before that… You get the idea. And finally here I stand on what is – hopefully – the final step of my marathon of a journey.

So how do you see the forest for the trees when it comes to chasing a big goal?

Remember: Forward is a pace.  Those of you who have been around Salty Running for a while may remember that I first started blogging here about my attempt to break the 4 hour barrier. I successfully did that in the fall of 2012, PRing by 13 minutes. Since then, I’ve been inching along. You don’t have to cut 20 minutes or 10 minutes off your time for it to count as progress. You don’t even have to PR every time out. (Although wouldn’t that be nice?) Maybe the forward progress from a particular workout or race is achieving negative splits or improving your pacing strategy or figuring out nutrition. The point is to keep focused on the big picture and to keep grinding away at your goal.

Boston Marathon pin
This Boston Marathon pin from the year I was born helps remind me of where I’m headed.

Keep the faith. We’ve all had those days where everything is clicking on the run, the weather is perfect and honestly, you’re making it look easy. On those days, your inner voices are full of confidence and swagger. But like a roller coaster, what goes up must come down, and your training partner bails on you, the temperature is below freezing yet again and your legs just feel heavy and you don’t know why. On those days, the inner voices of insecurity and self-doubt will nag at you and threaten to pull you under. Don’t let them. After a particularly bad run, I emailed Salty and she wisely told me that I needed to commit to it and go all in. Here’s the thing: no one cares about your dreams as much as you do, so it’s up to you to believe they’re possible. And as you know from every cheesy sports movie montage ever made – you must believe it before you can achieve it.

Up your mental training game. See above. When you’re going through the mental wringer that can be training for a goal, it’s important to have mental toughness so the hard days don’t have you feeling down and out. And not only that, but the strength that you get out of those experiences will help you take it to the next level on race day.

I’ll be honest with y’all – at one point, I considered not even running this marathon. The winter just felt so inescapably long, so unbearably cold and my long mid-week runs felt akin to solitary confinement. But then, something changed. I can pinpoint the exact run and place on my route where I was when I realized that I was getting stronger from running into the wind. I thought of Diana Nyad and her countless hours at sea, and how, at the end of it all, her simple mantra remained. “Find a way.”

 If you’re chasing an ambitious goal, how do you stay focused along the way? What helps keep you motivated?

Southern transplant who loves 90s boy bands, outdoor adventures and college basketball, although not necessarily in that order. Recovering running perfectionist.

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  1. Great, insightful post- and so true that you must make your own dreams happen. Very good luck to you on your marathon – I will be rooting for your BQ!