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How Elites Pick Their Goal Races And Stay Motivated

Lauren Totten /
Colleen Quigley placing first in 2018’s Millrose Games Wanamaker Mile.

Setting Goals

Picking a goal race for your season can be daunting, especially when life gets in the way. How do you know which marathon or 5k to pick? How do you prepare for something months down the road? How do you stay motivated and train with so many other responsibilities on your plate? What happens if you run into injury or lose motivation? These are questions we all have, including the pros and elite runners. We checked in with a few of them to get their best tips on racing, motivation and injury.

Gwen Jorgensen is the 2016 Rio Olympic Champion in Triathlon. Since then, a lot has changed. She’s mom to 11-month-old son Stanley and the newest Bowerman Babe. Jorgensen and her husband Pat bought their first home in Portland, Oregon, and Jorgensen has transitioned from the life of a professional triathlete, to the life of a professional runner. Her goal is to make the 2020 Olympic Marathon team. When it comes to picking a goal race, Jorgensen meets with her coach. Having a sounding board you trust is always important to setting the right goals and reaching them.

Lauren Floris, Rabbit Elite runner and assistant cross country and track coach at California Baptist University, is a wife, toddler mama with another on the way and online running coach at Up + Running. For Floris, picking a goal race and fueling her motivation comes from coaching her athletes. She says, “You may think that nothing could compare to your own running accomplishments, but I constantly find myself watching or tracking my athletes’ races and tearing up because I am so darn proud of them! It’s that feeling that keeps me coming back year after year!” Having other life goals alongside running goals can work together; they help balance each other out.

Colleen Quigley is a steeplechaser, 2016 Olympian and Bowerman Babe, running for the Bowerman Track Club. From sharing tips on nutrition for young runners to sharing her creative training journal, Quigley encourages both working hard and enjoying the process. #FASTBRAIDFRIDAY has become a popular hashtag on Instagram to encourage girls “to do something on the outside, that shows how you feel on the inside.” She has not only inspired confidence in young girls, but has become a role model for many. She also gives great advice about what to do when conquering injuries.

Being Flexible

Quigley has had a successful career thus far, and it’s partially because of her mindset. “Sometimes we go too far and have to back off. That’s okay; you just have to re-evaluate and make new plans,” says Quigley. “My plan is never written in pen, because I know how things have to shift and adjust if a little foot pain starts to pop up or if I get sick. Having a more relaxed mentality about these changes and understanding that the training plan doesn’t have to be so rigid has been really helpful for me. Making adjustments on the fly is oftentimes up to the athlete because each of us knows our own body best. But this can be tough if you aren’t used to listening to your body and being in tune with what it is trying to tell you. That takes practice.”

Jorgensen agrees. “When life happens, be kind to yourself,” she says. “Consistency is key to performance, but so is a healthy, happy family.” Jorgensen also notes the importance of reflecting on her journal when things get tough to remind herself of all her hard work.

Motivation can come in different forms, too. Floris finds the motivation to keep working hard from her ability to compartmentalize. “When I’m on the track or road for my workout, I’m 100% plugged into that,” she says, “and when I’m home with my husband and daughter we prioritize family time, and I make sure to put away my phone and computer.” Life happens amidst injuries and races, so having joys outside of running is key.

As a mom, Floris isn’t embarrassed to admit that sometimes the house is a little messy during marathon training. Sometimes, in order to pursue a big goal, it’s okay to make it a priority. But for now, she is currently pregnant with her second baby, and her athletic goals have shifted. While her sights are still set on the 2020 Olympic Marathon Trials, she is also focused on an active pregnancy and delivering a healthy baby in January.

So when it comes down to picking a goal race, pick something that motivates you to get out the door. When life gets in the way, step back and re-evaluate. Sometimes, there’s more than one way to accomplish a goal.

Related:

Why One Triathlete Did Not Start Three Of Her Goal Races

Chipping Away At My Goal

How To Choose The Right Race Goal For You