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I set goals for most races I run, but I am usually only setting out to PR in a couple big races each year. I used to have a hard time coming up with race goals that aren’t a PR, but over the past couple years, I’ve used races for a variety of purposes and thus, I have some practice in setting goals that are about more than PRs.
When I think about my goals for races, I go back and think about why I signed up for that particular race. Was it all about a fun race-cation? Or is the race a part of my training plan and just a practice run? Or maybe I just wanted the bling (ahem, I can’t be the only one, right?). Whatever the reason, that is my first step when thinking of goals.
After I think about my reason for picking that particular race, I look at how that reason dovetails with where I am in training (or even if I’m in training at all—I sometimes race in my off seasons).
Finally, I give myself a reality check. What will I be happy with? Because even though a PR isn’t the goal, I still always want to run a race that I’m proud of.
I’ll give an example of how this played out for me recently. A couple of weeks ago, I raced a half marathon. I signed up for the race awhile back and it was a planned girls weekend. A group of us rented a house and headed to the beach to race. My purpose was a fun weekend getaway—so I knew that I wasn’t going to be setting out to PR. Then I thought about my training, as this race was coming right before I was getting back into formal training. So essentially, the race was serving as a jumping-off point for half marathon training for me. I wanted to see where I was starting from without training specifically for this particular race.
Based on all of that, I knew that I would be happy with a sub-2 race. I felt that time would set me up for a good training cycle and was probably a good indication of my current fitness level. I went, had a wonderful weekend with girlfriends and ran a 1:57:31, and was very happy with the whole experience.
Use your goals to be realistic and purposeful and set yourself up for success!