What the Fred Lebow Marathon Half Taught Me About Setting Goals

“Go big or go home”, right? Around 2 – 3 months ago my friends encouraged me to join the New York Road Runners Club to complete the 9+1 Program to gain entry to the NYC Marathon Full and Half. The funny thing is that I’m really not a runner.

So the half marathon was going to be my first New York Road Runner event, and actually my first entry into any running event ever. I use the word event instead of race because I was really only competing against myself. My main goal was just to complete the course.

My NYRR Fred Lebow Marathon Half bib number.
My NYRR Fred Lebow Marathon Half bib number.

Set Challenging But Realistic Goals

Being a competitive person, I had set (what I thought) was a fairly high goal for myself for this event. I wanted to run the course at a 10 minute per mile pace. As someone who just started running long distances 2 months ago, I thought this was a pretty challenging goal. During my training runs I had been able to maintain this time and so I also knew that it was attainable.

But even though I had been able to reach my pace time goal while training, I knew there would be other factors that would not make it easy to reach during this event. For one, it was my first event ever, and I was nervous. Second, the route, two times around Central Park, was hilly and I usually ran on flat surfaces. And third, the weather from the previous day had made the course wet and potentially slippery.

This NYRR photographer wanted to take a picture of me taking a picture with my cell phone.
This NYRR photographer wanted to take a picture of me taking a picture with my cell phone.

It’s important to set your goals high enough so that you have to work hard to attain them, but at the same time they shouldn’t be impossible to reach. If you set impossible goals, you’re just setting yourself up for failure. If you set goals that are too easy to reach, you’ll never grow.

It turns out that I didn’t run the race as fast as I wanted to, so I didn’t hit my goal. My running time was at 10:47 per mile, so I wasn’t far off from what I wanted to hit. But I know that for next time I might have a shot at it.

Take Time To Enjoy The Journey And Adjust

During the run, I realized that not training on hills really hindered me. I immediately started to rethink my original goal of wanting to run at a 10 minute pre mile pace. So instead of focusing on the pace time, I decided to make my new goal to not stop running. In other words I didn’t want to walk any part of the course, only run it. And this goal turned out to be rather challenging as well. I’m very happy to say that I was able to complete this goal successfully!

Changing goals during the run really reminded me that while we have our eyes on the main goal, we shouldn’t forget to enjoy the journey as we try to get there. There are little successes along the way that we can celebrate and use as motivation. It makes reaching that end goal a little bit easier and more fun. Also sometimes we need to be flexible enough to be able to adjust our goals too.

Bundled up runners at the finished line.
Bundled up runners at the finished line.

Evaluate And Improve

So all in all I think I did ok for my first official run. Looking back, I think the goals that I set were pretty good, and I don’t think that I’m going to change them for my next run. But in order for me to hit my goal of running at a 10 minute per mile pace, I need to continue training. It also means that I need to change up the training as well so that I can improve my speed.

I think it’s always good to look at your goals see how you can improve. If you happen to be hitting them with regularity and fairly easily, maybe it’s time to up the ante. If you seem to always fall short of your goals, be honest with yourself and figure out why and change up what you have to so that you can hit your goals.

The next New York Road Runner event for me is the Brooklyn Marathon Half. Looks like I’ve got to get to work and prepare!

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