New Goals, Old Fears

If you’ve been following my blog for awhile, you already know that I run most of my marathons pretty slowly. I take pictures. I jump across the finish line. I drink ALL THE BEER. There are two reasons for that:

  1. It’s fun. Like really, really fun.
  2. I can’t fail at it.

The first one is a valid reason. The second one is not. In case you haven’t noticed, I rarely set running-related goals that have anything to do with time.  Sometimes I do, but it’s not very often, and it’s never anything overly ambitious. I never set out to PR because I’m afraid I’ll be too upset if I don’t. If I happen to randomly PR, that’s awesome, but that’s never been my goal. And honestly? That’s a pretty weird way for a runner to live. Most runners that I know have at least some goals, and they train hard to work towards achieving them.

I do not.

I am afraid.

I’m afraid of how it feels to have my heart pounding out of my chest (to be fair, I do have a heart condition, so that’s kind of legit).

I’m afraid of how it feels to not be able to catch my breath.

I’m afraid of training for months for something and failing to achieve it.

I’m afraid to find out I’m not the runner I want to be.

I'm not crying. I'm SO NOT, you guys.
I’m not crying. I’m SO NOT, you guys.

See, in my mind, if I never train really hard, then I’ll never know what my true potential is, right? And that means that I’ll never know for sure whether I could do something like run a sub-4 marathon or qualify for Boston. Now, I can delude myself into thinking that those things are possible, if only I trained hard enough. Some people would look at this situation and ask me how I could stand not knowing. Well, not knowing means there’s hope. Knowing means there might not be.

I’m afraid of failure, but it’s not something I’m confronted with very often. I don’t think it’s that I’m excessively great at anything, so much as I very carefully avoid things that I am not good at.

It's important to know your boundaries.
It’s important to know your boundaries.

Running is definitely not something I am naturally talented at, and I have a love/hate relationship with it as a result. It’s always there, whispering to me. Needling me. Telling me to try harder and see how fast I can go. Telling me I’ll fail when I do. But you know what? It’s not running that says those things. It’s me. It’s Ed. Running is a great equalizer. It’s one of few things in life where  you mostly get out of it exactly what you put in. Yes, some people are naturally gifted and some are not, but when you train hard, it shows.

Shortly before I had my surgery and in the weeks since then, I have noticed that my pace per mile is getting just a little bit faster. I’ve been running a lot with people who are faster than me, and although I spend most of those runs unable to breathe, it has made a difference, and it got me thinking – could I be fast? Not actually fast, like people who win races, but respectably fast? Sub-4 fast? Boston fast? (Unrelated: as I read this paragraph back to myself, the word “fast” is starting to look really funny. Carry on.)

So, I’m going to be working with a coach, who I’ll be introducing here soon. In the mean time, I’m going to state my goals for public consumption. If I don’t achieve them, you all will know, but you know what? I’m pretty sure you’ll get over it and so will I, after I drink enough beer and shake my hair out.

And when all else fails, go back to what you know.
And when all else fails, go back to what you know.

T-Rex Runner’s Running Goalz

  1. Improve fun/marathon party pace so that I regularly finish under 5 hours, even while taking lots of pictures and having a good time. Yes, I know that’s not that challenging, but stick with me.
  2. Run a half marathon in under 2 hours. My current PR is 2:02, and although that seems like eons ago, I think I can break 2 hours this year. No, I will break 2 hours this year, even if it means I have to actually run a half marathon.
  3. Run a marathon in under 4 hours.  I’m going to be honest – right now, this seems like a joke. It is literally laughable. That being said, my coach believes I can do it, and despite my nearly frantic need to change this goal from “under 4 hours” to “under 4:15” and then to “general PR,” I wrote “under 4 hours” in this post, so here we are. I’m going to try and run a marathon in under 4 hours.

So there you have it. I’m going to work hard to achieve the goals I have set for myself. At some point, I will probably breathe harder than I prefer. I may sweat more than I am comfortable with. I will definitely curse at my friend Chuck on our runs more than usual (sorry I’m not sorry, in advance). There will be probably be more than one post about how much I hate training, but hopefully there will be some triumphant posts too. Either way, at some point I will definitely do something embarrassing for your ongoing entertainment.

Speaking of people who are training really hard and whining about it way less than me, check out Bluegrass Achilles’ amazing raffle! They’ve got some really cool prizes, including medal hangars, and you don’t have to be present to win! All proceeds go directly to supporting disabled athletes.

Leave a comment: What are your current running goals? Do  you hesitate to set goals for yourself for fear of failure?

62 thoughts on “New Goals, Old Fears

  1. I had goals, then got injured. My doctor says no long distances for probably a year. Said I can run shorter distances and work on the intensity. I’d like to run a sub-30 5k by the end of the year.

    Whenever I can run distance again, I want to run a sub 2:30 half marathon.

    1. Well, they say that working on the shorter distances makes you faster over the longer ones, so maybe you will surprise yourself when you get back to the half marathon distance. I hope you get better soon!

  2. It must be “running goal season” because I just came up with a goal myself a few weeks ago. I want to run (well run/walk) 25 miles before my 25th birthday next month. It would probably take me all day. This seems almost unattainable but I have a hydration pack, I have GU, I have good shoes, and I even have a tiny pepper spray keychain (just in case) that I can hide. The only thing (a big thing) I’m missing is the “I know I can do it” attitude.

    1. That’s a great goal! I read somewhere that the race director for the Boston Marathon runs his age in miles on his birthday every year. He’s like almost 60, so that makes me want to die, but it’s awesome! If he can do it, you can do it! I will send encouraging and/or belligerent tweets, texts, etc as required.

      1. That’s inspiring! As a person who regularly gets passed by the “older crowd” in races, this makes me want to do it even more 🙂 I don’t have twitter, but I may take you up on your texting offer 🙂

  3. Goals are good. I know you can do it! My goals are to run 500 kilometers in races between birthdays 50 and 51 (484 km to go), and to beat my youngest brother at the Kansas City Marathon Half Marathon October 19. He’s just run a 2:12 on his first half, and I’m waiting for the snow to melt and eating Cadbury Eggs. (I’m way ahead on chocolate and style points).

  4. I have just two goals:
    1. 500 kilometers in runs between birthdays 50 and 51;
    2. Beat my youngest brother at the half marathon October 19 in Kansas City (he ran a 2:12 in his first half earlier this year, and I haven’t)

  5. Oddly I’m not afraid of failure. I think it’s because I work in a field where frankly a high probability of failure is always there. I’ve grown used to it and use it as info of where I need to grow.

    My current running goals are: 1) 7-min mile, 2) sub-24 5K, and 3) 1:50 half marathon. Running faster in short distances does help with longer distances. I ran a sub-2 hr half last year by only doing speed work for a sub-25 5k with a few long runs thrown in.

    1. Those are great goals! I think it’s encouraging to know I don’t necessarily need to do tons and tons of speed work over long distances. I find things like “8 mile tempo runs” really intimidating!

  6. I think these goals sound very reasonable. I pick one race a year that I actually train for. All the others are for fun (and i like those to be in the 4:50’s). Next year I also hope to break 4 hours in New Orleans. Ugh! Scary!!

      1. Bahaha! I will now now my head in shame and admit that I will likely do NOLA every year. It’s pretty much where marathon dreams come true. I’m still on a PR high so they better open registration soon. Ask me again in December how I feel about this after the PR high has worn off and I’m hating myself for giving Competitor my money again!!!

  7. Two years ago, every race I ran was a PR. My best marathon time was 4:15. My best half-marathon was 1:53. Since then, as much as I train I haven’t been able to beat those times. I keep training and trying and, even though I love running, I’m not having as much fun as my friends at the back of the pack. Those are the guys who stop to take pictures with all the Disney characters and give all the high fives to the kids lining the streets to cheer us on. My speed is my speed and I still strive to improve it. I’m 52 years old. I can qualify for Boston at 55 with a 3:40 time. To do that, I would have to stop going out for beers with friends after my training runs and I’m just not willing to do that! Good luck with your training!

    1. I was the same way when I first started running. Every race was a PR, and then I eased off and had a lot of fun. Now I see the value of both sides of it. I definitely don’t intend to kill myself in every race, but it would be nice to be really working towards something again. That being said, I will never stop drinking beer, so that could be a problem.

  8. YES! Goals, schmoals. I’ve never thought about it so concretely, but I guess there’s always been a subconscious reason why I’ve never run with a Garmin or mapmyrun type app. When I do a race I go in thinking a PR would be nice vs the PR OR BUST mentality. It’s more enjoyable that way and I always prefer to be pleasantly surprised over crushingly disappointed.

    1. I’m the same way! I just really don’t want to let myself down and I hate the feeling of being defeated. I guess it’s something I have to get over eventually!

  9. We share the same goals! My PR for a 1/2 is 2:00, and my next 1/2 up is on April 21st, where I’m hoping to kick the crap out of that time. Running my first marathon in October (eeek!), and am also aiming for under 4 hours. I also just started working with a coach, so since we’re on a very similar path, and ’cause I really enjoy your blog, I’m looking forward to following your training!

    1. Good luck with your half!! I am contemplating doing one on April 28. So far, I know I can hold the pace I need for 7 miles – now I just have to do it for 13.1! I need a pacer. What will your first marathon be?

  10. Good luck on your goals! Goals are what help me stay motivated to go out and run on days when I just don’t feel like it. My goals always involve PRs, right now I want to get my half marathon time below 1:30 (I’ve only managed once…and it was Myrtle Beach…most of my runs are hilly). And I want to run a 2nd marathon and PR it. Finished my first one in 3:16 back in 2011. The problem with marathons is I have NO time to train for them.

    1. Wow, you are so fast! I can’t even imagine those times. I totally understand what you mean about goals keeping you motivated. I find I have a hard time running regularly if I don’t have a training plan in place. I’m hoping a coach will help me with that!

  11. I have the same goal of running a half in under 2. My current is 2:11, which I set before I started the “brain training for runners” but that was on a marathon level and this session I’ve been training on the half level. I have 2 chances coming up in the next 2 months, so we shall see. I think that’s awesome you are shooting for a sub 4 hr. I would love to be able to, but I don’t know if I love the idea THAT much. Have you seen those very fast runners during a marathon? They look as if they are dying. I don’t want to feel that way for the entire 26.2. I say that now, but I never wanted to run a marathon either, EVER! I always have to have a goal race or just a goal ahead of me or I will be a slug on the couch playing games on my phone eating choc chip cookies. I like my training right now, different workouts on different days, different paces, basically a workout with a purpose, no “junk miles”. It helps my focus. Maybe that’s what your coach is going to have you do. It will be interesting hearing about your training journey. I will be following along…you can do it! 😉

    1. You’re right! They do look like they are dying! I really hope I don’t look that way, but I figure I can handle it for one race. I’m hoping to vary the workouts and speed so I stay interested and get faster, but we’ll see! I will still eat chocolate chip cookies on the couch though. No one can take that from me!

  12. Did we accidentally Freaky Friday? Because I’ll be spending most of the rest of the year slowing down and doing the whole “enjoying running” thing as I prepare and run some ultras. I’m totally on board with you pushing yourself to faster marathons, but only if it’s something you truly want to do. I worry that you’ll pick a race as your designated “sub-4 let’s do this” race and then be overcome with FOMO because you’re in a focused, zen-like state on your way to accomplishing a goal while tons of people around you are fawning for your attention. BLOCK OUT THE WORLD, I say! Kick all distractions into that enormous well after yelling “THIS IS SPARTA!”

    Best of luck with your adventures in speed.

    1. What kind of sick parallel universe is this? I’m going to try and go fast and you’re going to try and go slow??

      Well, I’ve already picked my designated sub-4 race, and it’s a local one that I’ve done before. I’m going to do Kiawah in December. It’s pretty small, so I shouldn’t have too many adoring fans, and it’s not a big Maniac event so I won’t have the FOMO issue. Because trust me, that was definitely a consideration.

  13. My current goal is break 4hrs and re-qualify for Boston. I used to be afraid to set goals for fear of failure but now I’m so used to failing that I set too many goals and don’t work hard to succeed. I have to learn to set one or two short term goals and focus on them. I’ve actually been focused this time on training for a sub-4hr marathon. (My failures have actually been helpful; they’ve taught me a lot about myself and my training.)

    1. That’s great! I need to set some mini goals along the way or I will get overwhelmed. That’s where the sub-2 half marathon comes in, so we’ll see. Which race are you going to try and run sub-4?

  14. I love this post! I too have always run my marathons for “fun.”. I’m slow because I’ve always been scared to push myself and fail. But, now that I’m basically starting from scratch again after having my third baby, I’m going to really work toward those same goals. I am going to finish a full in under 5 and a half in under 2, although my current PR’S are slower than yours (5:22 and 2:10). Good luck, I’m sure you’ll accomplish everything that you want to do, and hopefully I will too!

  15. This is awesome to hear. I am looking forward to hearing more about your training professionally.

    My current PR for a half is 1:57, my goal is 1:55 (but I’m not sure if that can ever happen).

    I enrolled in the Chicago marathon for this coming October. And this will be my very
    first full marathon. And I am afraid! I am afraid when I think about starting to train for
    a full marathon. I am afraid when I think about running 26.2 miles.
    I am afraid I will pass out and never finish the race. I am afraid that even
    if I finished the race I will be the last one. I am afraid if I get lost and would never find
    the finish line. I am afraid, I am afraid! But the number one fear I have is that I will not be properly trained and won’t be up to the race at all when October 13th arrives.

    My family and I will be gone to Europe for vacation this summer, both June and July. One might say,”run while you are in Europe”. But when I think about it, it just won’t happen. Training for a race this big while you are away on a vacation won’t be as easy and efficient as one might think. For a half, I probably could get away with it. But for a big one, and being this my very first full marathon to race, it will require more than just a lousy run through those narrow cobble stone streets where you must watch every step you
    make or you will be pancaked.

    So but I will still show up when the race day arrives, and face all my fears,
    and mark it down as just another interesting chapter in my running life.


    1. I don’t blame you for being afraid of the marathon, Renee! I was TERRIFIED when I stood at the starting line for my first one. I cried hysterically because I didn’t think there was any way I could do it – I’d been injured for two months and hadn’t run more than 13 miles during that time. But I did it, and so will you! I remember feeling this sense of calm come over me as I crossed the start line and I just took it one mile at a time. Chicago is an AMAZING marathon and a great one for your first! Good luck with your training!!

  16. Obviously, setting goals and working towards them is a great way to see improvement. Whenever I attack something new, I like to set multiple goals. For example: when I ran my one and only full marathon, I set 3 goals. 1, finish, 2, break 4:30, and 3, break 4:00. My final time was 4:32, but if I hadn’t pushed hard after I hit the wall for the goal of 4:30, I may have given up. This year’s goals go like this: run 13 13’s in 13, finish all of them under 2:00, and run over 1,200 miles for the year total. Good luck to you on your goal! It’s a great step toward becoming a better runner!

    1. I like to set those “A, B, and C” goals for my goal races and events too. Unfortunately, I just don’t do a lot of goal races! I do think it’s a great strategy though, and you’re right, it’s a great way to see improvement! I hope you meet your goals this year!

  17. Well, normally I love you, but since you’re calling 2:30 halfers slow… 😛 I’ve decided to alternate fast and fun races. I PRed at Little Rock, but clearly I do not recover like a Trex and my next one, two weeks after, was painful. Next one will be with an injured running buddy, so we’ll cruise along and finish when we finish, and I will train the hell out my race after that. And get a 2:15 which is still fifteen minutes slower than your goal. 😉

    1. Hahaha I’m not calling 2:30 halfers slow, it’s just slower than I know I can go! My 6:20 marathon PW pretty much excludes me from being able to judge anyone. I think alternating fun races and goal races is really important. The majority of my races will definitely still be just for fun, but it’s nice to set the occasional goal. I KNOW you can break 2:15 🙂

  18. My goal for this year is a sub 2:00 half marathon too! Can’t wait to read all about working with a coach…and how much it helps you with racing

  19. My goal is to complete my first marathon and my 2nd goal is to do it in 4 hours. Some days I just think completing it is the only option but as the weather gets better I am inspired to run faster. I enjoy having goals I just need to learn to not get so wrapped up in them that I am disappointed when they don’t happen. Still working on that at 40 but I am sure I will get it eventually!

    1. It’s refreshing to know I’m not the only person that gets too wrapped up in goals and then gets disappointed. I really wish I wasn’t like that, but oh well. Something to work on, I guess! What will your first marathon be?

  20. My goal is to run a 50 mile ultra by the end of 2014 (maybe be this year, not sure yet). Have my 2nd 50K coming up in April (and 1st trail run over 4 miles, am I nuts?)

    1. That’s awesome, Marlin! I’ve got a bunch of new trail running friends that are trying to pull me in to the ultra world. So far, I am resisting mightily!

  21. Good luck with your goals! My current goals are to finish a 100k that I have coming up at the end of May and to get a sub 3:20 marathon (hopefully at Fargo) so I can run Gansett the Saturday before Boston in 2014. I try and pick a couple races that I will RUN each year and others that are just supported training runs where I run whatever pace I feel that day and chat with folks.Plus I’ve been doing more ultras and trail runs which helps mix things up so it’s not all road races (gets boring).

    1. I can’t comprehend that kind of speed yet, but I hope you make your goals! Side note – I’m super jealous you’re going to Fargo this year. I really really want to go, but May is packed for me this year, so it’s on the schedule for 2014. I like the idea of goal races combined with supported training runs – especially when those training runs have medals at the end!

  22. I’m so excited for you to be setting goals! This year my goal ws to A) finish a half in 1:50 (got 1:50:43, I call that a win), 2) PR my ten mile time (that will happen next weekend), 3) finish a trail half with out stopping (june), and 4) run a marathon and run in under 4 (signed up for that baby 2 days ago and the race is in october) we’ll see how it goes!

    1. I know, right? Look at me being an adult and setting goals. Are you doing the Cherry Blossom 10 miler and Marine Corps? Just a guess based on the dates you mentioned.

      Ps I can’t imagine finishing a trail half without stopping. I can’t even do a trail 6 miles without stopping. BAH

  23. I’m in the process of talking to a coach too. My goals are to finish a triathlon with my sisters in October, then run Philly again in November and hopefully get as close to 5 hours as I can get. That road to Manayunk is LONG!

  24. I’ve run only 2 half marathons. The 1st was just to cross the finish line, which I did in 2:34 while injured. The 2nd (just 2 weeks ago) was to finish in less than 2:10 & I failed miserably at 2:24 due to muscle cramps. I beat myself up, relentlessly. How dare I allow myself to start a marathon in an obvious state of dehydration? UGH Oh well, lesson learned. Next attempt at under 2:10 coming up a Divas North Myrtle Beach later this month.

    Don’t be afraid to set goals. If you don’t meet them, there’s always next time. 🙂

    BTW, I’m registered for MCM — my first marathon. EEK!

    1. I MIGHT be doing the DIVAS half…if I think I could break 2 hours there. Why would I think that? No idea, but we’ll see how training goes. It will probably be a gametime decision.

      Enjoy MCM!! You picked a great race for your first marathon!

  25. As a coach I love hearing or reading about other peoples goals. It seems to bring a genuine smile to my face. As a runnerI feel my own goals have turned into less about times and more into what’s the next “crazy, insane, torturing” race or event I can do next. I’ve done a 1:17 half, a 2:56 full, I’ve run Boston. I think I have gone as fast as I am ever going to go. So, I tried the Goofy Challenge in Disney World (13.1 on day 1, 26.2 the next day), thought it was so horrible I did it 2 more times… Decided that wasn’t challenge enough so decided to try a “tough mudder”. Apparently I like getting electrocuted… did that twice. Just when I thought there was nothing left, that stupid mouse in Orlando decided to up the ante and for 2014 has introduced the “Dopey Challenge”. 5k on thursday, 10k on friday, 13.1 on saturday and 26.2 on sunday. Of course on April 9th I will be one of the first to sign up. Goals are not always about time, sometimes it’s about your “running resume”. I’m always looking for a way to spice that up!

    1. Fyi… the Dopey challenge registration is secretly already open! Lots of Maniacs have been able to register, so go to Active and sign up! That’s a great goal!

  26. So proud of you for picking some additional goals beyond the 50 States one. Can’t wait to see your progress. I know you’re still having fun at this, hopefully achieving some of those goals contributes to even more FUN!

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