It’s ok to fall short if you aim high

  • This was printed in September of 2013 in The Madera Tribune, a newspaper in Madera, California. This was the 18th installment of my weekly column, Mind Over Miles.

Before each race I like to ask my running buddies what their goals are. The responses are

always interesting.

Some can tell me an exact time, others will say they hope to PR, or run their personal

record. Some, depending on their level of fitness and experience, or because they’re

nursing an injury, will say, “I just want to finish.”

Elite runners may aim to win a race, but recreational runners like us have learned that it’s

not about competing against other runners; it’s about competing with yourself. PRs mean

more to us than trophies because you never know whom you’re going to be running

against. Except for the clock, the clock is always there.

I’ve developed a race strategy that involves setting three goals: an ideal goal, a secondary

goal that I’ll be happy with, and a third goal — which is always the same — finish the

race without getting hurt. Midway through the race, if I realize I’m not going to hit my

first target, I know I can keep pushing to reach my second, and so on.

Several Facebook friends have sent me messages in the past couple of weeks asking how

they should start running, and what their goal should be for their first 5K. After

explaining the importance of finding the right shoes, starting out slowly and

incorporating speed, hill and distance workouts in their training regimen, I always tell

them the three-goal race plan.

My ideal goal for my full marathon was to qualify for the Boston Marathon with a time

of 3:35. When 3:35 slipped by and I was still at Mile 23, I fell back onto my secondary

goal: break four hours. I missed my secondary goal by one minute, 17 seconds — but at

least goal No. 3 was accomplished.

At the Wascally Wabbit Half Mawothon last Saturday, I set three goals beforehand and

then added a fourth during the race. Ideally I wanted to run a 1:45. My secondary goal

was to break two hours, which would shatter my PR by at least six minutes. My third:

finish healthy.

But during the race it became increasingly harder to stay with the 1:45 pacer. She was

doing a great job, but she wasn’t stopping at any water stations, and I needed to. The

pacer would either run right through the water stations without grabbing anything, or

she’d whisk a cup from a volunteer and somehow drink it without slowing her pace and

without drowning herself — a complicated task I haven’t managed to learn yet. (I walk

for about five seconds as I chug my water.)

As I slipped further and further behind her, I developed a new goal. I realized my

secondary goal of breaking two hours was almost guaranteed, so I set a second secondary

goal of not letting the 1:50 pacer catch me.

I finished in one hour, 46 minutes and 58 seconds, beating my first half marathon time by

20 minutes and taking second place in the females 25-29 age group.

I would’ve been discouraged had I only set one ideal goal and missed it, but having

backup goals keeps me happy, healthy, and motivated. And I learned that sometimes

goals can change mid-race.

Everyone I saw had smiles on their faces with they crossed the Wascally finish line.

Ultimately, that’s all the matters.

There were 17 Maderans racing out there. Thank you all for coming out!

I encourage everyone — runners and non-runners alike — to run it next year.

The free Wascally training program starts in June. For extra motivation you can pay $100

at the beginning of the program and receive a training shirt. The $100 is refunded to you

on race day if you come to every training run (four days a week). Two dollars is deducted

for every missed day.

This year one of our Wascally trainees got $96 back on race day. That’s a pretty good

deal — you can’t beat $4 for a technical t-shirt, 16 weeks of race training, free water and

Gatorade during the training, endless encouragement, praise, and high-fives, and lifelong

friends. Keep your eye on TheWascally.com for updates on next year’s training schedule.

Congratulations to Jesus Campos, of Fresno for winning the race with a time of 1:20:21.

Oswaldo Lopez, Madera’s famed ultramarathoner, was right behind him with a 1:23:03,

taking third place. Of course, he ran the 13.1-mile race after running to the race from his

home in Madera — a 23-mile-plus trek that he began at 3:25 a.m. — for a total of 36.7

miles. Two words for that guy: Beast. Mode.

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