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Time Goals: A Better Way to Look at Them

I recently read the book, Elite Running, by Andrew Snow and it really helped me reframe the way I was looking at time goals and a better way to think about them.


Let's use me as an example.


I'm a 25 year old who has been running for over 10 years now. I got into the road marathon about 5 years ago and got very serious about it 2 years ago. My first marathon was 4:35 (2017) and my current PR is 3:35 (2022). My next marathon is California International and it will have been roughly 14 months since my last.


6 months ago, I took 10 minutes off my half PR and ran a 1:29:35. Which gave me a wicked confidence boost and helped me come to the realization that sub 3 in the road marathon is very doable and I set that as a goal to complete at CIM.


My goal: Sub 3:00:00

My why: it's trendy, every runner seems to want to do it, adds a golden star to my resume as a run coach to say I have ran a BQ and sub 3, more runners will look up to me. It will make me a better trainer, run coach, and athlete. Most importantly, it will give the 7th grade version of me that was told he was too heavy to be a runner something to look up to and will hopefully give faith to those that have also been told that in their past.


Now the real question is, will running a sub 3, on one specific day and at one course allow me to satisfy my list of whys above?


ahhhhh. Nope....


Time to debunk:

"it's trendy, every runner seems to want to do it:" there is truth here. Us runners seem to chase validation with sub 5, sub 4, sub 3:30, etc. I don't think there is necessarily anything wrong with this as a why other than that it is not powerful at all. I think the real question is why do I feel like I need sub 3 to feel validated as opposed to sub 3:10, 3:20, 3:30...?


"Adds a golden star to my resume as a run coach to say I have ran a BQ and sub 3, more runners will look up to me. It will make me a better trainer, run coach, and athlete. Most importantly, it will give the 8th grade version of me that was told he was too heavy to be a runner something to look up to and will hopefully give faith to those that have also been told that in their past. "


The thing that I need to realize is that all of the things above will be solved during the actual training of running. The time goal is not relevant. What do I mean?


Building my resume as a personal trainer, run coach, and athlete: Getting up every day, running for at least an hour, hitting my assigned times, strength training, developing and following a sound recovery program, going to bed on time. The outside world see's that. That is what people admire, the constant dedication and progress that is seen from my determination in my pursuit of running. That is found in the daily grind of the journey. Not in the time result at the end.


Books read, courses taken, hours of practice with clients in the gym and on the roads. These are the things that develop a better personal trainer, run coach, and athlete. Showing up and hitting a sub 3 may get some attention, but showing up and doing your best, every single day will get a lot more attention.


HOT TAKE: Using extrinsic motivators to fuel training is not a bad thing. It becomes a bad thing when you use external validation more than your own internal self-worth. I'm not ignorant that this section is entirely about extrinsic factors, but in an external facing world, sometimes that is necessary and for me, it leads to more credibility as a coach showing that I, myself, can improve with my own training. Understand why.


Most importantly, it will give the 7th grade version of me that was told he was too heavy to be a runner something to look up to and will hopefully give faith to those that have also been told that in their past: Ahhh the internal validation why... My first 5k in HS was just under 30 minutes. My HS 5K PR was just over 21 minutes. The previous version of myself was ecstatic and so proud years ago. They continue to be proud every day of the person I become by watching me continue to become a better runner and love the sport more and more every day.


The truth is that the previous version of myself just wanted to feel like they could keep up, run with others, feel athletic and like I belonged. I work toward all of this every time I lace up my shoes and go for a run or hit a hard workout in the gym. The goal time doesn't give me these feelings, putting in the hard work and effort to feel that way is what allows me those feelings.


To conclude:


Now, once again this pertains to me, but I am hoping that you can take something out of this and relate it to your own story. The time on the clock is not the main goal, it can't be. It is never going to fulfill you as much as the person you become during the journey. That should be the goal, becoming the person that is capable of running X time, not the time itself. The impact you are making on a daily basis because of or in tandem to the run training you are doing, ie,. becoming a better partner, parent, setting a better example, creating a better and healthier mindset, enriching yourself and everyone around you.


Time goals should be accounted for, they give us moonshots to aim for, but they shouldn't be the main focus. What are you achieving in the process? Focus on that, love that journey.


Happy running!




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