In soccer, one goal is a big deal; in basketball…not so much.
In running, goals are not the be-all and end-all as they are in ball-sports, but they’re very useful motivators. Over time I’ve come to believe that three goals is the perfect number for an MPR to consider for any event.
Goal Number One is what you have been training for and realistically believe you have a good shot at making. It may be modest or ambitious, but it is generally quite pragmatic and objective, like:
To complete a distance longer than you’ve done before
To finish under a certain time
A new PR, even if by seconds
A new PR, at a specific time or pace
Goal Number Two is the dream – not only making your Number One, but even surpassing it. We don’t hit this one very often, but when we do, it can be a lifetime memory.
PR by some significant margin
To place in your division
To complete a distance that used to be a struggle, and do so with the feeling that you own it; that from now on it’s no longer ‘can I do it?”, but ‘how well can I do it?’
Goal Number Three is the fall-back: if things go wrong, and you see goal Number One slipping out of reach (and goal Number Two starts to feel like a cruel tease you’ve played upon yourself), having (or improvising) a strategy to salvage the day can be a crucial motivator. This is also where the MPR attitude comes into play: we are not out to ‘win.’ We are not out to beat any other person. We are out to demonstrate something of ourselves to ourselves, and to experience the experience. With that in mind, Goal Number Three might be:
To match the time you had in a similarly rough run last year
To at least be under XX time; some significant-sounding roundish-number which is short of your original goal, but seems do-able in the thick of today (‘recalibrating’ your goal)
If you’re on a new or more challenging course or distance, then just to complete it
If you’re on a distance or course you’ve struggled with before, then to finish without it feeling as much of a struggle – even if your time is not what you had hoped (note: this is a very worthwhile goal, and too often ignored in the push for a specific time)
To keep a certain pace for at least part of the course
To ace one part the course – a strenuous uphill, a technical downhill – even if the rest of the day is not so great
To have enough juice left to make a push in the final half-mile (or hundred yards, or fifty, or ten!)
To still be running at the finish line (there are days….)
Simply to finish the distance without injury, ready to go back out and train some more for another day (again, a very worthwhile goal). For an MPR with eyes open to the big ol’ world out there, any day we can run, is a good day!
What is important about an Goal is that it be meaningful to you; that it reflects why you – individually and uniquely, you – are running at all. Something you can choose and achieve(or not) regardless of how well others may do that day.
Which is where MPRs differ the most from Lead Dogs: a Lead Dog’s success is highly dependent on how the other dogs do. MPRs are in control of our goal(s), and that is a grand place to be!