by coach Amy Anderson
You've probably noticed by now that I have a lot of "Amy-isms", pet phrases that I repeat ad infinitum. Many of my athletes tell me that they hear my voice in their heads. Yikes! That's kinda scary and a subject for a different day:) Anyhow, on Wednesday I shared one of my pet phrases with respect to goal setting:
Big Rewards Require Big Risks
For first-time marathoners, my wish is that they'd start the race at long run pace and then with only few miles to go, if they feel like picking up the pace, go for it. If not, then carry on at long run pace. A strong happy first marathon that makes them think "Wow! I want to do this again!" One of the risks for a first time marathoner who chooses a specific time goal is that they'll have a miserable experience and never want to run another. Honestly, when you tell your family, friends, co-workers that you've just run a marathon, they will be in awe and thrilled for you. Most of them don't know the difference between one time and another. If you do have a time goal, you're the only one who knows what it means to you. Start thinking about how much it matters to you, whether it’s important and why. Maybe the reward is worth the risk. But you only get one first marathon.
For "repeat offenders", those who've run one or more marathons and signed up for this most exquisite pain yet again, it's normal to want to improve your time. Frankly most people can chop off quite a bit, simply by virtue of the fact that it's not their first. Some choose to set a PR, a Personal Record. Some runners will base their marathon goal on the prediction made by their time trial or a shorter race. Some choose an arbitrary time: sub-3 hours, sub-4 hours, etc. Others want to qualify for Boston or for a guaranteed entry into the NYC marathon.
The more aggressive your goal is relative to your fitness and your experience level, the more you need to consider the Reward:Risk Ratio. Injury during training and never making it to the start line becomes more of a risk. Blowing up after mile 20 becomes more of a risk. All of us should consider the risks and do everything we can to minimize them, including prompt attention to aches & pains, top-notch nutrition to fuel both our training and our recovery, adequate rest, and modifying the schedule when necessary.
The other thing you'll need to consider is what to do about your goal if the conditions on race day are less than optimal. Some athletes will decide to go for it, regardless. To them, I say "Talk Big and Be Brave!" (another trade-marked Amy-ism). There will always be a few athletes who do well under poor conditions. Some athletes will decide to save it for another day, either by choosing not to race or by adjusting their pace. If your decision is to adjust your pace, then the sooner you do it, the better. Start Easy, Finish Strong ™ is always a better strategy than starting "on pace" with a death march to the finish line.
So remember, Big Rewards Require Big Risks. You are the only one who can decide what your risk tolerance is. I can't do that for you. However, I am very happy to talk with you about your goals. And please believe me when I say that I will do everything in my power to help you achieve them.