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Goal Setting For Your Next Marathon or Half Marathon

by Karl Gruber
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Late fall and winter can be a tough time to run, especially if you lack racing goals. Without the motivation of knowing you have a full or half marathon waiting for you just a few months down the road, those bleak, cold, rainy and snowy days just don’t seem inviting to go outside for a run. 

That is why now is the perfect time to choose your full or half marathon for the upcoming spring. Once you make the decision and set your race goal, those seemingly uninviting mornings (weather-wise at least) don’t seem like such a big obstacle to overcome to get your daily training run in.

Over the many years I have been running – 78 marathons notched in my belt – I certainly have had my share of days when I looked out the window at 7 a.m. to find six inches of snow, 20 MPH winds and bone-chilling temperatures. When I wondered if I should just stay in bed, those marathons where I struggled to finish well simply because I did not do the necessary training flashed across my mind’s eye. With those images of poor running and racing performances in my mind, I sucked it up, threw on all of the appropriate running gear I could find and headed out the door to get my miles in.

Many a time, some of my most fun and enjoyable runs have been in what was classified as very bad weather. I can think of a number of winter runs when no one else was out on the road running – or even driving, for that matter – and I had the most amazing, lovely time running. There I was, running down a neighborhood street with heavy, fluffy snowflakes silently and beautifully cascading down at the rate of three inches per hour, in a stone-dead silence and an almost un-describable, undisturbed beauty. It is then that I become deeply grateful for the act of running, knowing that I can do it anywhere, at any time, in any place, no matter what the weather. 

Truly you are blessed to have the ability to run, but you’ve got to use that ability. This is where your goal setting comes in. 

You could miss out on those unexpected, phenomenally enjoyable runs without the motivation of your spring full or half marathon. So now, here in the late fall and almost the beginning of winter, sit down and pick out a spring race, then fill out a training calendar that will get you ready and tape it to your refrigerator so you can see it every time you walk by. Picture yourself coming across that finish line of your goal race, smiling and feeling good that you yet again conquered 26.2 miles or 13.1 miles.

As a long-time distance runner and coach, I highly recommend setting the goal of running two longer races each year – one in the spring and one in the fall. Having a goal for these two seasons resonates perfectly with almost all distance runners. You will not only have plenty of time to recuperate from the pounding your body took from your latest marathon but also have enough time to mentally recuperate. 

The best part about training for both a spring and fall marathon is that it keeps you in your running game. After all, if you have chosen to make running a part of your daily lifestyle – and I’m guessing this is true for you, since you are reading this right now – two long races per year will keep you going, and going, and going! 

I can almost guarantee that there will come a day when you can’t visualize living your life without having yet another marathon or half marathon waiting in the wings, and pushing yourself out the door to get in racing shape. The beautiful consequences of this goal setting and running lifestyle is that you maintain a lifelong level of fitness and excellent health.

So do it now! Grab the race calendar, choose your spring and fall races, write up whatever training plan seems to work the best for you, and go for that run – again, and again, and again!

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