Sunday, January 18, 2009

Goal Setting for Runners

I've procrastinated too long. I need to set some race goals for 2009, and they're in this post. Does anyone else have the same trouble with setting goals? Last year I decided on the singular goal of running 11:07 for 3000 metres. At the time of my aberrant goal-setting, I really thought I had a chance of running such a time. It didn't happen.

I've got to say it was much easier setting goals when I was new to running. 25 years ago the PBs came my way with relative ease. I'd just select a goal that was faster than my current PB and aim for that. The toughest challenge I set myself was to break 10 minutes for 3000 metres. At the beginning of 1987 my PB was 10:24. I wanted to run "9-something" for 3k. As luck would have it, I had the opportunity to race weekly on the track throughout the year. My sequence of times were: 10:27 (March 19), 10:18 (April 2), 10:16 (April 16), 10:09 (May 14), 10:15 (June 3 on grass) and 9:56.5 (June 11). Finally, after 5 months of hard training and racing, sub-10! That time remains my lifetime PB for 3000 metres.

I like racing the 3000. This year I've lowered my expectations, which goes against my nature to aim high — "It's better to shoot for the stars and miss, than aim at the gutter and hit". Bill commented last post that I should stop being so hard on myself. Thanks Bill — training and racing with a more relaxed attitude sounds like the way to go. This year I'm aiming at the moon — still high, but I believe the 2009 version of myself has more than half a chance of landing on the moon.

Here are my racing goals for 2009:
3000 metres in 11:39 (main goal), 400 in 71, 800 in 2:42, 1500 in 5:34 and 5000 metres in 20:40.


Blogger trailblazer777 said...

All the best with the race goals in 2009! You have a good solid year behind you in 2008, and with consistent training and racing those goals should be achievable, but still very challenging. I note that when you hit the 9.56 for 3000m you had 5 months of consistent hard training and racing over the target distance at least 6 times before the sub 10 came about. The same applies now, so if your training continues to tick over and you target the areas of weakness, and overcome the obstacles that would take you off track, plus have a good race at least monthly, you hopefully should have a chance of hitting that bullseye! Agree withe the stars/moon target rather than the aim at nothing/gutter, but need to have step by step things to work on along the way, and if the improvement is not coming need to figure out why be proactive and respond...I have trouble with goals too cos where I want to be is miles from where I am, and the obstacles seem to shoot me down in flames all the time...Have to try and hit a rich vein of golden consistent training, lifestyle, and racing to achieve tough goals...Hopefully you find the goldmine of PB's in 2009.

7:46 pm  
Blogger Bruce said...

All the best with those goals Ewen, surely you'll get at least a couple of those. You can't get much more specific than '11:39', I hope you won't be too disappointed if you just miss them by a second or two.

7:52 pm  
Blogger speedygeoff said...

Training goal: 3 x 1k averaging 3:53. Achievable. Hence a 3000m target of 11:39 and not 11:40 (say); 11:39 is divisible by 3. And is also achievable.

9:57 pm  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Aiming at the moon is sensible. As you imply, even a moon landing requires planning and persistence. The tantalizing issue is getting the right balance between persistence and innovation. In 1987 persistence with racing led to almost continuous improvement and ultimately got you to the moon. As the years go by, one also needs to find creative ways of dealing with the apparently inexorable tendency to slow down. I am struggling to identify good strategies for this (though being more than a decade older than you makes the challenge greater). But whatever innovative ideas one might have, consistency is paramount. You have built a very sound base – not only the mammoth two weeks in October, but also an impressive level of consistency throughout 2008. So go for the moon and good luck.

10:34 pm  
Blogger Thomas said...

I would say that, but my main beef with your goals is that all your distances are so short. As you get older your pace goes, but your endurance remains. Wouldn't it make more sense to concentrate from 5k upwards?

Btw, I might be odd, but not so odd that I drink warm beer. We leave that to our former oppressors across the channel. Guinness is drunk at normal, cool temperatures.

10:43 pm  
Blogger Grellan said...

They're certainly challenging goals Ewen, nothing like a bold statement in January to concentrate the mind for the rest of the year.

As Bruce says the times are very specific. Did you use a particular formula for coming up with them?

While i'd agree with Thomas I understand that not all runners are distance fanatics.

12:07 am  
Blogger Mike said...

Ewen - I agree w/ trailblazer 100%. It's all going to depend on the training plan. It needs to be well thought out, and progressive throughout the year w/ the ability to adjust depending on your early race results and identified areas of weakness. And as he says, your PB came after 5-months of consistent hard training and a lot of racing - you'll probably need that again.

It's really going to come down to - are you willing to put in the intense training required to get there? If you enjoy that kind of training, you probably have a good shot at those goals. If you really have to force yourself to get out there on those difficult days, then it's going to be very tough.

But as long as you appropriately adjust the goals as you get older, it shouldn't be a problem running short distances IMO.

Here are some of the top Masters times from 2008 in the US:

M45-49: Mile - 4:16, 5k - 14:34, 3k - 8:36
M50-54: Mile - 4:37, 5k - 16:37, 3k - 9:11

I'd take any of those 50yo+ times right now., and those 45yo+ times are just ridiculous. Older guys can still run, but their training is very intense. I think yours will need to be as well.

3:13 am  
Blogger Dusty said...

I've hit where I don't break mine that easily. When I returned to running I was knocking them down left and right. I have been known to have other goals in the past of, "no 5K slower than x" which is also important (minus any races you enter but not to compete - e.g. sick, pacing friend). Also goals on weekly mileage, number of missed days, keeping speed work within goals, etc.

Hope this helps. It can get stale when you have a goal just lurking. Hope I can nock down my "lurker" in '09! :)

5:19 am  
Blogger Runner Susan said...

Geez Ewen, your comments are longer than your post! I'm not sure what that means. You are far ahead of me though . . . I have no goals at all yet.

10:10 am  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

wannabecoach said

Susan, the reason the comments are so long is that we all know that Ewen is a naturally gifted and talented athlete.

We are all desperate to bask in the glory as Ewen's coach when he smashes his goals and is revered as the great athlete we know he can be.

12:16 pm  
Blogger Superflake said...

Nice Goals Ewen. I do think you will run faster for the 3 and 5k though.

9:45 pm  
Blogger strewth said...

All I can add is that I hope you land on the moon!

10:09 pm  
Blogger Chad in the AZ Desert said...

Those look like great goals for 2009 to me. The most important part of goals is that they keep us motivated to keep training consistantly. To that end, there are never 'bad' goals. Good luck!

5:37 am  
Blogger Love2Run said...

We all need goals and some of those master PR's look ready to go down. I look forward to your good results!

11:40 am  
Blogger Stu said...

Hmmm setting 2009 Goals, nup, I'm not ready entirely yet.

I'll wait until April, probably.

I look forward to reading about your journey towards your goals.

12:04 pm  
Blogger Scott Brown said...

If you spend more time on the track and less time in the bushland behind the stadium "warming down," solitary like, then you may just achieve those goals.

All the best ;)

1:14 pm  
Blogger Jason said...

Why have a two level goal for your time? Say find a time you think you are capable of (but that still requires a good dose of work), plus the "shoot for the stars" goal if everything goes perfectly.

2:50 pm  
Blogger Sling Runner said...

Challenging but attainable goals, I reckon, especially for the 3000m and 5000m.

I second speedygeoff's suggestion of 3 x 1k @ 3:53. If you nail this, sub 11:40 is for the taking.

6:13 pm  
Blogger dannielo said...

If you'd like a tool for setting your goals, you can use this web application:

You can use it to manage your goals, projects and tasks, set next actions and contexts, use checklists, schedules and a calendar.
A mobile version is available too.

1:23 am  
Blogger Runner Susan said...

I'm putting a comment here so you can have twenty. I'm generous like that. No need to thank me.

8:28 pm  
Blogger Ewen said...

Thanks for your generosity Susan! I'm not that hung up on round numbers, so comment twenty-one is a reply to some of the comments in one place (I've replied on some blogs already).

The 11:39, as speedygeoff said, is 3 x 1k in 3:53. That does seem reasonable, although this morning I struggled to run them in an average of 4:02. Consistency is important, as Canute mentioned, as is developing good and innovative strategies for improvement - without getting injured!

Thomas is right in saying pace does decline as we age, however training for speed is important, even for aging marathon runners. It's relatively easy to run a "slow" marathon. The reason my goals are for short distances is because those are the distances I like racing. I don't like racing marathons.

Grellan, I used the race time predictor to help work out the goals, using the age-grading scale. The 400 is a bit slower (71 v 69) because I won't be doing the speed training for a fast 400. For the 1500, (5:34 v 5:35), because I ran 5:38 last winter and 4 seconds quicker doesn't look that hard. The 5000 I've pegged as slower (20:40 v 20:29), because racing a 5000 in warm weather isn't easy.

2:19 pm  
Anonymous ihatetoast said...

i don't set goals. i know what i can and cannot do. setting goals is not one. i should set a goal to set a goal.

9:12 am  

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