Yesterday I had a chance to race in another local 5K. This was my 3rd 5K of the year but also my most uncertain one given my preparation (or lack thereof) and it got me thinking more about the importance of having multiple race goals.

You may remember that a little while ago, I wrote about the importance of setting SMART running goals and while setting these longer-term goals, asking yourself how your running has been going lately (point #1 in the article) and being brutally honest with yourself. The same can be said for the weeks and even days leading up to a race. We sometimes get so fixated on a particular goal that we ignore any signs to the contrary. I believe in psychologists call this confirmation bias. The tendency to look for information that supports a belief (or goal) and to ignore or reject any information that opposes it. If you ask yourself how your running has been going lately, you can usually zero in on a few key indicators, then adjust your race goal based on this information. Some of these indicators may be:

How your speed workouts have gone

Have you been able to hit your workout targets consistently and have they felt appropriately hard/comfortable? Workouts (speed work, tempo runs, progression runs, fartleks, etc) are usually the best indicators of your fitness level, although they alone don’t tell the full story. It also depends on the quality of your recovery and the overall volume of running, that is, your weekly mileage.

How well you’ve been able to recover

How much recovery time have you had in between workouts and has it been quality recovery? There are a few ways to determine if you’re getting the recovery you need - the way your body feels when you foam roll, the way the next successive workout feels, the amount of sleep you get per night - these can all be indicators of the quality of your recovery.

How much mental fatigue you’ve had

Believe it or not, mental stress can be just as draining as physical stress but it may not be as easy to identify. Take stock of how much mental fatigue you may be going through, and how it’s affecting your energy level and your running.

Whether you’re dealing with any injuries

As runners we’re always dealing with a nagging little injury but the real concern should be if anything is serious enough to require backing off of your training. This can (and should) influence the ultimate race goal.

What your legs feel like the day before the race

Are your legs fatigued or do they develop fatigue quickly when you walk up a flight of stairs? This “stair test” is usually one of my favorite indicators of the condition of my legs before a race. You can also tell by foam rolling your muscles. Do they feel sore when you foam roll them the day before the race? This can be a very telling sign.

Some of the other factors that can be identified early on and alter your race goals are the weather forecast, the time of day the race starts (evening races may present a different challenge than morning races) and even the level of competition you may be facing (will there be people to push/pull you to a fast time?).

So what exactly does it mean to set multiple race goals and what should they be?

Your A Goal

This should be aggressive but measured. It should be the goal you’ve been targeting in all of your workouts. You can look at it as “aiming for the moon”.

Your B Goal

This should be a few seconds slower per mile than your A goal. It’s usually a cautious and very realistic goal (translating into a higher chance of success) but it should also be satisfactory to you. You can look at it as “missing the moon but landing among the stars”. Still a good outcome!

Your C goal:

This should be even slower than your B goal and it usually has the highest chance of success. Your C goal time is more of a benchmark time, to build on, rather than a breakout race time.

Setting multiple race goals is important and every race should be approached this way. Your running training should be fluid and should be able to accommodate a few different outcomes.

Train better. Train smarter. Train for life.

Coach Mwangi

Coach MwangiComment