Why I Do Not Set a Race Goal

Goals should be SMART right?  Specific, Measurable, Achievable, Relevant and Time-bound.  I spent a good amount of time studying this in a sport psychology class in university.  It’s an accepted practice.  Except I have no interest in it.  Not when it comes to running, anyways.  


A common question in running circles: “What’s your goal for the race?”  


I’ve been asked this countless times and I most certainly have asked it just as many.  People will ask it months ahead of a goal race and I know there are people who have the answer.  A specific answer.  That is, indeed, measurable at the race.  Likely, and hopefully, achievable and relevant. And most certainly time-bound.  It’s an obvious question with an obvious answer.  


Yet, I find myself being wildly unsure.  “Katie, what’s your goal for the marathon?” What I really want to say is “as fast as I can get by race day.”


NOT SMART!  Nothing about that is S.M.A.R.T. 


I am this blend of highly motivated and dedicated, while also fearful of pushing too hard and injuring myself.  I follow a plan that has me working hard on hard days and I happily give in to the easy runs on easy days.  By doing this, I get faster, but not at a pace I choose, but what my body chooses.  I must give in to the “go with the flow” concept which is most certainly not my forte, just ask my husband.


Here’s another tricky part, in case “go with the flow” wasn’t challenging enough for me.  Sometimes I’ll notice an increase in my speed every couple of weeks and sometimes I’ll be at the same training paces for 2 months (or more!).  Force the speed? And risk injury. The other option is to settle in to where my body is at that moment and attempt to absorb fitness is the other option.  In other words, practice patience. 


Finishing my 2nd marathon - Calgary Marathon 2018



I can’t dictate how fast I’ll get and when it’ll happen.  There is no way I could tell you, even when I’m only 7 weeks out from my goal race, where my fitness will land and how fast I’ll be able to run.  There are many factors that play into that.  How much sleep I’m getting, my stress levels, how my nutrition is (spotty, at best), whether I can stay mentally checked into the tough workouts and whether I’m taking care of my body with some extra recovery tools (ugh, not often). 


Truthfully, I have big goals.  Way bigger than hitting a certain time at my next race.


Don’t get me wrong, I have bench mark goals I want to reach.  I want to get under 3:30. Then 3:20, then 3:15.  Heck, I want to get under 3hrs someday (lets keep that big, scary goal between us, ok?).  I just don’t have much interest in setting a timeline around it, nor do I believe it would help in my desire, commitment or dedication.  


I want to leave room in those goals for sometimes not getting a big bump in fitness and occasionally, one can hope, getting a really big jump in fitness if all the stars align. 


Finding JOY/ILO in the process of training.



What I truly want for a goal?  To continually push myself, month after month, year after year to see how fast I can get.  I want to find joy (ILO) in the process of getting to the start line.  Right now my desire and drive run deep and I am hungry for more.  Just nothing specific.  And in no particular time frame and it’s most certainly not SMART.


“Katie, what’s your goal for the marathon?” As fast as I can get by race day. 

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