This is an email I sent to one of my running groups this week, but I thought it was important enough to share with all of you.
Setting Race Day goals can be scary and intimidating. I honestly used to think setting a goal of “just finish without dying” was a perfectly acceptable goal – and it totally is for those JUST starting. But what happens after you’ve finished a few races without dying? How does a perfectly average runner set more ambitious goals?
Now I know I’m likely never going to win any races, and there’s a good chance I won’t be able to qualify for Boston for a LOOONNNGGG time, but that doesn’t mean that I can’t be the best average runner that I can be, right? Same for you!
Setting race goals is part art, part science, and part heart. I always encourage my runners to have Goals A, B, C, and D thought out knowing race conditions, body conditions, and a host of other factors will determine which goal you aim for…but when I sit down to set a race goal, this is the process I go through…
WHERE AM I STARTING FROM? 
Or better yet, what was my last race, or what are the factors in my life that may have shifted the reality of where I am? Am I just coming off of being sick? Did I just take a long break away from running, has work been crazy and I’m barely getting my workouts done? Your first step needs to be from where you are, not from where you think you should be. Don’t try to set a goal based on your peak fitness from high school when you just had a kid, or have been working 60 hour weeks for a few years. Honor where you are TODAY.
HOW AM I FEELING? 
Do I feel like my workouts have been strong? Have I been eating and sleeping well? Do I feel confident in my ability to do the race well? Determining how you feel will help you determine if you should be setting a stretch goal, or a success goal. A stretch goal is “all the stars are lined up and I’m going to go for it” and a success goal is “how can I shift my expectations so I feel like I have a solid ‘win’ for this race” – that may mean dropping from the 10k to the 5k so you can run a short, fast race instead of a long race that puts you at the edge of completing the race well. There’s no rule that says you have to push yourself to the limit just because you signed up for a race.
WHERE AM I GOING AFTER THIS? 
What are your goals after the race and how can this race set you up to work on those other goals? If this is the only race on your schedule and you feel good, you may want to set a stretch goal. If you have other races on the calendar, this may be a good time to set a success goal.
FULL DISCLOSURE 
I plan on setting a SUCCESS goals for She.Is.Beautiful 10k and the two half marathons I’m registering for this fall. I’m running the California International Marathon in December and I’m absolutely TERRIFIED of running a marathon with any goal beyond “just finishing alive”, so I just want to get to the starting line, run a good race, and feel good about it…and I want to do it multiple times so that when my big race day comes, it doesn’t feel as scary or as intimidating. These fall races are a stepping stone for a larger goal, so while I plan on pushing myself, I do not have the expectation of getting PRs in these races, but rather feeling good about the work I’ve been doing to get to the start line.
If you’re signing up for a race, let’s make sure you know what you want to accomplish on race day.

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