I remember reading in an old issue of Running Times Magazine (I forgot which one) that part of the planning for a race is to set goals… goals which will determine the level of success of your performance for that particular race. The advice in that article is to set 3 goals, A, B and C. Goal A is your primary goal. It is the main goal you want to achieve for the race. It could be as grand as winning the race, or setting a new PR, or simply just to be able to finish within the cutoff time. Achieving this goal makes your race a super successful one.
Goal B is your secondary goal. It is the alternative goal you would want to attain if at some point in the race, you realize that achieving your goal A becomes impossible. It is oftentimes the goal you set that will help prepare you to achieve your goal A in a future race. For example, if your goal A was to set a new PR but at the halfway point, you realize you won’t get it, you then shift your sights on your goal B, which could be to finish within 1-2 minutes of your previous PR. This gives you the confidence that during your next race, getting that new PR will be more possible.
Goal C is the goal that you set that you need to atleast achieve to make the race still a success. It can also be used to gauge if you should still continue to push on in a race. If at any point of the race you decide that even accomplishing this goal is almost virtually impossible, then it’s time to assess yourself whether it would still be worthwhile to continue or it would be more prudent to just DNF. For example, during a marathon, you’re already dead-tired and can’t continue to run. If your goal C is just to finish, then you need to find out if you can still walk without much difficulty. If you can, then push through. But if walking causes you much problems, then maybe it’s now better to stop and just call it a day. This saves you from possible injuries and unecessary exhaustion. Just spend some time analyzing what happened so that you can improve on them when during your next race.
Of course, when setting these goals, it should be realistic and not over the top. Factors such as the amount of training you’ve had, and the conditions of the race should be taken into consideration. The S.M.A.R.T approach can be used as a guiding prinicple in formulating these goals. The goals should be Specific, Measurable, Achievable, Realistic and Time-bound.
For the QCIM, having no formal marathon training, I had set modest goals for myself. My goal A was to finish within 6 hours, my goal B was just to be able to finish, and my goal C was to atleast be able to ~30km before DNFing. I ended up reaching the finish line at a time of 5 hours and10 minutes. Not a really fast time by all means but since I achieved my goal A (with a lot of time to spare), I was ecstatic at the finish.
Basing on my previous marathon experience, I set higher goals for myself for my 2nd marathon. For the Condura Skyway Marathon, I set my goal A to finish in 5 hours, my goal B was to finish in 5 hours and 30 minutes, and my goal C was to finish within 6 hours. I crossed the finish line at almost the same time as in QCIM 5 hours and 14 minutes (talk about consistency). Although I did not reach my goal A, i was still happy at the finish. Even if I had almost the same finishing time as in QCIM, I felt less tired at the end of Condura than in QCIM. Feeling that way at the finish, it boosted my belief in myself that with more adequate training, finishing in 5 hours in my next marathon will definitely be a possibility.
By setting 3 goals for those runs, it allowed me to focus on an ultimate goal (goal A) and yet be flexible enough to be able to adjust mid-race if that goal becomes unachievable. Having extra goals allowed me to stay positive during Condura even if I realized I wouldn’t be able to finish in 5 hours. Instead of lamenting that I failed my goal (had I only 1 goal), I was able to shift my sights on my goal B allowing me to still enjoy the race. I may have missed out on my goal A, but I still ended up crossing the finish line feeling a sense of fulfillment and accomplishment.