On Goals…and Ambivalence

Yesterday I signed up for my first 2017 race: the Wisconsin Half Marathon. The Wisconsin Half Marathon was my first half marathon back in 2014, and I wanted to make it a “streak” race that I did every year until this year, when I had to sit it out because it was 6 days after the Pittsburgh Marathon.

Normally when I sign up for a race that long, I’m not just signing up: I’m making a statement. I’m typically not a person who runs half marathons just for fun, so when I pull the trigger and pay that registration fee, it means I have big plans. Indeed, I have dreams for the 2017 Wisconsin Half

Well…maybe. Sort of. I don’t know. I plead the 5th?

I posted my registration to Facebook with a triumphant declaration that this would be the race where I finally succeed in nabbing one of my longest-standing wish list items: a sub-1:45 half marathon. Granted, I also added the caveat that even if that doesn’t happen I still wanted to have fun re-running my first half marathon in my college town. But still, I felt nervous about declaring that goal on Facebook. I’m not sure why. Anyone who has read this blog for a while knows it’s not some big secret that I’ve been drooling over a sub-1:45 for the better part of two years now. Every runner has a dream that they just can’t get over: for many, it’s a sub-2:00 half, completing an ultra, or qualifying for Boston. For me, for some reason, it’s running the half marathon distance at that elusive sub-8:00 pace. While there’s no guarantee I won’t just immediately start lusting over a sub-1:40 after that, the <1:45 is my “it” thing I just can’t let go of and I know I will feel some form of running closure once I can finally prove that I, too, am capable of it.

The problem is that things are changing. I’m changing. And as much as I want that sub-1:45, I’m just not sure I want it enough. Not more than I want to be able to live the rest of my life without devoting so much time and energy to formal training plans.

I’ve been able to devote myself so fully to training for marathons and improving my times because I have a lifestyle that has allowed for it. A steady job, with set hours, no children to raise, no plans for change and really no unpredictability whatsoever in my life. Going on vacation for a few days or a week was the biggest wrench in my training plans.

But I’m getting to a point where I’m just not sure that improving at a hobby is worth all the sacrifices that need to be made in other areas of my life and the single-tracked mind it requires. I love to run and run well, but running isn’t as huge a part of my identity as it is for other people, and I often find myself feeling like I’m being pulled in many different directions. Running for improvement used to win that tug of war handily, but as this year has gone on, its grip has drastically weakened. I want to improve at running but I no longer want it as much as I want to let go of it and move on to other things for a while.

2017 is already shaping up to be a big year for me. We have a lot of travel planned for the spring, which obviously would interfere with a training plan (that and the nasty winter we’re apparently supposed to get this year…). But I’m also looking to shake up my lifestyle a little bit in the coming year. I turn 30 in March, which as you can imagine, is prompting some introspection as of late, and I’m getting the feeling that after several identical years, it’s time for a change in my life. Since it’s still in the tentative/brainstorming stage, I’m not ready to publicly talk about what that is yet, but let’s just say it’s less of a “change” and more just something that will eat up a lot more of my time and focus, leaving little room or desire to cram in race training. I also want this to be the year that, in the same spirit as I trained for my first half 3 years ago, I try new things with no strings attached. Without the pressure of time goals and improvement, maybe this could be the year I finally run my first trail race or do my first triathlon (SPRINT triathlon, people! 70.3 and 140.6 are NOT in my future!).

Which brings me here: why did I declare a goal of a 1:45 half marathon knowing I won’t have the time – or, frankly, the desire – to devote myself to training for it?

Because I do still want it, and I’m not ready to rule it out as a possibility. I’m already so close. While the best I have managed so far is a high 1:47, I ran that race on a tough day in my peak weeks of marathon training with zero taper, and my fitness indicated that with better weather and fresh legs, I was capable of a 1:45-1:46 – which, regardless of what they say about “woulda coulda shoulda,” I continue to fully believe. Add to that the killer fitness base I will have built up at year-end from this fall’s 10K training, I think a 1:44 or better is a possibility for me even without an intense, targeted training plan if I stay in shape and keep running as a part of my lifestyle. It may take me a few tries to get it this spring, but I think I can do it.

But, I’m also accepting – and okay with – the possibility that it won’t happen. I do still want to run and participate in races, but things are going to be different next year. My priorities and values are starting to go in a welcome new direction that I’m eager to follow. Being fast and improving my race times is really beginning to seem insignificant in the grand scheme of things. I don’t regret the time I’ve spent devoted to that passion, but the growing discontent I felt after the Pittsburgh Marathon was more than simple burn out, it’s telling me that it’s time to move on and that running can’t come first anymore.

None of this affects my current 10K training, by the way. I’m in it, I’ve committed to it, I’m enjoying it and I intend to see it through. But, I am starting to rethink my goals a little bit, and wonder if I’ve been putting too much pressure on myself and setting my standards for this one cycle at an inappropriately high level. I think second-guessing myself and my workouts is natural since I’m out of my comfort zone with this type of running, but I also am feeling like I’m starting to get a little too greedy with my expectations for success. Given that this may be my last formal, improvement-focused training cycle for a whole year, I need to start making it a priority to actually enjoy it and appreciate the opportunity as well.


P.S. – I’m sorry  I have not yet responded/followed through with the feedback I got from last week’s post calling for blog recommendations. I did check out several of the blogs and I’ve been meaning to follow and get engaged, but it just keeps getting away from me. Since we’re busy this weekend but staying in town, I hope to have time to get on that!


17 thoughts on “On Goals…and Ambivalence

  1. I literally just emailed you back about 2017 racing and then got on Bloglovin and saw this post. Also, I’m so glad I found your blog because it’s nice to find someone who seems to be going through similar things as me but in different ways. Here’s to turning 30 next year, looks like I hit it a month before you. Eek!

  2. I definitely believe you are capable of a 1:44-1:45 half marathon! And I honestly even think races go the best when you just let life happen and train around that – because then you’re not thinking, living, breathing running every moment of every day. For my first half (1:46), I took a week off for my wedding and honeymoon. For my PR half marathon, I took a week off to go to London. Perfect training cycles are overrated.
    A trail race or sprint tri would be so fun! If you still are looking for blog recommendations, go read Vita Train 4 Life. She’s a talented triathlete in the sprint and Olympic (like, she competed in Nationals) but so relatable and it’s really inspiring. Her blog has made me want to try a tri more than once.

  3. I can’t believe it’s already time to sign up for 2017 races..that just blows my mind! I know how hard it can be to let go of some goals, but like you said life changes. I think it’s good that you have more in your life right now than just running. If you were able to dedicate tons of time to running and training and that was your only “thing” in life, that would be a very sad life! I think you have your priorities right in order 🙂

  4. My personal motto is: Life is too short to not do what you love. It makes sense that what we love and want to do most changes as we grow as people. I think your approach is great. I know many runners who do little to no training and run the race of their dreams. Maybe de-emphasizing training is just what you need. I feel like I’m very different from most runners. I love the training but hate the racing. I’ve gone through the phase of wondering what’s wrong with me before coming to grips with the fact that I don’t have to be like everyone else. I just have to be happy. Same with you–aim to do what you love and the rest will fall into place!

  5. The introspection of an upcoming birthday can often be a really good thing, as it requires you to set values and goals for yourself to live against in the next year. If running isn’t where it’s at for you right now- or rather, running at a high, structured and pressured level- then it’s great to just continue doing what you love. If you go too hard with the running when you’re already feeling a bit lacklustre, you might just go off it altogether!

  6. I totally get the feeling of being tugged in a million ways and not feeling sure if you want “it” enough. It’s how I felt towards the middle/end of pittsburgh so I’m glad I took as much time as needed after to figure it out and see if the drive came back. Maybe taking the pressure off (i.e. signing up for the race and seeing what happens rather than dedicating to a specific goal/dedicating yourself to just running) will give you the drive you need or just let you enjoy the distance but surprise yourself!

  7. The big 3-0! I feel like by 30 you should be an adult – should own a house, be married, have some kids, blah, blah. Should, should, should. I didn’t have any of those things when I turned 30 and wasn’t sure where my career was going or even what country I would be living in. But it all worked out when I released the pressure of the shoulds and focussed on what I wanted. 30 is a milestone and I hope you have exciting changes to come. I truly believe that a sub 1.45 is doable even with training taking a back seat. I think making your life revolve around running is a terrible idea (unless you’re a professional) – it should be something that complements your life and doesn’t add extra stress or anxiety.

  8. Thirty is really not that bad at all. I was definitely dreading it a little, but now that it is here I am just reminded that nothing really changed (except my age group!).

    I’ve just started thinking about goals for 2017 and it feels really strange not to have any. I don’t want to set any goals until I know how my upcoming race turns out. And I don’t want to set any goals until I have a better idea about what amount of training I can handle during the semester. I do have one terrible/awesome idea in mind for 2017, but I’m pretty sure it is WAY more terrible than awesome. There is a 50k on my birthday…which would mean 31 miles on my 31st birthday. This is really a bad idea, right?

    But back to you: if you put in a reasonable amount of training, I am positive that 1:45 is well within your capabilities. Especially coming off of a speedy 10k season and knowing you build endurance easily. But if you want to focus on trail running or triathlons, I’m sure you’ll excel at those too. Do the things that make you happy and I’m sure you won’t have any regrets 🙂

  9. You absolutely can do a sub 1:45…
    Hey, I just moved into a new age group too…Although mine makes 30 look like the youngun’ that you are!
    I just registered for Boston. I said I was done, but I guess not!
    I was expecting you to say something about jumping over to triathlons… 🙂

  10. I think I’m the poster child for show up with no plans and see what happens, especially at the half marathon distance lol.

    Hey life pushes in different directions always opening and closing different doors. All we can do is enjoy the ride. I’ve been feeling the conflict of race times in the half and full marathon versus the true passion for trail running. Your post really brings back that conflict and maybe it’s time to let go of those meaningless times and just follow my passion. But man it’s hard lol

  11. Sometimes I don’t know what to say to your posts because a lot of the time it’s like you put pen to paper (or in this case your fingers to the keyboard :P) and write exactly the kinds of things I’m thinking. We’re in different places with some different goals and dreams but it seems we’re both realizing the monotony of constantly trying really hard to achieve something that in the end seems rather fleeting and insignificant compared to other aspects of life. Not that it’s not fun to have those goals for running, but how much more fun will you have on your vacations without worrying about getting a workout in? I’m trying to start making some changes in my life too and I’m starting with one that you helped to inspire – just took me awhile to follow through haha. I’ve slowly started removing social media this week and I’m hoping that will really help me make the decisions I need to start making in my life. In fact, this will probably be my last blog comment for awhile though I will try to check here every once in awhile. Here’s to change and some new adventures coming our way – cheers!! ❤

  12. I could have written this post. There are certain running goals I WANT, but I’m not sure my desire is strong enough to really fuel the training necessary. And in the end, almost everyone wants something but isn’t willing to work for it. It’s the decision that you really want it enough to make sacrifices that sets others apart. At this point, I still want my personal goals…but I’m beginning to see my motivation waning. Part of me just misses running for fun, but another part of me knows running is MORE fun when I’m running a bit faster and it feels a bit easier, which means I have to keep working for now in order to get to that point eventually. Once I get there, I feel like it will be worth it.

  13. 30 is a big milestone 🙂 and in many ways I think for us gals it is the best decade! More confident, fitter, stronger, it changes eventually, so now is the time to soak it up and do what you want to do 🙂
    Anyway…I have no doubt you can get that sub 1:45. I think the right course, the right day and you could do it now! The beauty of half training- you can do a lot less time commitment and still run a super strong race. Travel sounds exciting 🙂 Spring feels far away lol but it’ll be here before we know it!

  14. Excellent race choice 🙂 (I used to be pretty involved with that event, so I appreciate seeing people run it 🙂 ). Anyway, I really related to feeling conflicted about dedicating so much time to a hobby. I desperately want to be a better runner, but I just as desperately don’t want to sacrifice the rest of my life to make that happen, because I realize that though I *could* be better, I’m sure, I’m also never going to be Shalane Flanagan, or anything remotely close. I probably won’t even ever be a Boston Qualifier, unless I can keep up my current pace until I’m 80 haha. And it’s really hard to try to balance that desire to be great with an equally strong desire to, you know, have a life. Honestly, I think it’s good to put a goal out there, because it helps keep you accountable, but life happens, and getting race day right is SO difficult, since so many outside factors play into your performance. Regardless of what happens in May, it’s not like you’re a lesser person or a lesser runner if you don’t hit your goal (or a better person/runner for hitting your goal, if you do hit it).

  15. I can really relate with this. I’ve only been running consistently for almost 2.5 years but in the beginning I was all about cutting my times and getting each run and race to be faster was the most important thing. I’ve learned that it’s important to focus on more than just running. And it’s something I go so back and forth about really caring about. Somedays I really am antsy to break a 2 hour marathon and somedays I think “who cares, I’ll still continue to love running no matter if I break it or not.” It’s so weird.. running sure has a lot of aspects to it:)

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