Do you really need a goal marathon time?

Do you really need a goal marathon time?

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All of last year I dreamt of my goal, and I visualized crossing the finish line, and breaking down in tears on seeing my time goal minus some seconds/minutes on the clock and fist pumping as unicorns and mermaids showered glitter on me and presented my medal and walked me along. (Surely I’m not the only runner who fantasizes!) 

None of that happened, except for the tears. 

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My history of marathons have been as follows – 

Chicago Marathon 2011 – 6:16 (No experience, didn’t adjust for heat)
New Orleans 2012 – PR 5:45 (Ran by feel, just like the long training run but started slower at 13:30 and ended at 12:50 for perfect negative splits) 
Chicago Marathon 20125:58 (First attempt at sub 5:30 but Flu day, good training helped me maintain almost even splits unconsciously)
Little Rock Marathon 20136:56 (Back issues during training, never got over it)
Dopey Disney Marathon 20157:07 (Goal was to get a ton of character photos and I did)
London Marathon 20166:37 (I overestimated my training and hence legs didn’t run, GI distress)
Marine Corps Marathon 20175:56 (Avr 12:45 over first 10 miles, slowed down to 13:xx pushing through the next 12 miles and then fell apart literally)

Marathons

So, out of the 7 marathons I’ve done, there has been 4 races where I’ve “raced” and 1 successful race. But even in those races that I didn’t care about time or when I decided to cut losses and just enjoy the experience (London Marathon), I’d be lying if I said that I wasn’t frustrated over my time (yes, I know that finishing a marathon is an accomplishment in itself).

One thought I’ve had has been to throw that time goal out of the window, to just train and run. I KNOW I want to do more marathons (and some 70.3s). So does training with a goal in mind really matter?

So many factors

The marathon distance of 26.2 miles is very finicky. Even with all the training, the RIGHT kind of training, the day itself is influenced by so many variables like the weather, the course, your hydration, your fueling during the race and before, and after all that it just might not be your day for whatever reason. 

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Why I should not think of a specific time

I’ve heard many runners say that some of their best marathon times are produced when they run by feel, when you know how the distance should feel – easy, uncomfortable and then hard. Always asking the question, “does this feel like a pace I can maintain for another X miles left?” and adjusting accordingly.

I actually run really well by feel. Almost all my long runs are negative splits (except the 26.2 mile ones). 

New Orleans

Just like race day is a lot of variables, a training cycle is a lot of controllables. Training with no time goal will help me identify patterns that I can control.  

And really, if I trained right, will the goal time not take care of itself without me specifically targeting it?

But I don’t think I can …

When I say “throw out the time goal”, I mean not reference it at all. Not let it influence my training and going into a race with just thoughts of doing my best whether that best is sub 5:30 or 7:00. But can I be that honest with myself?  

I’m all about being goal oriented. Goals keep me focused and goals give me a point to look at. Without a goal time, will it be easy for me to slack off and do things half heartedly?

Chasing that time goal is what pushes me, what inspires me to wake up early and what inspires me to to be disciplined. It is so tantalizingly within reach and after chasing that for a while, not thinking of it leaves a void that I am not brave enough to face.

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It shouldn’t be this hard and I am certainly overthinking it. It just tells me that even though I thought I was over my Marine Corps Marathon performance, I really am not over it. 

Do you train for a race with a particular time in mind? Or do you train and run the best you can that day? How does either strategy influence your training?

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These are some of the weekly linkups hosted by great bloggers. Check out some of the posts in the linkups.

Monday
Meatless Monday – Confessions of a Mother Runner and A Whisk and Two Wands
Tuesday
Tunes Tuesday (first Tuesday of the month) – KookyRunnerRun With No Regrets and RunSteffRun
Tuesdays on the Run –No Guilt LifeMCM Mama RunsMarcia’s Healthy Slice
Wednesday
Running Coaches Corner – Running on HappySuz LyfeCrazy Running Girl and Coach Debbie Runs
Friday
Friday Five 2.0 –Running on Happy and Fairytales and Fitness
Sunday
Weekly Wrap up – HoHoRuns  and Taking the Long Way Home

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