Resetting Your Marathon Goals

With the Tamarack Ottawa Race Weekend weather forecast calling for warm temps and sunny skies, it might be time to rethink some of your marathon goals heading into the 2016 Scotiabank Ottawa Marathon.

It’s easy to focus on time goals when thinking about your upcoming race. That’s natural – we all measure our performance by the time it takes to run the distance. Pace bunnies, Boston Qualifier times and even things like timing chips all contribute to making time the main goal of most runners.

I could do better on the consistency front. A goal for this year’s race!

But marathons are generally run outdoors and the environment can have a huge impact on how long it takes you to run your race. Running a marathon on a cloudy day with a temperature of 12ºC is going to yeild a better time than if the race was run under sunny skies at 25ºC.

Alternative goals

Here are some goals you can set on days where the weather or other factors aren’t in your favour for that PB time:

  • Set pace consistency goals: set a goal around a time difference between the first half and second half of your race. If you run smart, you’ll maintain your pace throughout and not see a dramatic fall-off in the second half. Or set a goal to maintain a specific pace over the last 5km (careful with this one in the heat).
  • Aim for a finishing position or percentile: take a look at a previous years’ results and see where you would have placed if you ran your PB that year. Then think about setting a goal to place better than that this year. All runners face the same conditions during the race, meaning that a goal of finishing in the top 20% of all runners in your gender/age group automatically adjusts for adverse conditions.
  • Just finish upright and smiling: on really bad days (like we may face in Ottawa), an ‘A’ goal might just be to finish with a smile on your face. Sometimes that’s the way it goes in this sport. After a few marathons, it’s easy to forget that simply finishing the race is a huge accomplishment in itself.
  • Set if/then time goals: come up with some time goals that account for the weather. For example: “If it’s sunny, my ‘A’ time goal will be 3:45. If it’s cloudy, then my ‘A’ goal will be 3:35.” In this way, you can have a couple of goals in mind that you can adopt mid-race depending on whether the folks over at The Weather Network got the forecast right or not.
  • Focus on your fundraising: a great race goal is to set a fundraising goal and then celebrate your accomplishment on race day. Aim to raise a certain amount of money and you’ll often be able to reach your ‘A’ goal before you even toe the start line.

Be realistic!

Whatever goals you set, it’s super important that you are realistic when you set them. It’s just one race, so while you’ve put in a lot of work leading up to the day, weather is one of those things that’s a wildcard.

The last thing you want to do is push yourself beyond the limits to try to acheive a goal that isn’t realistic for the day. Ending up with a DNF, in the hospital (or worse) because you failed to adapt your goals and effort to the day is the worst outcome.

Good luck on Sunday and here’s hoping you reach the realistic goals you’ve set!