Tuesday, January 3, 2017

New Year, New Dilemma: Why I'm Not Setting Running Goals This Year

One month ago, if you had asked me what I had planned for 2017, I would have told you that I had a marathon and a half marathon already on the calendar. That I had already talked to Becky about my marathon training plan. I wanted a similar plan to my 2014 Chicago plan, with twice weekly sessions including CrossFit intervals and strength training. Before we embarked on my marathon training plan, Becky had a strength cycle planned for me for January and February. Everything was going to fall into place.

I even confided in Marcia my super secret goal. I swore her to secrecy. I'm going to share it here because it's unlikely to happen: I had hoped to BQ at this year's marathon. I turn 55 this year, and my BQ time is now 4:10. My marathon PR from 2014 was 4:17. A 4:10 was totally within reach for me, if all the stars aligned and everything fell into place. As Marcia told me, I could do it if I learned to "find my gears" and hold back on my pace at the start of the race.

In the blink of an eye, all that has changed. I've done a lot of soul-searching over the past 3 weeks. I'm still planning on running those races, but no longer am I reaching for the stars.



Instead of crushing my previous PRs, now I'm looking at simply crossing the finish line as the goal. Funny, isn't that my mantra from 2016? That's what happened at all my races last year. It's almost as if within my subconscious I knew what was going on. Obviously, at the time, I didn't have a clue that I had RA, but I knew something wasn't right. I still had my speed for shorter distances, but I couldn't finish anything more than 10 miles without stopping to catch my breath. My endurance had completely evaporated. I thought maybe it was due to the inevitable slowdown of aging, but I held on to hope that with proper training, I could pull off another Chicago 2014.

Now I've learned what's behind my decline. Over the past 3 weeks, I've done a lot of soul-searching. What is it that I want out of running? I can't imagine not running--it's something I've done almost my whole adult life. I see myself as a runner. My friends and acquaintances see me as a runner. I don't think running is something I could give up easily. I need to make peace with the possibility of accepting myself as a slower runner.

A jogger? Let's not go there...


With that in mind, as well as the uncertainty of my health, I've changed my focus for running. Instead of goals, which are outcome-oriented and measurable, I'm setting some intentions for this year.

Intentions are meant to guide action. While I am a very goal-oriented runner, goals are finite, while intentions have no limits. Intentions are flexible. Setting intentions instead of goals will help me to stay positive and focused while allowing for imperfections in my training and racing.

I have 3 intentions for this year and they all start with the letter F:

Finishing is winning. The 2 races I have planned for 2017 are the Door County (Wisconsin) Half Marathon and Grandma's Marathon.

The Door County Half Marathon was my first half marathon. How ironic is that? This time around, I thought it would fit nicely into my Grandma's training plan. It's a super hilly race in a beautiful state park. Why wouldn't I want to do it again?

In contrast, Grandma's Marathon is run along the shores of Lake Superior in northern Minnesota. Even though the area around Duluth is really hilly, the race course is relatively flat. I chose Grandma's because my in-laws were from Superior, Wisconsin, which is right across the bay from Duluth. I like having a connection like that. Weird, I know. I also chose this race because it's in June, and training could be done in a relatively temperate (at least for Chicago) time of year.

I'm still planning on doing at least one more and maybe 2 half marathons this year, depending on my health.

Schaumburg Half Marathon 2015
Lest you think that letting go of finish times and time goals is going to be easy, then you don't even know me at all. Fiercely competitive, forcing myself to slow down and take it easy is going to be very difficult for me. Naturally, if I'm feeling good, I'll go with the flow. But with the unpredictable nature of RA, I need to follow one of my favorite mantras and that is to go with what the day gives me. Not setting time goals lets me off the hook and eases the disappointment.

It has to be fun. No matter what the outcome of my runs and my races, as long as I finish, as long as it's fun, as long as there is beer at the finish line, then I will be happy. I've learned that lesson already with my past couple of marathons and halfs. Was I disappointed that I didn't hit my finish time goals? You betcha. But I got over it pretty quickly.

So what made these races so fun?

I did them with friends. And there was beer at the finish lines.


I'm still working on recruiting folks to do Door County with me, but Grandma's is setting up to be a party. Gina (Run Gina Run) and Kim (Running on the Fly) will be there. Rachel (Running on Happy) is thinking about it. My youngest son and his girlfriend are also coming with me and we've got some fun things planned for after the race.

The #holottafun crew is still in talks about a fall half.

When all else fails, say f*ck that and move on. Sorry if you are offended by the salty language but sometimes no other word will do. Do you remember that meditation I shared back in May? Well, I'm coming back to it. I've probably uttered this mantra more in the last 3 weeks than I have in my whole life. It's kind of freeing, actually. 

I found the full guided meditation on YouTube (NSFW): 


This is just the kind of meditation I should be doing. Laughter is the best medicine, and we should never take ourselves too seriously. I have no issues with releasing this mantra! Pretty sure Deepak and Oprah haven't used this one.

Are you setting running goals for 2017? Share! Want to run the Door County half marathon with me? Do you have any mantras that you find helpful?

I'm linking up with DebRuns for Wednesday Word, which is involvement. I plan on staying involved in running! I'm also linking this post with Susie, Rachel, Debbie, and Lora for Coaches Corner and with Marcia, Erika, and Patti for Tuesdays on the Run.










108 comments :

  1. I think this is a great reset, though I know it's hard for you mentally!

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    1. It's going to take me time to adjust to this new reality! But I don't want to be disappointed. Since I was already experiencing issues, it's not as hard as I thought.

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  2. This is exactly what makes you such an inspiration to runners of all levels and stripes. That is all.
    Except to say Love you, my friend.

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    1. You keep my self-esteem flying high! Love you back.

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  3. My yoga sister just posted that "meditation"! Haha! You're right laughter is the best medicine and you're a star about finding the humorous side of even the gloomiest situations.

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    1. What else can I do? I can't wait to see you to share what one of my "supportive" co-workers said to me. Medical people are the worst!

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  4. I like the idea of intentions better than goals. Goals can be so structured and, if you're like me, if you don't reach them for whatever reason, that leaves room for self-abuse. Intentions are so much easier! Especially when you know you're dealing with circumstances you cannot control. As a runner who can't run (and hasn't since July. *sigh* I was shooting for my first BQ at Marine Corps last year.), I wish you happy and healthy miles!

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    1. I wish the same for you! Please let me know how things turn out for you.

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  5. I'm right there with ya, Sister! My 2017 focus is F.U.N. (and Finish Times can kiss my booty). ;-)

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    1. But isn't it so hard to let go of that? Let's be totally honest here...

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  6. Not having finish time goals can take a lot of pressure off. You just never know what might happen.That's kind of what I went with last year -- train hard and then let the race happen (some good, some bad, but that's life, right?).

    I somehow set in motion a NY girls' weekend . . . I hope we all make it to the starting line!

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    1. Everything is a big question mark for me...we'll have to see how things go!

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  7. I have been through what you are going through. I fractured my foot and also tore my plantar tendon fours ago and it went undiagnosed for quite a while - took an MRI and by then I actually had two fractures. Ever since then, my running has never been the same. I actually quit "racing" for a good long time, while I changed my mindset. I can tell you honestly at this point, while I might hope to finish in a certain time, it really does not rock my world in one way or another - or change how/when/why I run.

    Keep working at it and you'll get there - and I'd venture to say you'll enjoy running even more.

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    1. I'm glad to hear that you were finally able to accept where you were at with your running. For me, it's a work in progress...

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  8. You still might make the BQ...I hope you do. Good to approach the year without that specific goal, and what a glorious surprise it would be! I turned double nickels in October. I'm nowhere near those times, and in fact right now I can BQ as an 80 year old. I just need to keep this pace for the next 25 years, right?

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    1. I've been waiting for this BQ time and then crap--fate intervenes. No expectations, right? I'll just see how it goes.

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  9. Even though you have a new challenge with your health, I am glad to see your competitive spirit is still strong! As I shared in another comment, I am recovering from eye surgery and can finally run again. It is slow but steady and the running will be put on hold again after a second surgery in 3 months. I had 2 half marathons on the calendar for 2017 hoping to PR (why do all of us 54 year olds think that we can get older and faster?!). Whether I can even train for these is up in the air. My priorities are shifting. Now, I will be happy to be able to make it to the starting line. Wishing you all the best for your running!

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    1. We all think we can get older and faster because we can! Except when we have health issues. I'm sorry to hear you have to have another surgery! Crap!

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  10. It is really hard to let go of goals, but I like they you are focused on something other than time due to your health. Running is a privilege and sometimes we take it for granted. I wish I could join you at the half marathon in May, but it is just too far to travel for a weekend. Hope to meet you at another race though.

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    1. If I focus on my health, then it's all over. I need to focus on running and do what I have to do to keep going. I think I'm pretty lucky to have running in my life.

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  11. Okay, that meditation is the BEST. My goal for 2017 is to finish my first half ironman--no time goals, just finish-injury free and have fun!

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    1. I think you're going to do just great at your half IM! I wish I liked to swim because I'd be all over that.

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  12. I love your attitude!! You will love Grandma's (if you haven't done it already). It is very flat minus lemon drop hill, but even that isn't really a "hill." I had hoped to do it again this year, but with my husband getting back in the next month or so, I didn't want to commit to spring training. When is Door county? I heard that is a fun race!

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    1. Door County is May 7. I'm really excited to do it again! Hills and all.

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  13. If everyone did more "Fuck Thats" then we'd be letting go rather than trying to control things we can't control and we'd all be healthier and happier people. So I raise my glass to you and cheers a "Fuck That." *clink*

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    1. Do you think they make a mantra band that says "fuck that"? Because if they do, I want one.

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  14. I love your "intentions"! My goal for all of my races is to finish upright and smiling! I haven't always finished like that (2 specific death marches come immediately to mind), but it's always my goal! I hadn't heard of the F that and move on mantra, but I LOVE it! I think I will adopt that as well!

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    1. I do like your goal of finishing upright and smiling! That works for me.

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  15. What an excellent post--you are on such a journey and learning so many lessons. I am sorry this is not the path you intended but I find that acceptance and compassion are helping me navigate when I end up on a path that I really didn't want! 4+ years ago I had to start letting go of my ego when it came to running (still have days when I am clinging tightly to it...). I said "good bye" to the paces I was used to hitting and I took a leap and stared a different kind of training program. I still have to quiet the voices but if I want to have fun (and stay injury free), this is (what I see) as my only choice! My mantra for 2017 is acceptance! There is only so much I can control and I'll be damned if I give up, but at the end of the day, I do need to accept what is (the piece that is out of my control) and figure out how to move forward. I am wishing you only the very best and I am here right with you following along and supporting you on your journey!

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    1. I think you hit the nail on the head of what I need to do. I'm such a fighter and it's not doing me any good. Yes, I need to check my ego--where did I read once about an ego that is writing checks my body can't cash? That would be me...

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  16. These are perfect goals Wendy! We are often hardest on ourselves on times, when it really doesn't matter that much in the greater scheme of things. Don't let them define you or your joy!

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    1. Yes! Like I say, if it's not fun, it's not worth it.

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  17. I really admire this. I get the competitive drive piece... I know one of these years I need to switch goals from prs to races for fun and enjoying the experience, but it's definitely hard!

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    1. Oh trust me, I'm not there yet. It's my intention for the year. It's a work in progress!

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  18. I suspect you will be a runner for life, no matter the speed. It's what you do, it's a huge part of who you are.

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    1. I hope so! I have been following the story of Ed Whitlock, who at age 85 is faster than me and running marathons like a boss. What an inspiration!

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  19. I love the concept of setting intentions for the year and you've picked some really good ones. It is so hard to not think about finishing times...I can totally relate! I'm scared that I've set one for myself because I'm such a head case and can psyche myself out! But anyway, I hope you have a great time at your 2 races!

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    1. It's hard being a goal oriented kind of person and letting go of finish times! I know I need to do it, but it's tough.

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  20. Man!! I wish I could run this half with you! but my brother has his college graduation that weekend!! I have already tried to ask him to move it twice, and he said he can't !! Boo!

    I haven't sat down or started thinking of goals for this year, I know there is a marathon in me for this year, and maybe even a 50K... maybe.

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    1. I know there is a marathon in you too! And the 50k, heck it's only 5 more miles, right? Says the runner who has never done one...

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  21. I'm giving myself until the end of the week to write about my plans for the year, but I love your intentions vs. goals definition. I'm going with intentions this year!

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    1. I love intentions. It's so much less pressure!

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  22. Grandma's sounds like a fun time. Simply being able to run is the most important thing.

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  23. I am glad you are finding your peace - it is a process, I had to go through that process in 2016 for sure, I have struggled to put it all into words really. I feel like I am still trying to find my way but I really like your 'what the day gives you mantra' :) Perfect. I love that, I need to adapt that.
    Meeting Gina and Kim will be a blast!
    I do have things I want to do, but i am trying to ease into the new year - not because I want to, but it is what the cards held for me. Hopefully I'll be running up and down the roads soon :)

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    1. I hope you will be running soon too! And I hope that we find a race for another girls weekend.

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  24. I love the place you are at with this. It is about the journey and not the destination. I read a lot of soul searching in this and I thing you will surprise yourself and just what you are capable of. I don't think a June marathon is in the cards for me but man you sure are tempting me with sharing the details and who else is going to be there.

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    1. And think about the kayaking we are going to do on Lake Superior! Exploring the caves!

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  25. You are very inspiring! Anyone can be positive when they're reaching goals and setting PRs, but to display such a positive attitude in the face of challenges shows true character. Wishing you the best of luck with your running and health.

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    1. I have a lot of ups and downs, but I won't lie, the ability to keep running has kept me much more positive. If I couldn't run, I don't think I'd be writing at all. Probably curled up in a ball in the closet somewhere!

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  26. I would say that kindness should be your aim for the year. Kindness to yourself as you continue to adapt and to see where this all leads. It will be a journey, but if you ever want to go for a walk, you know that I will be there for you! Until we can both run, right?

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    1. I've heard that a few times--people tell me I'm too hard on myself. I probably am, but I sure do love to push myself on the road! I bet you get that...

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  27. I hear ya. I totally agree and I am not even injured.

    You are an amazing runner. Not having goals won't change that.

    Here's to having a fun 2017!

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    1. It's going to be an interesting year, that's all I can say.

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  28. This has to be my favorite post of yours. Once again, you're honest, upfront, and solution-oriented with the plate you've been served. I'm right there with you, having fun, this year!

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    1. I bet you really liked the meditation most of all! :p

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  29. I love the intentions instead of goals... and intentions being limitless. BTW, your BQ time maybe 4:10, but realistically, you'd probably need a 4:05 to get in with the way it has been the last few years... They need to change the BQ times so that people don't think they've made it and then can't get in anyway... Anyways, back to you, love your plans for this year. For 2017, I'm doing Chicago, I'm signed up for a half with my son in February - his first half.. and the rest of my running goals are to have fun. And I have no time goals for anything!

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    1. I know, I know...the BQ thing is just a pipe dream! I'd still love a sub-4 marathon. I can't lie. But I have to let go of time goals. Be patient with me.

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  30. I think this is great although I know its tough! I feel like we are in similar places moving into the new year with just trying to accept where we are. I want to make sure running continues to be fun and that I can keep running, even if that means not training hard or racing. I know you will have a great year and I think this is a good mindset!

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    1. I think you are going to have a great year as well!

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  31. Your intentions are perfect for your new reality. We should all have intentions to guide us. I don't have any running goals for this year. I make running goals when I am feeling it and I'm not feeling anything right now.

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    1. You are so much better about this than I am. I'm such a goals gal.

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  32. Coming back from injury, but goals last year was the finish my races and have fun. It was hard to adjust and not be competitive, but I did have a lot fun.

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    1. If it's fun, I can deal with the slower finish times!

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  33. Oh Wendy, although our diagnosis are totally different..they both are limiting what we love to do, so I totally understand what you are feeling ....and you inspire me! I have a half this Saturday that I have no idea what the outcome will be. I haven't trained AT ALL for it. I know I will have to take walk breaks (totally goes against every fiber of my being) ...but I'm trying to find the joy in all of it and embracing where I am on this journey.... focusing on being grateful for what each day holds and just crossing that finish line. Love and hugs!

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    1. Thank you so much! You know the one good thing is that our experience assures us that we can finish any distance. Maybe it isn't the kind of race we'd like to run but hey, finishing is winning. That's my story and I'm sticking to it.

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  34. For what it's worth, I think you're being really smart. Smart isn't always fun, but smart also doesn't usually get you injured. I've not run the half or full that you have planned, but they both sound lovely! And with good people, you'll definitely have a good time. Sometimes the best things happen when you just let go!

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    1. For sure these races are all about the experience!

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  35. Life is fluid none of us knows what the future will bring. I can only imagine how hard this is for you mentally but I have a feeling you will find a way to achieve more than you think is possible. Can't wait to see you do it!

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    1. Thank you! I'm so glad I get to run them.

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  36. Wendy don't give up on your goal to BQ just yet. Even thought you are running for fun, you may surprise yourself.

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    1. It would be great but I'm not going to plan for it. I guess I'll see how the training goes.

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  37. I think you are in a good place- and might surprise yourself!!! GO for it, Wendy! Make it fun!

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    1. Fun has been a good strategy over the past year! Why change that?

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  38. I want to run Door County with you, but it's unlikely I can pull it off. Wish we were living in Madison - I could totally do it then. Alas that change is about 8 years away...

    I like the "go with what the day gives you" attitude. That's how I run most of my runs.

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    1. I'd love to run DC with you. I don't know if I can wait 8 years, tho! :p

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  39. I LOVE that you're setting intentions and not goals. YES!!!! I think everyone should do that regardless of fitness or health. You know I also really love that they all start with "F" :-) I think you're going to surprise yourself this year and have so much FUN doing it.

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    1. I needed a theme and it's funny how it all worked out!

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  40. I think your intentions are perfect, and will set you up for a great year - no matter what comes your way. I'm intrigued by Grandma's .... I'm thinking about making 2017 the year of the destination half, so that would fit right in!

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    1. There is a half with Grandmas, just sayin'...

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  41. I think a shift in focus is a wonderful thing. It surely doesn't mean you are throwing in the towel! In fact, I think you'll be surprised to find it may afford you the results you've been hoping for! I have NO plans for 2017 but am open to all possibilities. Door County sounds fun. And, that IS what counts.

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    1. 'Bama sounds fun too! Waterskiing and running? Yes!

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  42. I know that this is a really difficult shift for you to make, Wendy, and I really appreciate your honesty. Focus on having fun this year, and everything else will fall into place as it should.

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    1. I'm not good with uncertainty, and learning to live with that is a big change for me. It's pretty unnerving.

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  43. Sounds like you have a great plan laid out. I'm still figuring out my goals for this year but a big focus will be to get my ankle stronger for longer distances again.

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    1. That's a great plan! What do you plan on doing?

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  44. Somehow I missed that you are running the Chicago Marathon this year. You never know, it could be your year. Hmm, Door County sounds tempting but not sure. I would be interested in a fall half marathon.

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    1. I missed that too! I'm not running Chicago. I'm running Grandmas!

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  45. You be as salty as you want. You have absolutely earned it.

    I think you are heading into this year with the right frame of mind and you are going to surprise yourself. Promise. And you know you have a pretty big cheering squad behind you.

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    1. Thank you! I'm still overwhelmed with the love and support I've gotten from everyone. I swear, that is what gets me out the door for every run.

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  46. FANTASTIC intentions, mama. I so hope I can make Grandma's happen. It would be awesome to meet you IRL! (I've never actually used IRL before... feels so millennial. Ha!) And I didn't know Kim was planning on it, too. Lora from Crazy Running Girl is registered, too!

    You're going to have an AMAZING 2017.

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    1. I hope you can make Grandmas! I never thought so many of us would trek to the north woods for this!

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  47. I teased the idea of setting running goals then just said to myself I needed to restore my passion for it. I had an injury so it set me back, I just want to love it again!

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    1. Injuries are such joy stealers, aren't they? I hope you find your joy again!

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  48. I am
    Loving this intention rather than goal thing. I think this is a great way to set up
    Your year! Good luck!

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    1. Thanks! Intentions aren't so restricting!

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  49. YES! We are definitely on the same wave length! Cheers to setting intentions! And cheers to having fun. I am feeling the weight of always racing for time and want to do some races with friends for fun! That would be such a new experience! Now let's get this year off to a great start!

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    1. Yes! It seems like a lot of us are all about having fun this year! It will be one big party, right?

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  50. Looking so forward to running Grandma's with you!!

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  51. Love your 3 intentions for the year!! They are right up my alley.

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    1. And they all start with the letter F! LOL!

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  52. Your intentions sound very good and reasonable. It sounds like you're wrapping your head around changing things up. Something I know all to well about... Wishing you nothing but the best!

    Thanks for linking up, Wendy!

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  53. Those are great intentions! If it isn't fun, why are we doing it.

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  54. Love the F*ck it and move on mantra. I need to use that in my running AND personal life. Been having some wedding planning drama lately that has been having me down, but just need to say F*CK IT!! lol

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