An unwritten goal is merely a wish

Registration for the 2020 Manitoba Marathon opens on December 1, which may lead some of us to think “Say what?!? 2020!” As a recreational runner, we don’t always think about what we want to get out of our race season, because we are just so darn busy having fun. But could you have an even more fulfilling year in racing by thinking about what you want and reaching for something that you weren’t sure you could get? If the answer is yes, then read on.

Consider this statement: An unwritten goal is merely a wish. Studies show that people who right down their goals are three times more likely to achieve them. There is something really transformative to committing on a piece of paper and looking at it often that keeps us focused and accountable.

So grab a piece of paper and a pen, sit somewhere comfy and quiet and switch your brain to “engaged”. Read through the questions considerately: they may be simple, but they may not be easy to answer. And you may need time to think about it and that’s good too. The more meaningfully you are able to respond, the more important to you the goals will be and the more likely you will be to stick with them. Let’s get started:

  1. What is your big goal? Knowing what it is that you want to get out of the 2020 season is the most important question to ask yourself first, because it will inform all of your other decisions. This is going to be like a Choose Your Own Adventure book: selecting the first footfall of your path is going to inform the things that you need to do all year long. Picture yourself at the end of 2020 looking back. What is going to make you feel satisfied and fulfilled as a runner (and as a person)? Is it one singular achievement, or is it finding ways to be better at making consistent changes over the whole year? What is the change I want others to see? Make your goal a little mentally scary because that’s how you will know you are on the right track. But not like bodily scary… we don’t need to be running with lions or anything.
  2. What small goals are going to support your one big goal? If you really have your eye on an aggressive PR, you will likely want to pick one key race that will give you enough lead time to get there (with supporting races that will tune you up for it along the way). If your goal is to race more and improve your overall fitness, you’ll be looking to pick races that are strategically placed throughout the year to keep you tuned up and engaged. Once you have decided on the plan, you are going to want to register for your key events as soon as possible: commitments of money and time will help guide you and keep you on track.
  3. What changes do you need to make to your lifestyle to back it up? Training is never just about the decisions you make on the road/treadmill. Thinking hard about how much work your goals is going to take is of course the first stop on the road to success, but following through with the dedication in all areas of your life is a must. Know your strengths, but also know what factors in your life are going to work against you and how you are going to overcome them before they happen. How are you going to tune up your nutrition to make sure that what you put into your body supports the output? What changes to your schedule are you going to make to ensure that you are getting enough sleep? Consider also how you are going to ensure that you can carve out enough time to train: a marathon or even a half marathon can be a commitment of MANY hours in a week of running (and possibly cross training), so make sure you are figuring out how this can be formalized into your schedule.
  4. Who can help me get there? Now that you know all of the things you want in 2020 and all of the steps that are necessary to get you there, you should have a good sense of where your weaknesses lie. Do you need someone to keep you accountable for your training runs? Maybe you need to consider a coach or joining a run group. Do you have a hard time putting yourself to bed at night? Maybe you need a phone alarm reminder or a family member/friend to tell you it is time to pack it in. Is it tough to keep your nutrition on track? Maybe an app to track your food would help, or connecting with a registered dietician. Knowing when to ask for help is a really important step to success.

Now that you have made this plan, don’t just put the map you have just created down and forget about it. Stick that paper up on your fridge or in the room where your treadmill is, or where you brush your teeth or get dressed in the morning. Keep your eyeballs on it to keep your commitment.

Should you share your goals with others? Definitely anyone in your immediate circle who is going to support your journey, like a spouse or roommate or important friend, is key to deriving the help you need. But to your greater circles? The jury is out on that one. If you want to dive deep into the research, have a look at this article from Dataquest and see what scientific studies are saying and how it matches your personality. Know yourself, and move forward accordingly.

Now go and get it, Tiger. This is your year to be amazing.