The goal is absolutely secondary: it is the functioning toward the goal which is important.
—Hunter S. Thompson
I am eight days away from my goal marathon in Charleston. With a lot less running on the calendar, I’ve been reflecting on how this goal feels different from my last.
I’m not planning to achieve my big dream of a sub-three hour marathon this time because my perspective on that has shifted. It’s not that I’ve stopped wanting be be a member of the sub-three club; I still do. But as I have gotten closer to it, I’ve realized that I need to have a bit more patience with it.
I still firmly believe that I can and will do it. Just not this time.
The irony is that I’ve never had a better shot at achieving it than now.
I subscribe to an excellent running newsletter called The Morning Shakeout by Mario Fraioli. This week Mario talked about a beautiful letter written in the fifties by Hunter S. Thompson to a friend about goals and the purpose of life. “Every man is the sum total of his reactions to experience,” Thompson writes. “As your experiences differ and multiply, you become a different man, and hence your perspective changes… Every reaction is a learning process; every significant experience alters your perspective.”
I’ve had a year of training and trying for this goal and for various reasons, I have not reached it. I am stronger, fitter, and faster than I have ever been in my life, but each attempt at the elusive 3-hour mark has shifted my perspective on why I want it and how I plan to get there.
“We must make the goal conform to the individual,” Thompson writes, “rather than make the individual conform to the goal.”
My race goal this time is to finish well within my abilities. This is not to say that I believe it will be easy since I’m setting the bar a little lower. It will still be the fastest I’ve ever run 26.2 miles if all goes well, so I know it will be the hardest thing I’ve ever done no matter what the time clock says. But this will not be a break-three-at-all-costs event. Not that I consciously had that in mind before, but I was so sure that I could do it that I didn’t prepare myself for what would happen if I didn’t.
I have learned a lot since my DNF in Richmond that I can almost see it as a gift. I learned that I cannot handle much caffeine on race day. I’ve learned how to make a far better fuel for my body than sugary gels. And I’ve learned that quitting, even when it’s the right thing to do, hurts far worse than the pain of racing itself.
I will have a new mantra on marathon day. I’ve been using it quite a bit lately when things are getting tough and I want to slow down. It’s “make yourself proud.” I’ve experienced what it’s like to cross the finish line knowing I gave it my best. It’s a feeling of pride and accomplishment like no other.
That is my new goal.