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.






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About Claire

Coach Claire has helped hundreds of runners chase their dreams and conquer big goals. Her coaching philosophy combines science-based training, plant-based nutrition, and mindset techniques to unlock every runner's true potential. She's an ASFA certified running coach, sports nutrition specialist, a 2:58 marathoner, mom, and borderline obsessive plant lover.

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  • We are in the same boat. I've tried to break 2:30 twice in 2015 only to go 2:30:18 and 2:30:13! It's difficult to come that close and not achieve it when all your focused on is time. I've since learned to enjoy the journey a lot more and take what the day gives me.
    • Thanks for sharing, Coach! It feels a bit strange to back off something that I've been this focused on, but I know this is a better approach. I truly appreciate all your support.
  • You're very wise Claire! Everything in its own time (even if I'm convinced that yours is already here!) - sometimes letting go of a goal makes it more attainable!
  • You're on a good path, Claire. You might be tempted to think you'll never have a better chance at the sub-3 than now, but I don't think that's true. You're too smart in your training not to keep improving.
    • I appreciate your support, Troy. Sometimes I need to remember that I'm still practically a newbie at this!
  • Thanks for sharing, Claire. You'd be surprised at how familiar your journey is to many runners. Have fun and be open to exceeding all expectations this weekend. If the opportunity is there, pour it on!
    • Thank you, Paul. I've never been so relaxed during taper as this time. Good things will happen this weekend, in whatever form that takes.
  • Very wise indeed. I've been an endurance athlete for 20 years now and that is just insane to think about. In the early days it was much easier to give every day everything. And improvements and achievements came easier. Much easier than they do now. I was never as fast as you are as a runner, but I believe I met my goals by doing all the things you do (especially as a cyclist) - train well, eat well, focus and believe I can do whatever I put my mind to. During my cycling career I did just that. (Being in my 20s helped as well as not having children.) But then I started running in about 2005, and my first marathon was in 2006. Running has been a long journey and improvements are slow for me, opposite of you. The year I believed I could run my "super goal" of a 3:17 was tarnished by emotions because of the bombings at Boston. I still PRd at my fall marathon, but my training was affected because of the emotional weight I carried. Then in 2014, injury took over my training and I had to back off for the majority of the year. And since then my focus has shifted. I focused on my business, my schooling and now all that is involved in letting a business go and the beginning of a new career. However, and this is my point, the most successful I have been in either my athletic or professional endeavors have been when I was able to let go and strive for my goals organically. No amount of force is going to get you there. Sometimes you have to listen to that internal voice as well as the universe and then, and only then, the magic occurs. I have no doubt you'll get there. None. Run on my friend!!
    • Thank you so much for sharing, Christine. You have always been an inspiration to me. Paces and times are individual, but our journey as runners is the same.
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