Every year I get excited to set new goals and to set intentions for the year ahead. Last year, my running goals were geared more towards growth and setting the foundation for 2021, which was extremely fortunate as 2020 would shape up to be a great year for that. As I look towards 2021, I’m not exactly sure what this year holds for us, but goals motivate me and give me something to work towards so I’ve felt the pull to put them out there.
This spring, I’m training for a half marathon. I truly think the half marathon might be my best event and that I haven’t given it my whole focus very often. Most of my previous (and current) half marathon PRs have come during peak marathon training when I’m running on tired legs and so I’m curious what I could do when I actually turned my focus to the event. The last time I did a training cycle specifically focusing on the half was in winter/spring 2018 where I broke 1:40 in the half for the first time. I loved the training – I was able to run good mileage while also having balance on the weekends since long runs never exceeded 15 miles. After focusing the last couple of years primarily on the marathon, I’m excited to take this first half of the year to focus on something else so that I can hopefully “miss” the marathon training again. 26.2 is always a daunting distance to me and so is the training – I go all in whenever I commit to a cycle and right now my heart just doesn’t want the marathon!
I haven’t signed up for a half marathon goal race but I’m hoping to run something at the end of April or beginning of May. I’ve considered the Illinois Half Marathon or the Eugene Half Marathon, but I’m not convinced either will take place in-person so I’m waiting to sign up for anything until I know what the world looks like in April and what I feel comfortable with at that time. After running the NYC Virtual Marathon completely solo and self-supported with fuel, I’m confident I could do the same with racing a half marathon if it came to that – and I’m also lucky enough to have some friends I run with who are faster than me and would likely be willing to help pace a bit if needed. I’m not trying to set any limits, but have my eyes on a 1:25 half this spring if training goes well and if the stars align on race day, which would improve upon my current PR of 1:27:48 set at the Indianapolis Monumental Half Marathon in 2019.
This half-marathon time goal excites me, but it also serves a larger purpose with the ultimate goal of breaking 3-hours in the marathon. I’ve recognized that in order to go after that, I need to bring that half time down more since when I finished at Indy, there was no more gas left in the tank, which was excellent for giving it all I had on race day, but means I definitely wasn’t in shape to run a sub-3 marathon at that time (which wasn’t the goal at that time – 3:10 was and I ended up running 3:07 at CIM a month later!). One of my goals for 2020 was to start getting more comfortable running sub-1:30 halves, which changed after the pandemic hit in March, but it was with this sub-3 goal in mind. I respect the amount of work that goes into marathon training and running that time and know that my body isn’t there yet physically, but I will also need to start learning what a 6:50 pace feels like on repeat if I want to go after that goal.
During my half marathon build-up, I plan to run a 5K time trial in February and hopefully a 10K in March. In the Chicago area, it was hard enough to find races in January/February before covid anyway because of the winter conditions, but add covid to the mix and there really are no options right now that I’m seeing in February for that 5K so it’ll likely be a solo time-trial (p.s. Chicagoans if you know of any small, local road races happening, please let me know! I’ve seen trail races pop up but I’m not interested in that right now). My coach and I have discussed being flexible with hopping into a race last minute if an opportunity presents itself, but I don’t personally feel comfortable being in a corral with a lot of people right now so for me it would need to be a race where the organizers were taking the pandemic seriously and had taken extra steps to ensure the safety of all involved on race day. After having run several virtual events last year, I’m no longer scared of the idea of doing this and am ok if this is what I end up having to do to keep myself and others in my community safe.
I plan to continue with my strength training – 3 days a week of heavier lifts, 2 days of plyometrics/mobility, and 1-2 days of core or yoga – assuming that my body continues to respond well to the training. On my heavier lift days, I do 3 sets of 10 reps for 6 total exercises. It’s heavy weight, but manageable, stressing only one muscle group at a time. For example, on my chest/back day, I’ll do 3 exercises focused on chest and 3 exercises focused on back and alternate between each. My heavy lift days are always around 45 minutes of which only 50% or less is actual work time with the remaining time being rest time between sets. As my mileage increases with training, it’s likely that I’ll no longer be working on increasing weight in my lifts but rather just maintaining where I built up to this Fall/Winter while my mileage was lower.
Assuming I run the half marathon at the end of April/beginning of May, I plan to take the rest of May as an easy recovery month dropping my mileage and spending more time in the gym again. I have gotten into a good rhythm of building strength in the off-season and then maintaining while I’m in my endurance training season; it’s tough to build both the miles and the strength at once without overdoing it so I respect that as my running training changes, so does my strength training.
As of right now, I have my eye on the Indianapolis Monumental Marathon in the Fall. Again, I’m waiting to sign up for anything until I know what the world looks like later this year because I don’t want to have a bunch of deferred entries for future years to a lot of races (right now I have NYC and Chicago). I may decide that I want to do another half marathon cycle and train for Indy as well, but I like the idea that it’s close to home (3-hour drive) and is a really well-done event that draws a talented field. I’m not setting a time goal right now for this one because I want to see how the spring shapes up, but if I do commit to the 26.2 distance, I know I’ll be going after a PR of some sort! I got a lot of confidence from running a 3:14 marathon this past Fall in the Virtual NYC Marathon while doing a workout (alternating 3 miles aerobic, 2 miles @ marathon pace), which was my second fastest ever, and I finished knowing there was more gas in the tank which was really exciting.
Other Life Goals
On top of my own running goals, I’ve set some goals in other areas of my life. Last year for coaching one of my big goals was to grow my roster and invest time and energy into my athletes. While the pandemic made growing a small business tough in 2020, I worked really hard to still create fun opportunities for my athletes to compete against themselves and stay engaged with their running and many came away with new personal bests at the end of the season, or they may have built up to their highest mileage ever or hit a goal of staying injury-free when they had been injury-prone in the past. It was a tough year to be a running coach where races were canceled and people were impacted financially, but I hope that in 2021 I can continue working on this goal of growing my roster and helping my athletes reach their big goals and to dream even bigger. I know there are also a lot of new runners who have emerged as a result of the pandemic and I’m excited to work with some of these people as they navigate this sport and are looking for guidance for how to grow and improve safely!
In my full-time job, I am a market strategy analyst in aviation distribution. I can’t believe that I’ve been working from home for the last 9 months and haven’t seen my co-workers, and admittedly, I’ve had times of low motivation not seeing the light at the end of the tunnel for our industry. Many of us dealt with “survivor’s guilt” after seeing fellow colleagues laid off for reasons outside of their control and it made things tough for awhile emotionally. I know that motivation wanes in every aspect of our lives, but my goal here is to set intentional goals each week for what I want to aim to accomplish to feel like I am making progress in my career and not stagnating while at home. I’m sure many of us have said at work “when I have time, I’d love to take the time to make “x” happen”; right now is that time for me and I think writing out those goals every week on a sticky note and putting them on my computer monitor where I’ll see them daily will be helpful.
With my nutrition, I am admittedly very bad at eating enough fruit during the week. Vegetables I’m good with and I love most vegetables out there – but fruit – I’m pretty picky. I want to get better about getting in my daily fruit servings and need to find creative ways to sneak them into my diet. I’m thinking I need to start making a morning smoothie so that I start the day off right and have no excuses for running out of time to make one later in the day when work picks up. Hopefully this will also get me on a routine for when we do go back to the office, too.
I have a goal to continue reading more and like the idea of a book a month that I’ve seen others set. I’ll let myself count audiobooks here since I often listen to something like a podcast or audiobook when on an easy run, but I have enjoyed turning my phone off at night and reading a physical copy of a book before bed. One of my goals for 2020 was to read more and scroll less and while I did read more, I probably scrolled more at the beginning of the pandemic being bored at home. It’s gotten a lot better lately since instead of scrolling I’ll often just take a yoga class to calm my mind and feel like I’m being productive with my time.
Another goal that I’m carrying forward into 2021 from 2020 was learning to say no. I often over-commit myself, wanting to people-please, and while there are some things I can’t say “no” to like projects at work, for example, there are a lot of extra-curricular things that I have needed to. Being involved with things is great but our mental-health is much more important and I am learning to prioritize that better. In the past I would’ve viewed this as being selfish with my time or being lazy, but I noticed I was starting to be really stressed or forgetful when I was overcommitted and that isn’t good for anyone involved.
Finally, I have made it a goal to be more active on this blog! I did a much better job in 2019 when there were races to talk about and training for said races to talk about, but when that was limited in 2020, I stopped writing. I’ve realized there is a lot more I can share on here like talking about training, and I will start prioritizing it more both because I enjoy sharing the journey and because people have expressed interested in hearing more about it (thank you!).
I am excited for this new year full of opportunity and while I know quarantine restrictions won’t be lifted for awhile, I feel like I’ve been given the gift of time to become who I want to be and do what I want to do and I’m grateful for that. To many happy miles and smiles ahead this year – cheers, friends!