So, the first thing I need to do when deciding on a new race is figure out what my goals are. When I got back to running after having kids, my goal was to finish. Period.
These days I set my sights a little higher, but goal setting is still really important for every race. First, you need to know the time you’re aiming for in order to know your race pace. Race pace is important for training, because you use it to determine the speed at which you complete nearly all of your training runs.
Training runs from just about every training program come in three basic types: speed workouts, long runs and maintenance runs—we’ll talk about these later. Generally, you’ll do one long run each week, one speed workout, and one maintenance run. Long runs are to be done slow—2 minutes or more off your race pace. Speed workouts are done at 80 to 90 percent of effort—depending on your distance, anywhere from race pace to all-out sprinting. Maintenance runs should be done at what I call a “fun” pace. Relaxed, easy running a minute to 90 seconds off your race pace.
I like to think of my race pace as my high-end goal. Then I usually decide on a low-end goal. This helps motivate me in case something happens that prevents me from giving full effort—food poisoning, terrible sleep the night before, injury, bad weather, or a harder course than I planned for. The low-end goal keeps me going when I may just want to give up or quit. Sometimes it may be a pace or time, other times it may just be not walking. It may simply be crossing the finish line.
I fall into the trap of negative self-talk pretty easily when I am competing, and I get really disappointed if something gets in the way of my plan. Running has really helped me with this issue, and the high-end goal/low-end goal system helps me not give up or be too hard on myself if things don’t go the way I planned.
So how do you figure out your goal time? You can figure a goal time based on any previous race time, regardless of the distance. There are charts online that can help you figure your goal pace based off an end time, or that can help you set a goal time. Many training programs will have you run a few races as part of your prep, so you can use your finishing times to adjust your goal as you progress.
Since this marathon is my first, I am using my average half pace as my high-end goal time and “don’t stop” as my low-end goal.
After you have a goal pace and a distance in mind, then you can pick a training program!