The training plan versus the training goal

I have been contemplating this “goal” I have – to run the Juan de Fuca Trail in a day, hopefully in May.

I put the word “goal” in quotation marks, because I have been thinking about the (many) differences between the goals and the training plans of an elite athlete versus those of someone like myself.

Understanding your running goals

For an elite athlete, their goal is a specific event: there is a specific event in mind, some defined race on some unchangeable date. So their training is all oriented towards that goal.

Whereas for someone like me (representing most of us, who are not elite athletes!) the whole thing is actually reversed. My “goal” is actually more like what the elite’s “training” is – because my goal is actually my active lifestyle, not any one event.

But that means my goal is so big and broad and long-term and all-encompassing. How do you define it, how do you achieve it, how do you stay motivated?

So I was thinking of this Juan de Fuca Solo Expedition Run as my “goal” – but I realize that the much better word for it is that it is a “milestone.” Yes, it is a sort of goal-along-the-way, but it is not my big picture goal.

Milestones versus goals

I never set out to become an ultramarathon runner. In fact, until I ran my first marathon (at age 43) I was not sure that I had it in me to run a marathon. Before that, I did not know if I could ever run 20 km – that sounds so long, that is a driving distance not a running distance! And before that, I was totally chuffed when I ran 10 km for my first time.

Thinking in milestones makes all the difference, because it make things much more doable and achievable.

Just like when I am running an ultramarathon: honestly, I don’t always know that I am going to complete it! In fact, usually there are times when I am feeling pretty crappy and wondering if I should just quit.

So I set a milestone of just getting to the next aid station. That’s generally a pretty reasonable and achievable thing to aspire to, because the alternative is that they have to send someone out to rescue me! And then I eat and drink, and decide to just get to the next aid station. And then the next one.

And before you know it, I have run my 50 km – or even 50 miles!

Running inspiration and motivation

I think I am just putting words to what I knew subconsciously all along… but hopefully these words end up inspiring some other people too.

Set your goals! Make them hard enough that they are indeed a challenge and that they do push you. But don’t make them so hard and so long-term that they are unachievable: either just too big and unrealistic for where you are at, or just so far away that you can’t maintain the momentum! And definitely don’t lost sight of the big picture: it’s about being the best you can be while having fun along the way.

My Keep it Moving solo expedition run is set to take place in late May, and the short film will be released towards the end of 2021. Find out more by exploring this site, or by signing up for updates here – I will never spam you or share your info!

Published by Jacqueline Windh

I'm a writer, photographer, and radio broadcaster who is concerned about our planet and how we live our lives - hoping my work helps people to find new ways of thinking about issues such as personal health, wilderness, the environment, food security, thinking about the future. These things are all connected, you know...

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