For me, running is a lifestyle and an art. I’m more interested in the magic of it than the mechanics – Lorraine Moller
In the past when I’ve warned people off setting a goal as an end-point, they’ve responded as though I was quite mad. After all, I’m a running coach, isn’t that what I do? And aren’t I always encouraging people to set goals and running in races, aren’t they end-point goals?
And they would be half right. Goal setting IS very important. Goals that are a little bit scary will get you out of bed in the morning. Scary goals will put the fear of God into you and get you out the door. Goals will tell you when you are doing well and when you need to readjust (if they are set using a context of being specific, measurable and realistic). But, they are never an end point.
It’s like me attempting to use reward charts with my kids (which sometimes works and sometimes doesn’t) – once they get the reward after getting ten stars or whatever it is they lose all interest in both the reward chart and the behaviour that I might have been trying to teach them out. In fact the reward chart becomes this huge thing and their ability to even understand what I’m trying to teach them is so outside of their consciousness that it might as well not exist.
Running goals are the same. If you are solely focused on running 5km, or any distance or running at a particular pace or at a particular event and that is your only goal you will rapidly lose interest in running once you get there. You achieved it! You made it to your end point.And things end at end-points. So where did you go wrong?
Setting a longer term goal can help for sure. Which is why it’s great to set short-term goals like 4 weeks and 2 months but it’s also good to set 6 month and 2 year goals. But it’s part of a bigger problem. You’ve fallen in love with how a certain goal looks on you and not actually fallen in love with running itself. Because the running is a means to an end, it’s been kind of viewed as a necessary evil. Or even if you do love running, it’s become secondary.
There was a meme going around a few years ago riffing off The Matrix where a runner would be offered a blue pill to be able to run forever injury free but they would never get any faster than they are. Or they could take the red pill and run a fast race and get faster every year for five years but then they would get injured and never be able to run again. No runner would choose the red pill. NO ONE. Because achieving goals is just a way of reminding you of your primary relationship with running. They remind you of when you started. They remind you of all of your firsts. They remind you of how far you’ve come. They remind you of all the amazing experiences you have. But most importantly they remind you that you run to run. In some ways they remind you of how they might serve a purpose, but in many other ways they are irrelevant.
There has to be a way to fall in love with practice. Fall in love with the process. Fall in love with being outside when you could be tucked up in bed. Fall in love with hard workouts and easy workouts and fall in love with the artform of running. Or at the very least, find running that you can fall in love with. Find the magic in it. The magic isn’t in a number on a watch. The magic is in what only you can know about why you started and why you kept going.
If you can fall in love with practice, you will never need motivation and you will never leave running behind. There’s magic in that.