For anyone preparing athletic goals for 2017, the real preparation starts way before the turn of the year. It’s no use waking up on New Year’s Day and start thinking about what you are going to do and how you are going to do it. In most cases as well, if you have a spring goal then the training for it needs to start over the winter – winter miles equal summer smiles, and all that. So how should you go about setting your goals for 2017?
It’s no big surprise to most of you who read this blog that my first big goal for 2017 is the marathon. However I’m a big believer in the idea that if you don’t set a specific target then it makes the whole training process more difficult. If you don’t know what you are working towards, how do you set out a training plan for it? If you don’t have a target to work towards, how do you keep your motivation up during a long training block?
A key part of planning a target is to make it practical, realistic, and putting a time frame on it – in other words, making it SMART – specific, measurable, attainable and realistic, and time measured. Otherwise your goal isn’t really a goal – it’s just an aspiration.
In previous years my marathon times have tumbled – from 3:07 in 2014, 2:53 in 2015, to 2:46 in 2016. That has made the target of a London Marathon championship qualifying time ‘attainable and realistic’ – to do this I need to run either under 2:45 in the marathon or 1:15 in the half. Again the stage will be the Manchester Marathon in April, a race I will run for the third time. For me the familiarity of knowing the organisation of the race and the route, and everything I’ve done in preparation pre-race like the back of my hand, is a massive boost and will help me to run better.
So my first goal of 2017 is:
- Specific and measurable – to run under 2:45 in the marathon and achieve a London Marathon championship qualifying time
- Attainable and realistic – my previous times have shown this should be possible based on my improvement and progression, and I have faith in the process I’m putting in place to get from where I am now to where I need to be
- Time measured – the Manchester Marathon is on the 2nd April this year, so that’s when we’ll measure if the goal has been achieved.
One of the key words about that goal is ‘process’. A goal can only be achieved with a process that will mean that the goal is attainable and realistic. Likewise, a big goal cannot be achieved without smaller goals – ie. sticking to a training plan, being flexible and realistic when responding to adversity, eating and sleeping well. Having faith in the here and now of what you need to do each week when building for a big goal is just as important as focussing on the big picture.
This is the same as a more serious athlete than me putting down a long term goal of making the 2020 Olympics – this goal is fairly meaningless unless you break that down on what you need to achieve in each year between now and then, for example achieving a PB, improving a particular skill, or making a European Championships squad.
For me twenty weeks of ‘process’ starts tomorrow – sooner than I normally would as the marathon is earlier than usual this year – and despite the prospect of running through the winter, I’m looking forward to getting going!