New Year’s Eve is always an intriguing scene. The evening represents the culmination of a month’s worth of holidays, family, fun and gluttony. You emotionally look back on the year past and forward to the future. My main running goals always seem to creep into my thoughts as I countdown the clock to midnight, which, while intimidating, is really a crucial component to training. An athlete should take time to examine themselves, how to structure their training, and what motivates them to chase their ambitions. Knowing the why to your goals, instead of just the how helps the entire experience to be worthwhile regardless of the result.
So… How do you ensure that on January 4th your grand plans have not gone awry as you inhale on all the leftover chocolate in your house and skip a day of running because it is too cold (hypothetically… of course)? First of all, while it may sound cheesy, they have to be smart. Whatever goals a person has, the most important thing about them is they have to be unique. The only guidance an outsider can truly give it to make them Specific, Measurable, Attainable, Relevant, and Time-Bound.
For me, last year’s goal was very specific: to make the US National Outdoor Track Team and compete in Moscow, Russia at the World Championships. It was measurable, as it took a lot of steps. A goal needs to have a means of letting you know you are making progress toward that goal. For example, I had to run a time just to make nationals, a standard to compete internationally and would have to come in the top three at the US Championships. Without those middle steps, it can become very difficult to know how to structure your training.
I understand that last year I created a very big goal for myself, but sometimes they are meant to be scary! I have spent years writing goals to get to this point; goals such as: run a 5-k, make states, run in college, be an All-American, and run professionally. I truly felt that this goal was attainable. In 2012, my goal was simply to make the final at the US Championships. I achieved that goal and wanted to move forward to a larger objective. Given I made some sweeping life decisions to continue training in 2012, I felt it was relevant to make my goal about running. Relevance in easy for most runners, we run nearly every day and it is a significant part of our identity. Last, my goal was very specifically time-bound. For a New Year’s Goal, it is simple to make it the entire year, but finding a specific race or event to work up toward can be a great way to focus and enjoy how far you have come.
While I am delighted to say I achieved my goal this year, it is important to remember that is only a small part of why they are so special to consider and create. Outside of running, this year I began law school, moved into my own place, needed to make a budget, and wanted to learn to be a better cook! Running is a passion to me, but also a way to learn how to schedule and practice patience and restraint. It helps me to organize my thoughts and take ownership of my flaws. The themes and lessons you learn on the coldest days of training are likely much more valuable than the endurance you actually built from that run. A year of commitment helps you to appreciate the end result. Going to the US Championships, I knew I had a chance to make my goal happen. However, at that meet, I stopped thinking about the future; I started looking back to the past. I was so happy to have had the year of miles, friendships, law exams, burnt dinners, thrift shops, runs early in the morning before class, solo workouts in the snow, and fun.
This New Year, create goals that you will remember and look back on fondly on December 31, 2014.