When preparing for a race I find it useful to envision three targets:
The Goal: this is the time which, knowing my training, my body and the course, I know I should get. Missing this target is ultimately a disappointment, and hitting it is merely satisfaction in knowing that my training paid off the way it should have.
The Hope: if I’m having an “on” day and feeling good, knowing that my training has led me to the potential of running in my “hope” time. Weather, pre-race diet, or an off-day can keep me from hitting my hopeful time. Hitting this target leaves me feeling good about what I’m able to accomplish, a runner’s high knowing that I’ve hit a new PR for the race. I’m not only satisfied, I’m downright happy.
The Dream: the stars must align, the weather be perfect, and with a little luck I may hit this target. It’s not attainable without everything aligning just so, but having the target out there is constant motivation to push a little harder, a little farther to one day be able to make “the Dream” into “the Hope.” If I reach this target, I’m dumbfounded, flabbergasted, caught flatfooted. It’s nearly unthinkable.
So, practically speaking, here’s how it works out for my first marathon, the Road2Hope in Hamilton, ON:
The Goal: under 4:00 (3:59:59 will do).
The Hope: 3:40
The Dream: 3:15 (Boston Qualification)
We’ll see how it all works out!