Setting realistic running goals

Kari Elliott easily won the women’s race with a three hour and change time at Woody’s marathon in May. It should have been me.

Kari Elliott easily won the women’s race with a three hour and change time at Woody’s marathon in May.

It should have been me.

Okay, okay I didn’t actually run the marathon but I know if I did, I would have been the first woman to cross the line.

Forget that my best marathon time is four hours, which I ran in 2013.

It’s a reasonable goal, right?

All jokes aside, I called Elliott to chat about the mistakes that runners often make when setting goals.

Elliott is Red Deer College’s new cross-country coach. She recently took over the reins from long-time coach Brian Stackhouse who retired this year.

The 36-year-old competitive athlete ran cross country two years for Belhaven University in the in National Association of Intercollegiate Athletics (NAIA) in Jackson, Miss. In her senior year, she competed at the nationals before setting her sights on marathon racing.

It was a good move. She’s won a handful of marathons and reached the podium in the last 16 years while racing in North America, Malaysia, Singapore and Indonesia.

Elliott’s PB for the marathon is 2:57. She is shooting to run a sub-2:55 in the next year.

Realistic goal.

Saying you are going to shave an hour off a marathon time that you ran three years ago is an example of an unrealistic goal.

Often runners make a goal that is too big of a jump from where they are in their fitness and training, said Elliott.

“Say you want to run a 3:30 marathon and your present time is 4:40, well you have to start with something in between,” she said. “And say maybe my five-year goal is to run sub-3:30 and my next year goal is to take five or 10 minutes off my marathon PB. You break it down like that.”

It is extremely important to build from year to year.

Giving an example, Elliott says one of her college runners is relatively new but he is fast.

“He wants to be the fastest 8K man out there but right now he is the fastest one miler,” she said. “I told him we need to think about where you are going to be three years from now. That’s not going to the same place this year and this season. Patience for runners is key. You have to keep chipping away at your time and adding mileage.”

Not balancing training blocks with enough recovery is another mistake Elliott sees quite frequently.

“They push, push, push,” she said. “They think, ‘If I train harder, harder, I will achieve my goal.’ But what happens is your body gets fatigued and you plateau and potentially injured yourself.”

Footwear is also a common area that new runners tend to err on the side of wrong. One new runner recently told Elliott that she runs in Crocs on a treadmill.

(That’s just wrong.)

“Beyond that it is so important to change your shoes,” laughed Elliott.

“That’s a big deal. I think people underestimate the importance of a good running shoe and regularly changing them.”

Rotating different pairs of shoes to relieve the pressure points is also a good idea.

She offered some final advice for setting goals like sharing your goals with others for the accountability factor and setting different kinds of goals that are not achievement based — like having a destination marathon goal — and training with like-minded athletes.

Getting back to Elliott, I had to ask, how is she going to train for her sub-2:55 marathon goal?

“My 2:57 that I ran was on a hard hilly course in Jackson, Miss.,” she said. “I feel like I could take my current fitness and find a flat course at sea level and do it. But between now and then it’s about running a little bit more, raising my mileage and getting in two good quality workouts (each week). It is just building as much mileage as my body can handle. Usually it translates into a better race.”

******

Find Running with Rhyno on Facebook and @CrystalRhyno on Twitter. Send your column ideas, photos and stories to crhyno@bprda.wpengine.com.

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