As we progress through February and with many COVID-based restrictions easing across the country and around the world, this is likely the time that many endurance athletes are plotting their races for the 2022 season and beyond. During this process of plotting races, one important question an athlete must ask themself is, “Does my goal race have meaning?“
The Importance of a Goal Race or Races
Having a goal race or races is an important part of the training process. It provides motivation to an athlete, the end point of a program that can then be developed in reverse and an overall focal point to base one’s training structure off of.
There are a lot of reasons why athletes don’t select a goal race. Some of the reasons are as follows:
- Don’t want the accountability of having a goal to train for
- Don’t like having structure in their training
- Don’t feel like they’ll be ready in time for a goal race
- Don’t feel like they have an audacious enough goal race
The Myth of a What Constitutes a Goal Race
If you’re a runner, it is likely that qualifying for the Boston Marathon is a goal. If you’re a triathlete, qualifying for the world championships is often a focal point. And if you’re an ultrarunner, qualifying for UTMB or Western States might be the goal. The commonality of these events are that they are BIG, important events! While there is absolutely nothing wrong with targeting these high-level type races as your goal race(s), a goal race need not be a big race that needs to be qualified for.
I get it… in the age of social media, it’s pretty damn impressive to say that you qualified for Western States or the Boston Marathon, but personally, how important is it really to you?
Find Your ‘Why’
If you’re reading this, you’re likely an endurance athlete and as such, you know that training for and competing in any type of endurance race takes a lot of sacrifice and suffering (for lack of a better word). Whether it be a 4:30am wake-up alarm to get in training before work, gritting it out through an interval set or passing on happy hour with colleagues to get in the swim at the rec center; make no mistake about it, being an endurance sport athlete is not easy.
This is why a goal race MUST have meaning to an athlete. There must be a reason deeper than seeking adoration on social media for choosing a specific goal race. This is what makes getting up early to train, or pushing through a hard workout a bit easier.
For example, perhaps a race is in an athlete’s hometown, an athlete is trying to beat their race time of the prior year, or maybe an athlete is raising money for a charity that has personal meaning to them. These are examples of races that are not necessarily ‘big’ races but have personal meaning to an athlete.
It’s All About You!
No one… not a coach, not a teammate or anyone else should determine what an athlete’s goal race should be. The only person that should figure out what an athlete’s goal race is, is the athlete themselves. Moreover, no one should belittle an athlete for selecting a goal race that is not considered an ‘important’ race by the standard of others. What makes a race important is 100% subjective and can only be determined on an individual basis.
At the end of the day, most of us aren’t relying on how fast we can run/ride/swim to pay the rent. Therefore, as crazy as it sounds, we’re primarily riding (and for your ultrarunners, running) hundreds of miles, getting up before the sun comes up to train, and feeling like our lungs are burning up during hard workouts all for fun!
As noted above, there is nothing at all wrong with targeting a big, important race as your goal race… but unless it’s something that has personal meaning to you, it might be advised to pick a race that really fulfills your ‘why.’
Rick Prince is the founder of United Endurance Sports Coaching Academy (UESCA), a science-based endurance sports education company. UESCA educates and certifies running, ultrarunning, cycling and triathlon coaches (nutrition coming soon!) worldwide on a 100% online platform.
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