Friday, 9 November 2012

Going from A to...?

I've been doing a lot of thinking about progression and goal setting lately and Alan's comment on my previous blog asking if his goals were too conservative made me think I should put my thoughts down here. I'm not totally sure where this is going so let's just start typing and see where we end up.


As I sit writing this I weigh around 77kg. My racing weight is 75kg but at 77 I feel pretty good. When Mich and I got married in 2003 I was 97kg (four stone heavier). Here's a photo from our big day...

Compare that to now (I'm the one in the middle)...

If you would have asked me on my wedding night what weight you thought I could eventually reach I would have wondered what you were doing in our hotel room on our wedding night. However, if you'd have asked me a day or two later I probably would have said I could loose 3-5kg. I certainly would not have thought I could ever be the shape I am now.

What's this got to do with running? Bear with me, there's a lesson about goal setting here that I'm hoping to reach.


I have always loved running, right back from when I was at school. But it always hurt. I used to suffer from agonizing knee pain which would flare up after three to four miles. My first race was the Liverpool 10k and my pre-race preparation consisted of downing two Ibuprofen, applying painkiller gel to my knees and saying a silent prayer to the running gods that the pain wouldn't be too bad. I had never run more than 4 miles before and when I completed it (in just under an hour) I felt like the King of the world. I didn't take my medal off all evening. On that same day Mich was running the Liverpool Half Marathon, a distance I was certain I would never be able to run. A marathon was just out of the question.

This is me completing the Lakeland 100.


So what am I trying to say? Well, natural ability does make a difference when it comes to finishing times; we can see that when we get to the elite level. But, I really don't believe that most people are running anywhere near their full potential. If you run a 2:05 half marathon this year it's easy to say you'll aim for sub 2 next year. But what if you are actually capable of 1:30? Are you limiting yourself in your physical and mental approach by setting goals which are just way too low? You may not be able to run that 1:30 next year but by aiming to improve only marginally you may never get there.

The record pace for our club 4 mile time trial is around 6min miles. I genuinely believe that most of the club are physically capable of achieving this pace over four miles with the right training but hardly any of those runners are looking at the record holder and thinking "yeah, I can do that". Now our work/life balance may mean we never reach our full potential but if we accept that this potential is way higher than we are currently running then it allows us to target big improvements somewhere between that top end potential and where we are now. 

I'm not a coach and I can't describe how to get from A to B. All I'm saying is that maybe you can open up your mind and consider that you could be aiming to go from A to C. Or maybe even to D.


  1. Good thoughts. I'll come back to this over the next year.

  2. Wise words Steve. Never be limited by anyone's expectations, especially not your own.

  3. Hi Steve, You are right! So simple! But why limit yourself to D, why not E or F? What about Z? What makes some people believe they can achieve Z? Now that is not so simple! Stuart

    1. An excellent comment Stuart; one that I have spent a couple of days thinking about. It has made me realise that I have not FULLY bought in to what I wrote above myself. Thanks for posting.

  4. Interesting post Steve, especially as I am thinking about next years goals. I might adjust my goals from the possibly achievable to an ultimate goal.

    Or maybe it is a case of setting short and long term goals. For example I want to do the Helsby Half in 01:33 this year but ultimately I would like to get to 01:20 for a half marathon, however long it takes me to get there.

    1. I think mid term goals are important but I am trying to set them against what I could do (how fast could I go given perfect training, weight etc.) as opposed to what I have done in the past. Good luck at Helsby and see you there. I'm going for 1:30 too, but don't tell's a secret ;-)