(Un?)realistic expectations

Following on from yesterday's discussions on the daily thread, I was thinking about if runners set realistic targets, with a plan to get there.

I have a set of dream targets which, if achieved will have given me everything I want from running. But as they are very challenging for my age and ability, I have doubts that I'll achieve them without winning the lottery (which I don't do) and being able to train full time.

I also have a set of targets which I think would be a solid set of achievements and which I think are realistic goals over the next 3 or 4 years.

However, a thought occured this morning...

What if I was told that I would never run a pb again at any distance? That's your lot mate - any more training you do will see you stay the same or slide gradually backwards. What then?

We have a vet at our club with a good set of pbs (33:15 10k, 74 min HM, 2:37 marathon) who after doing that marathon time said `that's it - I'm never running another marathon as I won't get any better than that'.

One option would be to choose a different type of running - entering a few ultras.

Another option would be to target a series of races where county medals are on offer (such as the county XC league or road league).

I couldn't stop running as I enjoy the feeling it gives me and the camaraderie of the sport.

What I'm trying to get at here, is how much people are motivated by the outcome, and how much by the process. I guess at the moment I'm weighted 70/30 towards outcomes, but gradually the process becomes more important.


  • Interesting topic BR.

    I started running late 1997 aged 29. Had been very overweight and very inactive, but that year saw me lose nearly 7 stone.

    I started racing in 1998 and run 44.0 for my first 10K, 43.12 for my 2nd and 42.23 for my 3rd. Well despite thinking I was going to run sub 40 by the end of the year, it took me until 2003 to get my current PB of 42.19.

    My situation now is that I am struggling with my weight again, but love to train. I know that I am way off my best and would be lucky to go sub 50 for a 10K at the moment, but I still run and still enjoy it.

    My motivation at the moment is one of enjoyment, as I just love being out there cycling and running. I don't enter as many running races but I have new targets this year in my second year doing triathlons. My performance in triathlon sees me finish further down the field than in a pure running race, but that's OK as it is just a great buzz doing them.

    I'm not sure if that answers the question but for me the performance is not important, it's the enjoyment of the training. When that goes, I stop.
  • I will answer this latere today-short of time
  • Sam.Sam. ✭✭✭
    It's an interesting one :0)

    My dad is the same with golf. He's 66 and plays off 6 which is good (esp. for his age!!) but, because he used to play off 3 in his younger days, he's never happy with 6.

    He's always *saying* he'll give up because he'll never go round such and such a course in less than xx again or because he'll never be competitive in a medal again....but he *can't* stay away from his clubs because it's the process of playing that he loves, just being on the course early in the morning playing away...

    I ran for a few years 3 x 3 miles a week for no reason other than to keep fit (and to keep me off the fags) - I grew to love running at this point - well *before* I had aims or ambitions or did any races.

    For me, it was being outside in all weathers, exploring the countryside, seeing wildlife, just running along and the way that running makes me feel.

    Then I entered a 10k....

    What I like now is having something to aim for, a target to try to achieve and pushing myself to do more than I could before. It's added a new dimension to running for me BUT I still love the part of it that I mentioned before so.....
    .....hopefully when what BR was talking about happens I'll still have the love of "just running along" to keep me going.

  • I usually have three targets for races!
    1. my dream time
    2. a pb by any measurable margin
    3. an acceptable time if I feel a bit ropey

    so for my most recent half mara these were:
    1. sub 1:59
    2. sub 2:03
    3. sub 2:10
    (I got 2:04 ish)

    However, I train mainly because I enjoy it and I like being fit. I could get faster with more effort but I have an obsessive streak that I don't want to provoke!

  • I used to train because I enjoyed it. It relieved the stress, gave me some quiet time to reflect and made my body feel healthier. I liked the process of running itself and the feeling of freedom it gave me.

    I was reflecting on my training for the marathon the other day tho. Generally training through this winter has been miserable. I have only had a handful of long runs that I have truely enjoyed and some short runs. Most of my runs have been just okay or chores to be *got through* Yet I kept going.....it was the goal of the marathon and being able to finish in the time frame I set myself.

    My next goal after the marathon is to go back to running for the sheer pleasure before starting on training hard to lower my 10k and half times.

    I guess that for me, the reasons for running vary according to goals. Hopefully when I have reached the point where it all gets too hard to keep up the improvement then I will be able to go back to 'running for pleasure'.

    BR, are you afraid that once the improvement stops or becomes too hard to maintain, running will become meaningless?

    Do the 'greats' still run in retirement?
  • BR - I didn't see that discussion, so not sure what conclusions the jury reached.
    But for me, it has to be 100% the process.

    If you spend your life doing something you don't like because you think it'll produce some future outcome that's always over the horizon, it's mad. If you want, once, to run a marathon, or some other target whatever it is, and you achieve it, that's fine; but if someone ALWAYS needs future targets, in my opinion they are defining themselves as never happy yet. If, as soon as they reach one outcome, they have to have another one to pin everything on, when are they actually going to get it?

    The only new PBs I expect to set now are for things that are PBs by definition because I've never done them before. I run because like you said I enjoy the feeling running gives me. (Most of the time!)
  • I'm just having one of those years, where i thought i was reaching 'a new level' and would reap PB's a plenty, when everything went pearshaped! Life turned upside down on every imaginable level and a injury topped it all off.
    Instead of PB's i'm suddenly having to settle for well below average (for me!) times BUT i've really enjoyed some of those races where i knew i couldn't run my best - i managed to relax, take the pressure off myself and run the race for the pure buzz of being able to.

    I know that many a time in the past, when a race went badly, i've promised myself not to go to the start of any race again unless i felt 100% - no matter how many excuses you've lined up, doing worse than you thought you should is gutting and excuses are of little comfort.
  • BR -I was thinking about it on this mornings run. For those who compete successfully at the top it must be the outcome, otherwise why would Ron Hill be so exceptional in still running today?

    I've seen it over and over again in young athletes who are fairly successful through the age groups, but then make the step up to senior level where at best they will be good county runners. Many can't take this perceived drop in acheivement, and drop out the sport, leaving space for those like me who really enjoy the running the chance to move our performance on into the county team.
  • Despite my posts yesterday, I am results-orientated.

    I feel though that these are achievable if only I'd sort my training (want to break 80 mins for a half, currently PB is 83). What's more, if I fail to do this at a race, I don't let it spoil the experince.

    By racing in public, we are exposing our athletic ability to public gaze. No-one wants the "embarrassment" of being last (I've used quotes because it isn't embarrassing really), and wanting to be as fast as possible is the obverse of that - let's face it, everyone's desire to do as well as they can is ego-driven.

    The problem is that that fast becomes obsessional. But by wanting to become faster and faster, the affect it has on someone's quality of life becomes marginally less each time, until the drive for more speed has an adverse effect (times show no significant improvement improvement or perhaps even a worsening, for the same or greater training time).

    Even though I have my ambitions for my PB's, they're set in teh greater context of just enjoying my running. However, I don't think my ego is very happy at teh prospect of one day getting slower, and I wonder how I will react to it. Perhaps I should get a vest saying: "I used to do this in 60 mins!" or maybe I'll just quit and do something else. No point in carrying on if you don't enjoy it. Getting old sucks, doesn't it? :-(
  • I started running 2 years ago, with a walk 2 mins run 30 secs pattern!

    One day, about 4 weeks after starting, and doing the run/walk 3 times a week....I just didn't need or want to stop for my walk part, and I didn't !!

    I can still feel now how elated I was when that happened. It was ,in the big scheme of running, a pathetic achievement, and for me it was more priceless than olympic gold!

    I discovered, that at the ripe and saggy old age of 32, I could try something new, set my own goals ,and feel fantastic. This has made me happier in all aspects of my life, and fitter, and I've lost weight.

    I've done 2 sprint tris, 2 10ks and a terrible half marathon since. I'm so slow that PB s are still achievable.

    The process is very important therefore, to me, but so is the feeling of being part of a race and the race build up.

    I was in the back of the field at the Worksop half in 2004, and as we all headed up the hill at the beginning , the feeling of being in the crowd of runners and the sounds of all our feet were fab.

    On a different note, Sonis O Sullivan, my hero in running, said after Athens last year that she felt it would be her last track champonships...but she felt that she wouldn't stop running as she loved the feeling of being fit, and she loved running!
  • popsiderpopsider ✭✭✭
    Running should be enjoyable in itself, but I can't see many people doing very high mileage without some kind of a target - whether that be a pb or something like first in their age category in a certain race or completing some kind of endurance event.
  • I'm also both. But running has awoken an ambitious streak in me that I never thought I had. For me, it's something I thought I was ok at, and want to fulfill my potential.

    Having said that, emotionally it's something that has helped me, I've enjoyed the process of getting to where I am.

    I think I've got to remember that it's just a hobby, and when I'm not regularly enjoying it, then it's time to give it up, no matter how much potential I would like to think I have left.
  • So, is this the thread where Tom. will "sign on the dotted line" to the meal thing? And will that goose guy come back and clarify whether it is just me or the whole family that would get a meal?

    Would be good to have it all in one place just for legal purposes... ;-)

  • I guess at the moment with me its very `results` minded and trying to achieve my maximun potential as a runner. I have silly dreams like beating Bekele etc in a race and more realistic ones like reprensenting my country at some point either as a senior or vet (which is more likely in my case)

    and I do put a lot of pressure on myself and recieve a certain amount from other people, sometimes this causes me to forget why I started running in the first place, thats enjoyment, meeting new and intresting people and staying healthy and fit.

    But I shall always run, no matter what happerns to my `own career` so I like to call it, always be involved within running probably die running a marathon or something when im a 100 years old! :)

  • There is a guy who comes up my running club

    He was a late starter at 39. He is now 61 and still runs under 18 mins for 5K and runs 37 minutes for the 10K. He has won countless medals (over 100) in Veteran Championships at World, European, British and Scottish level. Especially the (British and Scottish). Road, Track & XC. He works full time and runs to and from work then comes up the running club Tuesday and Thursday nights.

    Hi personal bests are:-

    1,500 Metres (track) - 4:20
    3,000 Metres (track) - 9:22
    5,000 Metres (track) - 15:54
    5 K - 16:05
    10,000 Metres (track) - 33:26
    10 K - 32:59
    10 Miles - 54:45
    Half-Marathon - 1:12:27
    Marathon - 2:36:15

    He achieved these results at "age 45"
    I'm in awe of these times. I think this proves that "AGE, SHOULD NOT & IS NOT" a barrier.

  • barnsley i run firstly to keep myself fit and most importantly to keep my alcoholism at bay i know these are personal and perhaps shouldnt be aired here....at present im not quick but i enjoy it the comoradree and my race times arnt the be all and end all my main objective is to finish m y goals at present are sub80 for 10 miles pb 83;44 ive only run 1 10k this was50;05 i would like this sub 50 when iwas mid 20 s i did 43 ish but i was a lot fitter then . last run was folkestone just missed a pb by 2 secs but felt i run well slightly dissapointed not to pb i would like to go quicker but must remember what went on before for myself and just be grateful for what ive got sorry to waffle
  • No longer worry about PB's though do check against age equivilent tables, age is taking its toll. But enjoy the training (and competing) far too much to stop. I have learnt how to enjoy a Marathon by taking it easy, the pleasure in finshing an ultra is as good as any PB I ever ran. I have become a tourist marathoner, every holiday includes a marathon or ultra, keeps me focussed on my training but no longer ultra competative. When racing locally against runners known to me I'm more interested in whom i beat amongst my peers than time. In short I remained competative to some extent but times are no longer important.
  • Whats my 10 mile target time for a free meal?
  • I think you might not be so lucky as to get one, MikeB - you have talent and are clearly not as useless as me... ;-)
  • am injured. want to run. haven't for 5 weeks. would rather be able to run again & never get a PB, than do one more race wihich would smash up my legs but i'd win it.
  • Perhaps the aphorism "you're only as good as your last game" hold true just as much for running as it does for football?
  • BR: Running is one of the few areas which I think the whole scene closely imitates life.

    I've always been more process-oriented. You learn more on the "travel & pursuit" then the end-result.

    I'm not saying outcome or overall vision is not important (no point flogging a dead horse) but to reach the end-goal there must be a set of linked objectives which are realistic as well as hard-to-reach. Else it is pie-in-the-sky.

    Nevertheless, I reckon I've achieved much in other parts of my life but I never actively planned for it - things happen, opportunities are spotted, mistakes are made and learnt by. So fortunately for me, running is balanced by other aspects eg work and family life.

    I can understand that for some people Running is their Career and Life. However, running is a physical activity. Even if you are fitter now then you've ever been you know it won't last for ever. We will all grow old and sadly die. To hold on to yesteryear and be stressed out by not being able achieve what was done previously is pointless.

    If you think you still have opportunity to improve then Go for it!

    Dubai Dave: I like the phrase "tourist marathoner". You seem to have an excellent outlook very much in-line with how I'd like to take my running forward. Thanks.
  • Always protect what you have before reaching out for more!
  • Reaching out for more pizza?
  • I would just like to say that I think that it is great that there are so many runners(of all different standards and targets) on these threads. Running being an individual sport allowing for different levels of talent and ambition, with forums like this to share ideas and goals.

    Although I do think that within this sport people tend to the side of optimisim, with no real potential or progression to their ultimate goal. Time predictions are a very personal objective, is it better to say that i intend to improve by 5 seconds over 1,500m or 45secs over 10km
    OR to say I want to run 50mins for 10 miles or 60mins for 10km? My point is that progression in running is relative to your current level and your ability.

    I just feel that many people on this forum state target times that are complete guess work, with no basis for their goal. For instance, to run 50 mins for 10 miles, 5 min/mile for 10 miles will realistically require a 4.10 mile PB and 31 for 10km, is that possible first? Many posts also raised the 'idea' of running sub 2.30 marathons, well again lets consider what this requires, 32.30 mins 10km, 53mins 10mile. How many hands are still up saying they are going to manage a 2.30 marathon?
    Realism and respect for the times and the accomplishments of people who have managed these quite amazing times should be maintained and maybe input from these quarters more constructive.
  • Oh well, if I ever get sub 50:00 I will treat myself to a well earned meal!
  • popsiderpopsider ✭✭✭
    That's one way of losing weight.
  • Doesn't Steve Cram still run? I know he's done the Two Oceans anyway.

    Always my hero when he ran. Coe was too posh, Ovett just looked weird, like he should be Bulgarian or something, baldy!
  • i started runing in 1984 because a friend wanted me to do a marathon with him. i said no way but went on to do it anyway off some pretty haphazard training but i was hooked, started training 'properly', joined a club and it's been there for me through some great times and pretty awful ones.
    it's wonderful going through the phase when each race brings a pb and/or a prize and you can't wait for the next training session to see how much fitter you're getting but it's also great to get out there and run 'because you can'. the thing about getting older is you may have to revise your targets but as more of your friends/relatives have awful things happening to them there is this tremendous satisfaction in being able to still run and to be more and more grateful that you can.
    i still cling on to the hope of getting back under 40 minutes for 10k and under 1.30 for a half marathon. i'll keep trying and will be walking on air if i do. the other side is that even if i don't i'll still have a goal for the next race, whatever it might be, and i'll still go out and run as long as i'm able to.
    my (elder) brother recently gave me a lecture about getting to the age when i might need to 'think about what i'll do if i have to stop running' - i'm 44. i think he meant it in the right spirit and probably because i'm now less than 10 years off the age our beautiful mum died under horribly tragic circumstances, but guess what - it made me even more determined to keep going till i drop.
    i don't think he was thinking about uncle paddy who carried on cycling great distances till he was 90 ;))
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