By Dan England
As I was reviewing my running goals for next year, I have come to one conclusion: I am insane.
I want to run a 100-mile race.
Did I lose you already? Well, stick with me for just a bit longer because I promise you something: My goals are a lot more impressive than me.
I am 49, with a slight paunch, bad posture and a graying beard. Getting my body out of bed to get coffee is like starting a 1977 truck on a cold winter day.
I’m not even much of an athlete: I was in marching band, not anything close to a sport, in high school. And yet, I’ve also climbed nearly 200 mountains, including all the 14ers, bench pressed 300 pounds, ran a dozen marathons and hundreds of half marathons, both officially and unofficially, and completed seven ultramarathons.
I did all these things because they were goals of mine, and these goals are the reason I start my truck and run a few miles every morning, even when it is in the single digits outside.
These goals came organically to me. I began climbing the 14ers after I decided I wanted to see other places in the state besides Rocky Mountain National Park. I began running after I had kids and decided mountain climbing was too dangerous and too time-consuming.
I began doing ultramarathons after I decided I hated running hard and trying, unsuccessfully, to qualify for the Boston Marathon.
Now, after years of saying people who ran 100 miles were just plain stupid, I’ve decided I want to do one next year for my 50th birthday.
This goal, just like all my goals, has left me excited about fitness again, just at a time when it seemed like more of a chore than a fun activity to keep me alive longer than I deserve.
That’s why my first column on fitness and the outdoors for NOCO Style is on the importance of goals and how they can make or break your faithfulness to your own fitness program. If you don’t have them, it’s hard to answer your own fair question about why you shouldn’t sleep in when your alarm goes off at 6 a.m. and it’s 10 degrees outside.
That’s led me to the 100-miler. I don’t know if I can achieve it. But going after it is the point.
HERE ARE A FEW TIPS ON SETTING GOALS TO GET YOU STARTED:
AVOID WEIGHT LOSS GOALS.
I have found weight loss goals to be frustrating, painful and especially hard to achieve when you’re embarking on a new fitness plan. Most people gain a couple pounds, not lose them, for instance, while training for a marathon. Dieting doesn’t work. Look at the fitness goal as the first step to changing your lifestyle, and then slowly incorporate those changes into what you eat.
SMALL GOALS, ALONG THE WAY TO A LARGE GOAL, HELP KEEP YOU GOING.
I love using races to help me with training for a big event. When I did my first 50-miler, a huge goal and a major shift from what I’d done in the past, I ran two trail marathons as a part of the plan. I have almost as many fond memories of those races as I do my final event. Plus, I could train for those marathons at first, rather than the looming goal of a 50-miler, which almost seemed too large to comprehend.
“SMALL” GOALS ARE HOW YOU GET STARTED.
A 5K is a terrific goal. I was 35 when I began running, and I felt great after completing my first 5K because, up until then, I’d hated running. When running was a part of a fitness class I joined, I went along with it and realized that it didn’t suck as much as I thought after those first few weeks of misery. It took me a while to sign up for my first half-marathon, and then my first marathon, and then breaking 1:45 in a half and on and on. I have savored every goal along the way and look back at the first time I achieved it as proof that I can do something bigger, either in life or in fitness.
MAKE YOUR GOALS ATTAINABLE BUT CRAZY.
I wanted to do a 50-miler because I wanted to finish a race where a distance was the goal, not a time, as I was burned out on time goals. A 50K sounded fun, but it was only five miles longer than a marathon, and I’d done many marathons. And even though it seemed possible, especially given all the times I’d been out on a mountain adventure for 16 hours or longer, I wasn’t sure I could do a 50-miler. It was the first goal I’d ever had that I wasn’t sure was attainable. The goal scared me and thrilled me and pushed me hard. That’s what a goal should do to you as well.
Dan England is a freelance writer and mountaineer, runner and ultramarathoner. He lives in Greeley with his jazz-singing girlfriend, his three kids (including twin girls) and a dog, Pepper, who likes to run more than him.