Process or Goal Orientated?

I thought I was goal-orientated. I’m ambitious, driven and determined. I create plans and lists for targets to hit and tick off. I’m a Type A personality (a very common thing in the fitness world).

But I was walking Alfie the other day and listening to the Marathon Talk podcast (episode 349) and Martin was interviewing an amazing guy called Joe Grant. Joe talked about the crazy challenges he had gone on, running and cycling hundreds of miles and going on fantastic adventures. What became apparent straight away was that he focused on the “journey” not the outcome, like his time or placings. It was all about the experiences he gained, the training he went through that got him to the point of doing all those incredible races.

It made me suddenly realise that that’s similar to how I think. OK I am in NO WAY comparing myself to this amazing ultra marathoning pro, but in terms of what he focuses on is exactly how I feel. I asked myself, why do I keep running marathons? Surprisingly it’s not to hit some elusive time goal or smash my PB. It’s the training weeks leading up, it’s hitting those long runs and feeling accomplished afterwards. Obviously not always as sometimes they suck and I feel pants, but you take the good with the bad. Next week’s run might be different. The fact is though that I don’t need a race to validate my running and fitness.

Of course I have time goals for marathons, because otherwise how would I know how to train or what pace to set off at? But if I don’t hit that goal it’s not a failure. The marathon, instead, is the goal – the victory lap. I’ve done the hard weeks of training, ticked off all those long runs and now I get to see if I can make it to the end.

When I got my PB at Liverpool of course I was over-the-moon but actually had I finished in a similar time to the marathons before or slower I’d have still been happy. That training cycle was awesome. Each week was showing me what I could do and the race was just the cherry on the top to say, “you did it, it worked! Well done!”. And no, it wasn’t because I was getting faster or hitting PBs. It was because most of the runs I felt strong and I was happy running.

It’s the same with parkrun. When I first started parkrunning I was keen to beat my time every Saturday I went and it drove me to injury after injury. I lost the love. But when I stopped caring about my time (to some extent of course, I still look at the results and enjoy seeing progress), parkrun suddenly became fun again. And instead of aiming for things like “sub-20 minutes” or “first female”, I now aim for how many different parkruns I can do over the UK. Where’s my next one going to be? Where can I visit next? What’s the course going to be like? Of course smashing out a fantastically fast time (for me) is fun once in a while, but if I don’t get a PB it’s not a waste or a failure. It’s just another experience on another day.

Like I said in a previous post, I’m reading the Brownlee brother’s books and it’s fascinating. I love hearing about how hard they train and how ambitious they are. Reading their book though does feel a little empty to me at times. The most interesting parts are when they talk about their training or race in depth and detail. Of course they can’t do this for every race because it would be a mammoth book, but even aside from this, what’s clear is that they are very goal-driven. A race to them is summed up by the outcome first and foremost: where did they place. OK obviously that is hugely important to them because they are professional elite athletes and their placing is what’s important at the end of the day, but I almost don’t care about where they came. I want to hear about the details and the experiences – the nitty gritty. Instead they sum up races very quickly with “the swim went well, the bike was hard and the run went fast and I came first”.

For me, when I write race recaps (different league and incomparable talent completely, of course) I go into flowery details about when I needed to pee, what gels I took and what that marshal said to me at mile five. My result is purely incidental. Yes it’s important, but it’s not why I set out to race. (Please forgive my stumbling comparison to the hugely talented Brownlee brothers, it’s a whole different thing I know but it just made me think how different elite athletes are to the average Jo(e)).

For Chester Marathon I just want to finish uninjured and with a smile on my face. The journey has been tough with its ups and downs in motivation and hot weather but I can look back fondly and think, if the marathon goes tits up then I don’t mind because that 21 miler was cool, running to Fareham parkrun was so much fun and the Reigate Half surprised me with how good it felt.

This is not a rambling post to try and sandbag my time or claim nonchalantly “I don’t care what time I finish”. Of course I care. In fact, I’ll lay it out for you bare:

  • A Goal: sub 3:30 (this is really quite ambitious considering my training but hey ho, aim high! If I feel good on the day who knows what could happen…all the planets need to align though)
  • B Goal: sub 3:35 (realistically this is within my grasp I think)
  • C Goal: I’d like to beat Boston’s time (sub 3:38) or at the very least sub 3:45. I did my 21 miler at around 8:15-8:20 pace and this time goal is sitting just under that pace. But it will also depend on tangents and things like that.

But ultimately, I’m happy as long as I finish uninjured. If I don’t get any of the above goals and “just” finish the marathon, it’s another one ticked off my list and (after some actual time off – I promise, this time!) I’ll be on to the next one, happy as ever. This is why I’m happy to tell you my goals because if I don’t achieve them, I’m not embarrassed or see myself as a failure. It’s something I can dissect and improve upon next time. *Rubs hands in glee* all that data, all those training runs…It builds into the next training plan to polish it all up for the next marathon.

Are you goal or process driven?

Why do you race?

Do you often have targets you want to achieve? What are those targets: times, experiences, quantities of events?

16 thoughts on “Process or Goal Orientated?

  1. I run half marathons for fun, mostly (sometimes I get a bit goal focussed, but I’m so haphazard about training plans since Manchester). Parkrun invariably feels like a victory simply for getting there on time. I am not a morning person, and have to be out of the house at 7:10 am most days. I never seem to be in bed before 10:30pm.

    I’d still like to get sub 1:50 for a half. But I’m picking my race (Thames Meander if I start well, as it’s flat). Not Basingstoke or Greensand…

    • Yeah it’s tough with parkrun being early…but I do love it. Though winter makes it VERY tough getting there so early on a Saturday.
      When you’re aiming for a PB it’s always best to pick a good course! No point shooting yourself in the foot 🙂
      AnnaTheApple recently posted…Milestone Pod ReviewMy Profile

    • I do like to have a goal to help motivate me, but the process must be enjoyable for me. The goal at the end is just like the cherry on top – it’s great if I get it but if it falls off (in my analogy) I won’t cry about it or feel bad as long as the process has taught me something.
      Neither is wrong though. I think having a clear mindset as to what you want to achieve is very key in being successful.
      AnnaTheApple recently posted…Milestone Pod ReviewMy Profile

  2. Interesting post, and certainly food for thought! I’m not sure it is ever as binary as being either just process or goal driven however. I personally think I have a bit of both: I am very motivated by my training process and love ticking off each week as they go by. And like you, individual race times don’t tend to matter in themselves to me. But I would be lying if I said the underlying driver behind all the hard work is to see where I end up with it. My dreams excite me!
    Good luck for your marathon this weekend. Looks like you’ve have a really strong build up, enjoy the fun part! Xx

    • I absolutely agree! I can be very goal driven at different times. And certainly during a workout I can set my mind to one target. I guess I was just being very general!
      I do have dreams but I guess at the moment I’m just happy to achieve “softer” goals rather than hard figures. One day though I’m sure I’ll be aiming for a good time at a certain distance or something like that.
      AnnaTheApple recently posted…Milestone Pod ReviewMy Profile

  3. Really interesting! I used to be goal driven but now I am definitely process driven – I gave myself a break from running this summer as I just didn’t “feel” like it and didn’t have any races in the calendar to guilt me into going for a run. Now I find myself wanting to get out there and I’m sure I’ll sign up to another race soon but it’s definitely more about the process than getting a particular time as I know I’m no where near my running peak! x
    LilyLipstick recently posted…Life: Nineteen And TenMy Profile

  4. I used to be all about beating PB’s but injuries have put pay to that. Now like you I am loving the parkrun tourism. No one at the new venues know me so they have no idea that I am currently running nearly 10 mins outside my parkrun PB!. I always set a gold, silver and bronze target for longer runs and bronze is always just to finish at there are some many things that can go wrong over the longer distances and even just finishing is a still a massive achievement.

    • I think an injury can really put into perspective the value of just being able to run pain free. I know from my many injuries that just running comfortably is a true gift. I’m always a bit hesitant to do any major speed training in case I jeopardise that.
      AnnaTheApple recently posted…Milestone Pod ReviewMy Profile

  5. There’s no “just” about running a marathon I agree! In fact one of our club ladies posted that she had run “only” 13 miles (and this was the week before her first ever half)- I think people compare themselves to others so easily that their own achievements can pale a bit. I had to say “only” and “13 miles” don’t go together!
    I agree I love parkrun for the fun of running with others, for running in a beautiful park away from roads and cars, to run with my dad or brother, to see other parkruns…… so many reasons and none of them are for a fast time. Yes when I get a pb it’s exciting, but it hardly ever happens (once a year maybe!).
    Same with races- sometimes I aim for a time (eg my sub 60 10k or sub 2 hour half) but mostly it’s to experience the race, get the medal, have some cake!
    Maria @ runningcupcake recently posted…Disneyland Paris half marathon!My Profile

    • Social media makes it very difficult for us to really think our achievements are spectacular. But when you take stock of what you’ve personally done in comparison to the general normal public it really is amazing. I have to remind myself this when I talk to to non-running friends and find myself saying “I’ll only run 3 miles tomorrow”. To them that’s a huge distance and in reality it really is!
      AnnaTheApple recently posted…Milestone Pod ReviewMy Profile

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