What Running Has Taught Me About Setting Goals


I enjoy running … most of the time.

To help stay motivated I sign up for races. Without a race to train toward it’d be easy to skip runs on cold-rainy days. This year, surrounded by 15,0000 other runners, I ran the Ottawa half-marathon, for the second time. Races are wonderful motivators, they are hard, and they test you on so many levels. The results of a race (your finish time) are black and white, no questions asked.

In strategic planning, one of the best practices is to develop S.M.A.R.T. goals (for more information on this check out OMAFRA’s Strategic Planning resource).  For organizations that are in the process of strategic planning, setting effective goals can be challenging. The following are some lessons that I have learned from running that I think apply to the S.M.A.R.T. principles and goal setting.

In running, there are lots of races to choose from, but you have to pick one. A lot changes from thinking and researching to putting your money down and actually signing up.

Lesson: You have to commit. How as an organization or community can you commit to the goal?

In running, if it is a new distance or a type of race you have never run before, the goal begins as black and white, “complete the race”.  As the preparations take shape it is easier to put things into perspective and set a measurable goal (usually finish time).

Lesson: If the goal is new to your organization or community, it might take some time to set the measurable aspect of the goal.

Achievable & Realistic
There were over 15,000 people registered for this years Ottawa half-marathon. I’m never going to win a race, but that doesn’t deter me from running. I consider myself to be a recreational runner and I run to stay healthy. That said, when I enter a race, I’m realistic, I aim to be in the top 50% of finishers and to finish in a good time for me.

Lesson: Who are you comparing your organization or community to? Are you being realistic?

For running longer distances you need the time to train so that you hopefully avoid injury. For half marathons and marathons, most coaches recommend a 12 to 16 – week focused training program so that you are prepared on race day.

Lesson: Do you know how long it will take to meet your goals? Have you put a plan in place to follow in order to meet your goals?

What not finishing a half-marathon taught me about Goals

Before this years Ottawa half-marathon, I set two goals for myself.

  1. Was the time I told people 1 hour and 50 minutes, which I thought was safe and realistic (my public goal).
  2. Was the time I was hoping for which was less than 1 hour and 45 minutes. I kept this to myself (I was aiming for a personal best).

Lesson: Have a goal that will stretch you, however you don’t have to share it publicly.

This year my race was going great for 95% of the race, and then it wasn’t …

My 2017 Ottawa Half-Marathon Results (blank at the end as I did not finish).

A perfect storm hit me as it got hot, I wasn’t drinking enough water and I was pushing myself too hard for the conditions. My race ended abruptly at approximately 600 meters from the finish line. There I met some nice first aid folks who took really good care of me. This year I did not meet either of my race related goals.

Lesson:  Sh#t happens and sometimes you don’t achieve your goal and that is okay.   Learn from it and move on.

I have learned a lot from my experience.  As I wait for a final clean bill of health from my Doctor, I plan to continue running and racing and be S.M.A.R.T. about it.

If your results fall short of your goals, don’t give up and move on.



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