Thursday, December 3, 2009

When is a Goal a Goal?

The past month of so I've been trying to figure out a few things about me and my buddy - running. Miles are melting together. Scenery is starting to blend. Fresh blog ideas aren't flowing freely. So, I put my old consultant hat on (one that I should wear more often) to analyze the situation. I need to make sure that this training cycle doesn't see me in the dumps again come week 12.

When I worked for a large management consulting firm (quite) a few years back, one thing we always went through with a new client would be a goal congruence exercise - making sure that goals, strategies, and tactics were all clear, communicated, and focused. If we are going to get everyone pushing the same direction, tactical plans need to be formulated and clearly communicated. But the best laid tactical plans are worthless if they do not map into the strategies of the firm. Can you see Walmart selling Rolex watches? And finally, without clear goals, strategies are pretty worthless. That is why in it's current form, Walmart will never implement a high end high service strategy

As I analyzed my situation, the light bulb turned on pretty quickly. The tactical plan and the strategy are laid out for me. I look at it every day and put in the miles at the right paces. But the question is "Why?" Is the goal just to run a marathon? And why is that a "goal"? For a while it was on the bucket list. But that goal has been accomplished. What now? Yes folks, I've fallen into the trap that many do. Not just in running, but in life in general. I do what I'm told. And then can't figure out why it becomes drudgery. It sure is easy when someone else provides the plan.

Speaking of miles, I've put in a couple days of running since my last update:

Tuesday: 6.2 miles, average pace 9:35, avg heart rate 78% MHR
Wednesday: 3.1 miles, average pace 9:21, avg heart rate 78% MHR

Today it will be some track work. 4 X 800 intervals. VO2Max according to the plan.....


  1. Isn't the goal to PR? Not just to run a marathon, but to do it better than you've ever done before. That requires a little tweaking to the same old plan - if not to general strategy, then at least to intensity, or consistency in execution of the plan.

  2. ...and I just nailed the first comment! That's a new PR for me on your blog :).

  3. GREAT post Glenn,

    Do you think it is safe to say that people often start lacking motivation if they become too obsessed with just one goal in mind. Having one goal in mind is a good thing, but I think maybe, one should analyze the WHOLE of it. Yeah, you are running a marathon, but why are you even running in the first place, etc... Well, your post has definitly made me think a whole lot here. Keep it up and have a good one.

  4. I love how you use your consulting expertise to talk about your running/marathon goals. It really makes sense.

  5. Great post Glenn. One of your best. I am a social/political historian by nature. Meaning, as I look at developments or dynamics on either the macro or micro level - I naturally look behind me. In my personal life, two steps forward always has me looking one, two or more steps back just to remember clearly where I came from and how exactly I moved two steps forward.

    I cannot look at the whole of running for me at 43 without thinking of the 13 years of not routinely running. Knowing how badly out of shape I was. How much weight I was actually fooling myself thinking was okay to have - keeps the whole, of my way of life going today. It really is not about PR's for me. It is not about officially finishing the first full Marathon in 13 years. It is knowing I have progressed in health, mental stamina (focus) and overall happiness through running. Something of each, in part and pieces I had been missing in 13 years of not running.

    I have very few days or moments when I ask why I do this. I am 43, but overall, I feel like 23 again. Plus, it is more fun now. I get to share it with my own kids and family. So, in short Glenn, no matter PR or Marathons's accomplished - running just keeps me "rockin' in the free world."

  6. Glenn, that was a very thought-provoking and excellent post. I think when I ask myself "Why?" in terms of running, I remind myself that this is one of the few things I feel like I accomplished on my own. I'm the one who put in the work, nobody else. And for me, there is a simplicity with running that makes a goal of starting here and finishing there somewhat refreshing. My job deals with moving targets and shifting goals on a daily basis, so running becomes a great escape and its goals easier to envision. And that keeps me going!

  7. Running over all, for me, is for fun. It's also for the freedom and physical/mental benefits. One caveat is that one can also work on improving, trying to do better than the run or race before. It feels good to get fitter, stronger and make new goals. To me, the challenge is part of this might not always be this way but for now it's a motivation for me.

  8. This is something I've been thinking a LOT about lately...why? Why am I running, yet another 1/2 marathon (this one with less preparation than EVER before)...and I'm not sure I have any answers for myself.

    I do know that I'm going to ease back into longer distance running after Las Vegas. I feel like I need a break. I LOVE running and I don't want it to be a chore. I wonder if running too many races in one year makes it a chore?

  9. Maybe you don't have to have a goal.

    Just a thought.

    Like, why can't you just run?

    (great post. i can relate)

  10. I feel similar right now, except I'm staying off the training plan to keep my feelings from getting worse. i wonder why am i even running. I do enjoy it but I don't really feel like training for anything. Maybe its cause its cold outside and I am facing having to run on the treadmill in a few weeks : (

    Hope the track workout went well!

  11. Well this is an excellent question Glenn! Before today I would have answered 'why do I run' with 'because it's fun'. But today after breaking my toe I would say 'because I can'. Because the second something is taken away from me is the exact moment I realize it's value.

    You are definitely a goal oriented guy and you are also at a place in life (as am I) where it makes sense to be introspective and to question deeply why we do what we do. I think that shows emotional and spiritual maturity.

    Not that I have any answers but I like the way you think. Maybe check out my blog post from yesterday and let me know what you think.
    Christine xoxo