I ran 35km on Tuesday.
That's only 7.2 km away from running a marathon. (And I'm still 7 weeks away from running the Scotiabank Toronto Waterfront Marathon)
I calculated that if I run those last 7.2km at the same (slow) pace that I ran those 35km, I could run a marathon in under 4 hours, 30 minutes. (Runners World has a great tool for calculating pace.)
But really, my only goal is to finish the marathon.
Hah. I'm way too competitive for that to be my ONLY goal. But, I do like having finishing as a main goal, because that way if I'm not able to meet my time goal, then I can still be proud of my race. Apparently others agree with my thoughts on this - Just a few days ago I read somewhere (possibly in iRun magazine) that it's important to have "progress goals" in addition to time goals. Progress goals can be things like finishing a race, running the whole race, only walking through water stations, running a negative split, etc. Despite flawless training, unfavourable race-day conditions (be it weather, illness, or injury) can often make it make it near impossible to achieve time goals that may have seemed realistic during training. You can still attain "progress goals" even if race-day conditions prevent you from being able to meet your time goals.
I also like to make different levels of goals, and qualify my goals so that I won't be disappointed.
When I think about my goals for the marathon, my thought progress goes something like this:
1. Finish the marathon.
2. Ideally run the whole thing - unless I'm injured and need a walking break.
3. Ideally finish in under 4:30.
4. Maybe with some more training I could make it under 4:15?
5. It would be cool to run a marathon under 4 hours, but realistically, I will save that goal for a future marathon (if I ever make it through this one)
6. How fast would I need to be to qualify for Boston? 3:35? Hmm.. if I ran the full marathon at the same pace that I ran my last half marathon - I still wouldn't be fast enough. Maybe I can qualify when I'm 65 and only need to run it in 4:40?
What are some of your strategies when setting goals for races?