Goal Setting

By failing to prepare you are preparing to fail.
—Benjamin Franklin.

The quote above is arguably from Benjamin Franklin. But whoever actually wrote it, the certain truth rings through. No one wants to fail and no one prepares to fail. People just fail to prepare and inevitably prepare for failure.

We observe in Abu Dhabi that several runners have great motivation to jump into the next running project, some almost with reckless abandon. But how many of them truly give a thought as to what they want out of training?

Running is an artform and yes, to a certain degree, good art can be made by taking an unplanned, adventurous path. Start with a stroke and see what it turns out to be. And the opportunity cost is only time and frustration if the art didn’t come out as you planned it.

Running also involves time and frustration. What makes running slightly different from drawing pictures is the possiblity of a debilitating injury. That is, when people pack a mammoth load training into a limited time window, their bodies start crumbling.

Therefore, at the end of every calender year for the last two years, the runners in the House ask a certain question of themselves : “What is my goal for the upcoming season?”

So we help everyone think about where they want to point their compass at which gives a meaningful foundation to the “house” – this metaphorical structure of body and mind incorporating many hours of training volume and intensity in preparation for the next season.

This year, the question garnered 27 responses from our runners. Everyone from the experienced amateur to the beginner were in the mix. So an exercise of word analysis and word cloud generation brought out the following :

Looks great! The visualization brings out some interesting words people using around future aspirations.

The words”Try”, “Aim” and “Experience” are in there. Some runners just want to get their feet wet. They want to try a new distance. Feelings are big. People hunt for feelings, like the storm chaser looks for hurricanes.

The word “Time” is huge, indicating people have some good idea of what they want to shoot for. Lots of times are thrown in the mix. For example, 1:28 would mean a 1:28:00 half marathon. 23min would be a 00:23:00 5K. 11 mins would be the individual who said they want to shoot for a 3000m time of 00:11:00.

Time is also associated with frequency. People want to train more “consistently”, upto “twice” in a week for club runs, and some want to just do things to “continue” the fitness they currently have.

In terms of qualities in a runner sought after, “endurance”, “improve”, “motivation” and “focus” comes out. People also want to get “faster” and they want to keep “pushing”.

An overarching theme is the types of distances runners want to aim for. The marathon, particularly the ADNOC marathon, stands out from among all the others. People know its a big goal, and that it deserves a special emphasis and attention. It’s also a local marathon. Hey, why not throw some love at it?

Could some of it also stem from the relevance from other runners if you tell them that you’re gunning for the marathon? The fulfilment of the wishes of the ego, if you will? Could be. But there’s another set of runners who are hesistent to disclose such whims for fear of failure. That’s a different mindset.

Some body parts are in the mix. Knee and tibia. Knee stands out. 3 out of 4 injuries in running are knee related and people just want to nurse them and get on with life with a slightly less glorious touch to it. As a result, there’s a bit more apprehension and thought that will go into the next season.

The most important thing to gain from this is that the club as a whole knows where everyone is heading and can mutually decide upon a plan of training that tries to encompass most, if not all, of these goals. Remember, time is a limited resource, and the body takes a pounding for everything we do wrong in this sport. So the goals exercise is good to put a reality check on things as far as planning goes.

Compared to 2019 goals visualization, last year’s was not too dissimilar. In that one, there was a higher density of words , probably from the higher number of responses obtained from our runners. And in retrospective, I’m not sure if everyone could achieve what they set out to do.

For example, one runner talked about wanting to achieve a sub 4 hour marathon at Paris. I don’t think they ever ended up buying tickets to France, however they did end up running a half marathon somewhere else in Europe! Goals can and do change. Is that a failure? Only you decide.

In a distraction filled world, where mind and aspirations are like a boat tossed on the strong seas of passion, goals can keep you honest and your compass pointing in the right direction. Let’s hope for a great but focused season ahead!

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