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Ask The Experts: Any Ideas For A New Goal After Setting A Marathon PR?

  • By Mario Fraioli
  • Published Apr. 22, 2011
  • Updated Apr. 22, 2011 at 12:03 PM UTC

Q.

Hi Mario,

I started running three years ago for my health and before I knew it I fell in love with running and decided to train for and run a marathon. A little over a year ago I qualified for the Boston Marathon and am happy to report that this past Monday I crossed the finish line on Boylston Street in a new personal best!

So now that I’ve done a few marathons, I’m starting to wonder if there are any new challenges I can take on beyond 26.2 miles?

I don’t want to be tempted to revert into my lazy, unhealthy ways, so I need to keep giving myself new goals. I want to set a goal that is attainable (100-mile races are definitely out of the question) but at the same time I want to set a goal of doing something that is one step beyond the marathon. Any ideas?

Thanks!

-Cory C.

A.

Cory,

The possibilities are endless! Congratulations on your newfound love for running and all that you have achieved in the sport so far. Qualifying for Boston–and then PRing there–is no joke. Your success story is nothing short of spectacular!

So what’s next after Boston? First, temporarily forget about tackling another race right away and enjoy this HUGE  accomplishment for a little bit–you’ve earned it! Then start thinking about your goals for the rest of the year. Goal #1: stay committed to maintaining the new healthy lifestyle you’ve created for yourself. The new Cory has already done things the old Cory could only ever dream of, and will continue to do even more if he stays committed to his running ways. Goal #2: find that new challenge, that new goal to go after, and chase it down with relentless tenacity.

While the desire to push yourself past the marathon distance is tempting, it’s not a necessary next step. You already know you can finish 26.2 miles, and rather quickly at that. Before going beyond the finish line of another marathon, however, why not try to run it even faster? While your recent PR at Boston is exciting and something to be really proud of, don’t be satisfied with it. I’m not sure what your current training regime looks like, but try doing some things differently and see if you can take a few more minutes off your time. Give upping your mileage a shot and/or start sprinkling some intensity into your workouts in the form of a speed workout or tempo run once a week. Not only will introducing some variety into your training program help improve your speed and promote faster fitness gains, it will also keep your workouts from getting boring.

Take this new challenge one step further, or back rather, and train for shorter distance such as 5K, 10K or half marathon and see how fast you can go. Working on your short speed will only spur new fitness gains and improve your efficiency, which in turn will make you a better marathoner down the road. After recovering from a major marathon, many top professionals will take a marathon training cycle off and run some shorter track and road races before returning to the longer distance. Such a strategy has worked wonders for folks like Dathan Ritzenhein and Desiree Davila, and it will definitely work for you, too.

However, if you’re set on putting anything less than the marathon in your rearview mirror–without going too far past 26.2–then I suggest starting with a 50K. The 31-mile distance should be manageable enough that you won’t have to alter your current marathon training regime too much; and, with the growing popularity of ultramarathons, it shouldn’t be too hard to find an event to tackle this fall or even next spring. The key is not to do too much too soon and risk injury. Instead, focus on maintaining a consistent training schedule and gradually increasing your overall volume.

Goals are great and will help keep you on track and accountable. Never go without a new challenge and I guarantee you you’ll never revert to your old ways. Keep up the great work!

Mario

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Mario Fraioli

Mario Fraioli

Mario Fraioli is a senior editor at Competitor magazine. A cross-country All-American at Stonehill College in 2003, he now coaches the Prado Women's Racing Team in San Diego and was the men's marathon coach for Costa Rica's 2012 Olympic team. His first book, The Official Rock 'n' Roll Guide To Marathon & Half-Marathon Training (VeloPress, 2013) is available in bookstores, running shops and online.

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