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. Well, one led to four, and last month I ran a huge PR of 3:31:26, taking almost 20 minutes off my previous best time.
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 the 26.2-mile distance?
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 beyond the marathon. Any ideas?
The possibilities are endless! But first off, congratulations on your newfound love for running and all that you have achieved in the sport in such a short time. A near 20-minute PR is no joke!
So what’s next? First, temporarily forget about tackling another race right away and enjoy this HUGE accomplishment for a little bit if you haven’t already—you’ve earned it! Then start thinking about your goals for the second half of 2014 and leading into next year. Here are two suggestions to get you going in the right direction:
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 mandatory next step. You already know you can finish 26.2 miles—and rather quickly at that—so why not try to run it even faster? While your recent PR is super exciting and something to be really proud of, don’t be satisfied with it. I have no idea what your current training program looks like, but evaluate it and identify some areas for improvement (we all have them) and see if you can take a few more minutes off your time. Try bumping up your weekly mileage and/or start sprinkling some different types of intensity into your workouts in the form of faster speed workouts or longer tempo runs. Not only will introducing some new variety into your training program help improve your speed and promote faster fitness gains, it will also keep your workouts from getting boring.
RELATED: Setting Realistic Running Goals
Take this new challenge one step further, or back rather, and train seriously for shorter distances 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 Shalane Flanagan, Dathan Ritzenhein and Desiree Davila, and it will definitely work for you, too.
However, if you’re set on putting anything shorter than the marathon distance in your rearview mirror, then I suggest starting with a 50K. I ran my first one this past spring, and found the training to be slightly more challenging than preparing for a marathon, but totally manageable at the same time. Also, with the growing popularity of ultramarathons, it shouldn’t be too hard to find an event to tackle this fall or even next spring.
RELATED: How To Train For Your First 50K
Bottom line: Goals are great and will help keep you on track and accountable. Never go without a new challenge—whether it’s going faster, going longer or trying something new altogether—and I guarantee you you’ll never revert to your old ways. Keep up the great work!
Ask Mario appears monthly in Competitor magazine and weekly on Competitor.com. Have a question for Mario? Submit it here.