Saturday, March 01, 2008

Are we obsessed with targets?

Are we, the running community, obsessed with targets? Surely not! But....

My mileage wasn't great in January - new job, rubbish weather, various other excuses - so at the start of February I decided I would like to run 200 miles in the month. The month started off very well: I managed to get quite a lot of running done in the first 3 weeks, including a couple of long WHW runs, so it looked as though 200 miles would be no problem at all. Last week's National XC champs reduced my mileage a bit, but hey, it was a good quality workout and well worth doing, so it shouldn't have given me any problems.

Anyway, by last Sunday I had run 180 miles. There were still 5 days to go. Reaching 200 miles should have been "shootie-in", to use the old Scottish expression. However, there were a few potential pitfalls on the horizon. Wednesday - a board meeting; likely to last all day. I'm always tired after these board meetings and don't particularly feel like going out for a run. Thursday - a dinner at night at Celtic Park, and a lunchtime meeting. Getting a run in might be tricky. Friday - an awards lunch. I would have liked to be able to have a few glasses of wine, wind down towards the weekend, and not have to worry about running at all.

Well, the week started badly and I didn't run at all on Monday. I can't really remember why- think I had a lunchtime meeting and at night I was working until late, so I just ran out of time. 20 more miles were still required. Tuesday was better - despite the 70 mile per hour winds I forced myself out a run after work, up and round Arthur's Seat. At one stage I had to look at the wall to make sure I was actually moving forward, so strong was the wind. Despite that I did 10 miles, so only 10 to go. Wednesday - as predicted, too tired after the board meeting. No run. Mileage - 0; 10 still needed. On Thursday I only had three quarters of an hour to do anything at lunchtime, but forced myself out for a 3 mile blast round the Meadows. Although I would have prefrred to do more, I quite enjoyed it, and felt it was a hard and worthwhile session (miles 2 and 3 around 6.30 pace, if anyone is interested). But still 7 miles to go, and only a day to do it. My plans for the relaxed lunch were not looking good.

And so to Friday. I went to the Finance Director of the Year Awards Lunch, but nursed a single glass of wine for the entire meal. Admirable self control, if I may say so. In case anyone is wondering, I didn't win the FD of the Year award, but in my defence I should point out I am no longer a Finance Director, and haven't been one since November. I wouldn't have wanted the publicity anyway. But I digress. After work, while others were heading out to Edinburgh's pubs, clubs and restaurants, I stuck on my running stuff, headed through Bruntsfield, Morningside, past the Kings Building at Edinburgh Uni, back down through the Grange, round the Meadows, and back to the office. No prizes for guessing the mileage - 7. So I reached my target of 200.

In many ways I think this is quite sad. Would it really have made any difference if I had only done 193, or even 199? When I got home last night I was greatly amused to read Tim's blog and find an article called 'Stupid Bl*&dy Targets'. It's at Have a read - it gives details of Tim's attempts to reach his 200 mile target in February. It shows that I'm not alone in setting targets, and there are probably more target obsessed nutters out there than we care to admit.

I should finish by mentioning my run today, as it was superb. I did a 9 mile loop which starts and finishes at the house, but incorporates a good number of the local hills, including a 2 mile climb to the finish. Despite my usual steady start, I did the full run in under 7 minute mile pace, and felt really good. It was the first time this year I have run in shorts, apart from races. Am I coming in to a bit of form, just in time for next week's Inverness half marathon?


Davie Bell said...

Hi Ian,
Yes there are more mileage obsessed runners out there than you think,what about Mark Hamilton going out and doing six miles during the week after the WHW race so he could claim to have run over 100 miles in the one week.Have a good run at Inverness.

Brian Mc said...

I set targets then often have to ignore them as life intervenes i.e. our baby daughter. As long as I improve (in terms of time and/or how I feel during runs) I'm not too bothered.

Targets are a means to an end, not the end themselves. Means and ends can easily get confused. :-)