Going public with my goals

I go through varied phases in running where sometimes I need a racing goal and sometimes I don’t. I’ve just come out of a long phase of running with no specific racing goal in mind. As often happens, I just got the “racing bug” again and want to see how fast I really can go if I train with one goal race in mind. So that is what I am doing, and I’m going to do something differently this time: I’m giving myself a goal-time and I’m going to tell people what it is.

For some reason, I haven’t often done this. It is hard to state a goal – to yourself or publicly. It makes it real, and if it’s a hard goal, that can make it stressful. I could just train, and then show up at the start line and say “well, I’ll just see what happens”. In fact I’ve done this a lot. However, this gives my training a bit of a lack of specific purpose, not to mention, it’s hard to know when I should be happy with a race result and when I shouldn’t. For example, I came across a typical log entry from my training log from 2000:

"race - Docks 5km - 17:48 -okay"

“race – Docks 5km – 17:48 -okay”

Was I happy with that result? It’s hard to tell from my entry and I have no idea what I was aiming for.

Here’s one from 2002:

"Scotiabank 1/2 Mar 1:22 - okay - not feeling great"

“Scotiabank 1/2 Mar 1:22 – okay – not feeling great”

Again, I had no goal stated, so I had no idea whether to be satisfied with the result or not.

Fast-forward thirteen years, and the wiser me knows that whether it is in running, my career, my personal life or simply accomplishing daily tasks, I am way more likely to succeed if I have a goal, write it down, and tell it to others.

There are a few reasons for this:

1. Knowing your goal helps you to direct your energy. It is possible to work extremely hard, but if it’s not moving you towards your goal it could be effort wasted.
2. Telling it to others gives people in your life the opportunity to help you towards your goals, or remove obstacles which might stand in your way. If friends and family know and support your running goals, they’re more likely to say “I’ll watch the kids while you get your run in” than “come on, stay and have another beer”.
3. Once your goal is written down, you can’t constantly modify it on the fly or push it to an undefined time in the future. Yes, it brings on a bit of stress and nervous butterflies, but that’s how you improve.
4. You will know when you’ve achieved it. If you have, you can celebrate along with everyone who supported you along the way, and start looking forward to new challenges.

Now the toughest part: potential failure. What if you don’t reach your goal? And everyone knows? I think this is what has held me back from being specific about my goals in the past: fear of failure. It is always a possibility. I think the best thing you can take from failure is to actually recognize that you didn’t reach your goal so that you can re-evaluate and refine either your process (ie. add more speed-work) or your goal itself (ie. time to look at masters’ times rather than PB’s when you were 20!)

The bottom line: if you’re a results-oriented person, having a specific goal, committing to it by sharing it with others and working towards it is a process which will lead you to improve – whether you attain it every time or not.

So here we go:

My goal race is the Scotiabank Toronto Waterfront Half-Marathon. My goal time is 1:21.

Wish me luck!

Sharing my addiction

I love running. I know, it sounds so nerdy and cliche, but I really, really do. And like most things that I love, I want to share it with everyone who I care about. Actually, I even like sharing it with absolute strangers. However, I am aware that what works for me does not necessarily work for everyone, and that it can be annoying to have someone preaching to you all the time that you just HAVE to try something. So I wait for my moments.

About ten years ago, a perfect moment presented itself with my mother who was then in her early sixties. Although my mother is genetically athletic (and I believe has a lot of potential as a runner), running for the sake of running had never been her thing. She did sports “for fun”. In fact, this was one of her main sports throughout her university years:


(not an actual picture of my mother, but a picture of what she actually did)

My theory is that my mother never thought running sounded challenging enough. If it didn’t involve adrenaline and wasn’t a bit crazy, she wasn’t into it. Oh, and she had also been a pack-a-day smoker for decades, although she had recently given it up.

That summer ten years ago, a group of her colleagues said they were getting together to do the Run for the Cure 5K , and not being one to turn down an invitation in the moment, my mother signed on. It then dawned on her that she would likely have to train to complete this since she had never really run before. Luckily, she knew ME, a lifetime runner who is always trying to get people to join me in my passion. So she asked me for a training program to get her through the event. Oh, and as an added bonus, she signed my father up as well – also a newbie runner in his sixties.

I was SO excited to get them running I nearly burst. I think I even screamed: “This is going to be so much FUN! FUN, FUN, FUN!” in a high-pitched voice. I may have looked like this:
I wonder if they found that annoying?

Anyway, I went on to write them both a program which got them from walking to progressively more running. My dad did well, but I got the feeling he was just taking his medicine. My mother on the other hand seemed to get more out of it. She got a renewed sense of energy and well-being. Running seemed to “fit” her. I was so excited that I’d had a hand in creating a new runner in the world.

Both of my parents ended up running the 5K in under thirty minutes. It was a very rewarding accomplishment for all of us.

Then we all got busy, I had kids, jobs got demanding, and we forgot to set new goals. Now, it’s ten years later, and I’m making the hard pitch on my mother, now in her seventies, to do the event again (I’m leaving my dad alone for now – he’s gotten into bicycling so I’ll let him do that). I brought it up softly a few weeks ago, but have been following up consistently. Her responses have gone from vague “maybe’s” to more and more positive commitments. I’ve now presented her with a program which starts in a week and a half. My final strategy is my most brilliant: I’ve enlisted both of my sisters to run the event so she can run with all three of her daughters. Now THAT is a pitch no mother could turn down. Wish us luck and fun!

Race Report – Feeling the “Aloha” in Maui

One of my favourite things to do if I can when I travel is to jump into a local road race. It’s such a great way to experience being part of the local community as opposed to viewing it from the outside as a regular tourist. I had this opportunity recently in Maui, Hawaii. I was there with my family on vacation, so I randomly looked up local races. It turned out there was a 5 km not far from where we were staying. The race was the 2nd Annual Kraig Vickers Honor Run. That’s all I needed to know. I’d work out the details of registering, getting there, getting my family there, fitting it into my formal training schedule later. I was going to do this race.

As the race day approached, I started to look more closely at the details. It took place at 7:30 a.m. I had missed the preregistration so I would have to register on the day. Registration started at 6:00 a.m. That was sounding pretty early to get my four-year old and six year-old there happily with my husband. I also noticed that the race day fell on my prescribed workout day of “fartlek long run up to 20 km”. Then my mind started turning … YES! The perfect solution: I would run the 9 km to the start and my husband could join an hour and a half later with the kids.

I jogged slowly over at 5:30 a.m. enjoying the sunrise. I got there in plenty of time to register and hang out and soak in the atmosphere. Kraig Vickers had been a highly decorated Naval Special Warfare Operator whose helicopter had been shot down over Afghanistan. His friends and family were all at the event with his father giving an opening prayer which made it extremely emotional. Then the taiko drummers started playing and I got serious goosebumps. If you’ve ever seen and heard a taiko drumming performance you know it’s a very powerful experience.


Pretty soon it was time to line up at the start. I love 5 km’s in the U.S. because they always have them counted in miles as well and three sounds so easy. Just three little miles. Well, as usual, time and distance are relative based on how much you’re hurting. Luckily I knew my family was waiting at the halfway point, so I put on a happy face at mile 1.5.


The last mile felt tough because my brain always thinks that a mile and a kilometer are not that different and then it takes so much longer to run a final mile than a final kilometer! I finally reached the finish line in a time of 18:41 and was the first woman. This event had a lot of what they call “Aloha spirit” meaning basically kindness and generosity. Although most people seemed to know each other, they were very friendly and welcoming to outsiders. They made me feel part of the community which is such a welcome feeling when you’re traveling.


The race bibs all had food tickets on them which were supplied by local services. They had hot dogs, fruit, shaved ice and ice cream.


One runner upon seeing that I had two kids with me, immediately gave me his shaved ice and ice cream tickets. That is called “Aloha”.


Feeling the Aloha post-race

The race was followed by a day spent surfing and swimming at the beach and was capped off with a 5 km jog at sunset (I had to get in my 20 km for the day – not sure if that’s exactly what my coach meant by “20km fartlek”).

So remember to share the spirit, and when you see strangers at your local races, be sure to spread the “Aloha”!

Returning to a favourite run

I recently traveled back to Maui – a special place for my husband and me as we’ve visited and lived there for various lengths of time starting back in 1999. My trips to Maui have occurred during various life stages – from aimless, wandering free spirit to responsible business person, wife and mom. However, one thing has remained constant throughout the years, and that is the 7 mile loop that I run when I’m there.

When I head out on that loop it is always like re-visiting my past with all of the memories of the runs I’ve done there over the years. Regardless of which way you run it, it’s about a 3 mile ascent with a 3 mile descent and one mile of rolling hills. The scenery varies constantly throughout the run, but the fascinating part is that none of it has changed one bit in fourteen years.

I start out by running a short stretch along the highway overlooking the surf before heading up a quiet road lined with trees.


This the most shaded part of the run. Although it’s uphill, it’s a nice way to ease into it. The wind is often at my back going up here as well.

Then I pass the old abandoned high school.


This marks the end of the shade and the paved road but that’s ok as it also signifies that I’m about two-thirds of the way to the mid-point. I can keep pushing as the the mid-point marks the beginning of a long downhill section.

As I run out of the cover of the trees onto a dirt road through the cane fields I now have a great view of the ocean.


I can recall times when I would stop to check the swell here to give an accurate report to my husband and his friends for the surf that day.

Then I make it to the end of the dirt road and the top of my climb and turn to let my legs cruise for three miles into town.

As I relax and run downhill, I’m reminded of my earlier visits here when I was in my early twenties. I now imagine myself running beside my younger self from then and try to compete against her. I wonder if I’m also racing myself from 10 years in the future doing the same loop?

I know I’m getting close to the bottom when I reach the sign for the town limits.


Signs of human activity become more abundant as I pass chickens and cats wandering through the streets.

Then I start to smell the familiar smells of breakfast cooking and I know I’m almost in the heart of the town.


It only takes about a minute to run through the town. Then it’s the final hilly mile home – not my favourite part, I’ll admit, but it’s only a mile.

THEN, my favourite part: the jump in the tide pool to relax and cool my legs.

It’s hard to top this run. I can and do run the exact same route every day without boredom. And when I return, whenever that may be, I’ll do it all again.