Running Goals for the Back of the Pack

By PAM GARDINER, Wellbuddies Coaching

We learn, almost from birth, that running is about speed.  What is running without the race?  What is winning without the gold medal?  There is, however, an obvious truth: only one person can be first.  Even those who finish with silver and bronze see themselves as losing.

Those of us who are slower still strive for personal speed records.  There is, however, another obvious truth: we are all aging.  We will not get faster every time we line up.  Our finish times will eventually decline.  As more of us lace up in midlife, we are challenged to think differently.  Does getting slower mean we are finished, and the time has come to settle into that recliner for good?  I hope not!

For many of us, speed gives way to distance.  The half and full marathons have, increasingly, enhanced decadal celebrations:  40, 50, 60, 70, and beyond. Once we make peace with our pace, a half day of walking or running is rewarding.  I love the half marathon!  It is long enough to please my ego, regardless of the numbers on the clock.  Yet another distance option is the relay:  it combines fitness with friendship, and adds an element of logistical challenge to the fun.

For others, goals shift from speed to frequency.  It takes months to build toward a faster finish, and nearly as long to recover from maximum effort.  A slow and steady pace can support a 5K or 10K every weekend, a half or a full marathon several times a year.  Until recently, I trained intensely for 1-2 half marathons a year.  I now plan to average three per year at a slower pace in pursuit of a new goal (read on).

Destination running combines fitness with travel.  I recently joined an online community called Half 2 Run.  Our goal is to run half marathons in half the states.  As I plan to run in 25 states, I am looking at visits to friends and places I previously considered too far or out of the way.

Yet other goals expand our range of options, slowly shortening the list of statements that begin, “I hate to run (fill in the blank).”  Over the years, I have lived in places that were hot and cold, dry and humid, rural and urban. In adapting to change with every move, I have made friends with streets and trails, treadmills and tracks, social running and solitude.  They each have their place in my love affair with running, and I no longer have a list that begins, “I hate running….”

What about you?  What would be a motivating goal for the coming three months, six months, a year?  Step away from the speed goal for a moment, and expand your view.  You might be surprised at what you see!


Like this blog?  Chances are you’d like these posts from our running blog:  Running Buddies or  Missoula Runners Attend Prefontaine Classic.    Or, check out our Missoula Running and Walking page or Missoula Outdoor Recreation section.

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Pam retired from the US Forest Service in 2008, and trained as a wellness coach (doing business as Wellbuddies Coaching).  She also volunteers for Run Wild Missoula, co-directing the Galloway marathon training program and developing programs that encourage slower runners and walkers at the Back of the Pack.  Pam started running in her early 50’s, and ran three marathons the year she turned 55.  A decade later, she has settled on the half marathon as her preferred distance. Pam is grateful for the diverse and inclusive community of runners and walkers in Missoula. (Left: Pam with son, Johnathan)