Sunday, January 8, 2012

Chi Running, Part 4: How to achieve a goal without setting one

This weekend I spent a lot of time pondering my big running goal for 2012 and whether it's possible to pursue it while still honouring my New Year's resolutions.

The goal is to run my first ultramarathon - a 50km event in Niagara in June - as another way of marking my 50th birthday.

The trouble is that the couple of training programs I managed to find on-line both involve a lot more training than I've ever done in preparation for a marathon. That might not be a problem any other year but, given all Husband and I have planned for 2012, the idea of spending four or five months in heavy duty training mode is daunting to say the least.  At the peak of training, I'd be running 86kms per week, including two long runs totalling 59kms on weekends.

Fortunately, I read two things today that provided a little guidance on how I might approach the project.

The first was a post written by Leo Babauta on his blog "Zen Habits", in which he argues that the best goal is no goal. In Babauta's view, it's better not to have goals but instead to take each day as it comes and make a point of doing the things you're most passionate about. I don't think he means you shouldn't have aspirations, dreams, or things you want to accomplish, or that you shouldn't strategize about how best to achieve them - only that you shouldn't be so committed to achieving them that you miss opportunities to do other things you're more passionate about and make yourself miserable in the process.

The second helpful thing I read was the first few chapters of Danny Dreyer's, Chi Running. (I've read the book before but decided it was time to reread it if I was going to get serious about training for an ultra.) Like Babauta, Dreyer argues that's it's important not to get so caught up in your running goals that you don't pay attention to what's happening in the present moment. Essentially, Dreyer's advice is to focus on technique and listen carefully to your body - letting it tell you when it's ready to run longer and faster.  Pushing it beyond where it's ready to go, he says, will only lead to injury and disappointment.

Right. So here's the plan. I'm not going to set "running an ultra" as a "goal" for this year. Instead, I'm going to think of it as an "aspiration".  Yes - I'll map out a training plan, and - yes - I'll try to follow it. But I won't do so slavishly. Instead, I'll focus on improving my running technique and treat every run as an opportunity to listen my body. I'll also pay close attention to the impacts training is having on other parts of my life and on the people I care about. If all goes well, I'll be ready to run 50kms in June. If not, so be it. 

It would be wonderful to cross "running an ultra" off my bucket list but it's more important to honour my new year's resolutions to "love more" and take better care of myself. Hopefully, there will be other opportunities to run an ultra if I don't manage it this year.

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