Set realistic goals


By Fred Deckert


We’ve all had it drummed into our heads from childhood that you must aim high to succeed. That’s a hard philosophy to argue against, but there comes a point when you need to question the saying. Especially in your running life you have to realize that aiming at an unrealistically high objective can be counterproductive. This happens in several ways. After about age 30, it’s difficult to physically maintain your performance, and brooding about losing “speed” often causes otherwise excellent runners to drop any competitive activity. That’s not bad in itself, but the mindset it can produce, ie. “I’m going downhill, what’s the point of fighting it,” is in my opinion a defeatist attitude and should be discouraged.

Even for the runner that starts later in life, setting a goal that’s far beyond their capabilities causes frustration and often the canceling of an otherwise good and satisfying activity. It’s good to set reasonably high goals, and if they are achieved, even higher ones, but for 99% of us something like breaking a 4 minute mile is in the realm of fantasy. We also need to recognize that simply setting those goals is only the beginning; you must dedicate the required time and resources to realize them. Again, real life demands that other activities take their share of our time.

For those of us who realize that every year we run slower and perhaps shorter than the previous one, we have to make the adjustment too. Perhaps the idea of running a yearly PR is useful. Luckily for the runner, age groups are another useful way of adjusting our decreasing abilities by comparing ourselves to our peers. If, with all these adjustments and rationalizations, we still can’t satisfy our ambitions, how about taking some satisfaction in the realization that with all our perceived difficulties, we still are able to partake in healthy exercise and competitive activity. It’s a good time of the year to realize that we are fortunate to be able to do so.

If this discussion seems to be mainly concerned with competitive runners, that’s because we need to realize that most of life’s activities are competitive to some degree. Sometimes that competition is against ourselves, more often it’s against or compared to others. That’s not bad; even in losing we ought to be proud that we made the effort and did our best. Maybe next week it will be our turn.

The Pepper Foundation’s Senior Run/Walk attempts to draw more seniors into healthful running and walking activities. You can view these active seniors or better yet join them at Dorothy Oven Park on Dec. 15.