Before each race I like to ask my running buddies what their goals are. The responses are always interesting.
Some can tell me an exact time. Others will say they hope to PR (run their personal record). Some, depending on their level of fitness and experience, or because they’re nursing an injury, will say, “I just want to finish.”
Elite runners may aim to win a race, but recreational runners like us have learned that it’s not about competing against other runners; it’s about competing with yourself. PRs mean more to us than trophies because you never know whom you’re going to be running against except for the clock. The clock is always there.
I’ve developed a race strategy that involves setting three goals: an ideal goal, a secondary goal that I’ll be happy with, and a third goal — which is always the same — finish the race without getting hurt. Midway through the race, if I realize I’m not going to hit my first target, I know I can keep pushing to reach my second, and so on...