It seems like we are now into setting S.M.A.R.T running goals for 2020 – who would have thought it?

This time a year ago we were both gearing up for what turned out to be one of the best races of our running careers to date. Our performances at the Phoenix Mesa marathon earned Cam a 15 minute PB and a much sought-after Boston Qualifier. Jacquie earned an age category win, an age grading of 85.71% and a time just 30 seconds off her all time PB. These results came after a storming start to the year with PB’s for Cam at shorter distances and some good performances from Jacquie too. 

Reflecting on this time last year has caused us to realise how important it is to have some clear goals to structure our training (and other running) around. Having S.M.A.R.T running goals definitely led to a more successful and therefore fulfilling 2019. 

Goals do not have to be about going faster. There would be little chance of success for Jacquie at 67 yrs of age and after 10 years of running if that were so. But they do need to be SMART. 

What are S.M.A.R.T goals

Most readers will be familiar with this acronym referring to Specific, Measurable, Achievable, Relevant and Time based goals.

A specific goal helps to focus on the task. Some sort of ‘measure’ is needed to judge success and it goes without saying that the goal needs to be a challenge but one that is realistic. You don’t want to set yourself up for failure.

Relevance is particularly important – the goal needs to suit the individual and take into account where you are at in your life and running. Cam is obviously at a stage in her running career where she can still expect to get faster times, but needs to fit training around full time work. Jacquie is not expecting many PB’s and has to be mindful of an ongoing knee injury. Our goals are likely to be different.

And finally goals need to have a time scale – “I will do this by……” – again to help focus and motivation.

So we’ve spent some time thinking about this and, better late than never, here are are our S.M.A.R.T running goals for 2020

Ca’s S.M.A.R.T. running goals for 2020 – barriers to overcome and unfinished business

I have four major goals for the year:

A Sub 20 5k  

It has been no secret in the past that 5k is the distance I have struggled with the most. I have never regarded myself a ‘speed merchant’ and it is true that my 5k times have lagged behind the others. This maybe partly due to rarely attempting any tempo work. In turn I think is due to the psychological barrier I have with this distance.

In 2020 I am determined to break that barrier, so whilst on the surface this goal appears to be speed-related it is as much about trying to change a mind set.

I recently set a new parkrun PB of 20:52. Relative to this and my times at other distances, 20 minutes seems a good point to work towards.  Also if I can run it at a parkrun it would mean I could join the parkrun women’s sub-20 list – an added incentive.

What I plan to do

Run parkrun hard, maybe seek out a few of the quicker courses if possible but as a general rule go flat out at any that I attend. Push a few shorter quicker runs in training and experiment with intervals and track. Enter more 5k races and gradually try to chip away at the time throughout the year.

More short races – Run Through are our local go-to events

A Sub 9hr Comrades

As many of you will know, different Comrades medals are awarded based on finish time. The Bill Rowan medal is awarded for sub 9 hours.

Having had two great years at Comrades in 2018/2019 but not breaking 9 hours  (9:06 and 9: 07 ), this year I am working on the ‘third time lucky’ theory. Although I do have enough experience of this race now to know that luck alone won’t be enough!  A Bill Rowan has to be a goal for this year.

What I plan to do

I hope that working to improve my speed at shorter distance will in turn also support my quest to find seven minutes for the 2020 down run. But alongside that I really need to put more hill work into my training (last year this always almost non-existent).

I have set myself a goal to climb 2000ft within my training each month (a real challenge in west London). To this end I have joined the monthly Strava climb challenge. Hopefully this will let me to track my progress. 

To achieve this I plan to do more of my longer runs at pace in Richmond Park.  Although the RP hills hardly compare to those in Comrades, in the past I have been known to struggle with some of these so to run them comfortably would be progress. 

In the quest for hills we enjoyed an early year hill session on Box Hill and hope to get a few more of those in before June. 

I am also looking forward to heading to Cape Town in April to run Two Oceans again, which of course is part of many South Africans’ Comrades prep! And it will add 3500 ft to my training elevation.

Cam leading the way up Box Hill – but not for long!

A Championship start at the London marathon

(Sub 1.30 half / sub 3:15 marathon)

Having achieved my Boston Qualifier so early in the year in 2019 I was tempted to set a new goal of a champs start at London.  I must admit to being attracted by the two chips and two numbers – as well as the kudos of standing at the front of 40,000 runners setting out on their journey around my city. 

Last year this was a mistake. I never really focused properly on training after Comrades and although still running good times left myself feeling that I had failed. It was too soon. I should have learnt from my BQ that just wanting something is not enough without the training. This year I hope will be different.

What I plan to do

Realistically I am thinking of aiming for sub 3:15 in Chicago – after our ultra-season is over. Last year’s marathon training worked well.  I need to be comfortable running 4:30/4:40 in training over longer distances – maybe 4:45/4:50 on Richmond Park’s perimeter – prime training ground. Fast parkruns will help.

The look of a champion!

Complete the World Marathon Majors series

The Boston qualifier seemed like a goal that was pretty long standing – it was! But finally in Feb of 2019 I ran 3.18.13 in Phoenix to secure myself a place on the start line this year. It will be my final event of the six world majors challenge! I am looking forward to sharing the race and celebrations with my father ‘the non-runner’ who has also to date completed 5 of the 6 World Majors!

What I plan to do

Fully embrace what I have been told is a magical experience on race weekend. I will make sure I head straight for the official merchandise at the expo to purchase my long-sought-after Boston Marathon jacket. We will also book a pre-race dinner spot in plenty of time as I hear the city is literally taken over by the runners for the weekend. 

A Six Star Finisher -The Abbott’s World Majors Medal

Jacquie’s S.M.A.R.T running goals for 2020 – goals for an older runner!

I find it much more difficult to think of specific goals than general aims. There is still so much I would like to do in relation to running, but wanting to complete a particular race does not feel like a smart goal. In practice there is no reason why it shouldn’t be – it’s just so hard to get away from the time issue. This is what I have come up with:

Maintain 80% age grading across all distances.

Four goals in one.

Age grading is the great leveller in this running business. Check out WMA to find out more about it. But basically it calculates time run as a percentage of the world record for that age. Very roughly 100% is world record pace, 90% international standard, 80% national standard and 70% local/county standard.

The times I will need to run to gain 80% age grading are 5k 25:20, 10k 53:40, half 1:56 and Marathon 4:04. These are for road races. parkrun uses a slightly different calculation which means that my run on 18th January at Richmond Park in 26:16 got me an age grading of 80.77%.

Age grading is a way of still having time-associated goals without needing to compare my times with my PBs from younger days.

What I plan to do

Target individual events during the year to race, and complete the appropriate training for each to obtain the time required. The marathon target race will almost certainly be Chicago in October when, hopefully having completed and recovered from Comrades, my endurance should be good. I hope to achieve my goals at the shorter distances earlier in the year. The most difficult challenge for me will be the 5K road race – track work and intervals will be needed.

 Complete my sixth Comrades Marathon

This is part of a longer term goal to get my Comrades Green Number ie. to complete 10 races and gain a permanent number which retires with you.

The Comrades Marathon is a huge challenge for anyone. As I get older it becomes much more so. I was fortunate enough to win my age category (Grand Master) in 2014. This is the last category – 60+. Last year there were 25,000 entries for the race (this year 27,500) and the female Grand Master category was well represented in the start list, but there is a relatively high DNS and DNF in this group. In recent years around 40-45 women 60+ have completed the race.

Last year was my fifth Comrades and I was disappointed with my result – being an hour slower than any previous runs. However looking through the results in more detail I found that only one runner older than me finished ahead of me. Comrades has a strict 12 hour cut off. There were in fact only six other female runners my age or older who finished within this time. The Green Number is looking a little less likely but I will keep trying for now.

So goals need to be realistic. My marathon qualifying time suggests that a bronze medal time of 10-11 hours should be possible. My review of the results suggests that I have to be pleased with a finish whatever the time.

What I plan to do

More strength work on my legs to cope with the gruelling elevation drop in the second half of the race, more hill work to do better on the hills in first part. I like Cam’s idea of the Strava hill challenge. Also it is important to sort out my nutrition as this has been a huge problem in the last two years. It might be helpful to use the drop bag services that are available at a small cost to ensure a supply of food I can eat.

Down hill training required

Events for 2020

Apart from these goals we have a very busy year planned. We have marathons in Florida, Boston, Chicago and New York. At Easter we will travel to Cape Town to try once again to complete the beautiful Two Oceans ultra marathon and of course we will be in Durban in June for Comrades.

We are pacing marathons in Limassol, Liverpool and Milton Keynes and exploring a new city when we fly to run in Riga.

Closer to home we have our good-for-age places in London and finish the year again in the lovely city of Valencia. There are also a few 5k, 10k and half marathons to be run and I’m sure we’ll add a few more adventures along the way. Maybe 2020 is the year for a bit more trail running or a multi-day event. There’s a whole world of running out there.