What Do You Do When You Miss Your Goal?

Hi, everyone! We got back from St. Louis yesterday and were just both so tired, so I’ll be posting the full recap of the Go! St. Louis Half Marathon tomorrow (and hopefully the race photos will be up by then also!). Meanwhile, I want to spend this brief post focusing on the question that every runner will encounter at some point: what do you do when you miss your goal?

Every runner at some point misses their goal, even elite runners. Shalane Flanagan missed her goal of running a 2:19 marathon at the Berlin Marathon last fall, even though she set a personal best of 2:21:14. 

While I will never be anywhere near the caliber of an amazing athlete like Shalane Flanagan, my scenario at the Go! St. Louis Half Marathon was comparable; the joy of setting a PR mingled with the disappointment of missing a goal. 

I love this quote. Image courtesy of Runner's World.
I love this quote. Image courtesy of Runner’s World.

First and foremost, you can’t let a missed goal derail you from your recovery. Whether you hit your goal time or not, you still need to recover from the hard effort of the race. Once you cross the finish line, make sure you get water, take in some easy-to-digest carbs like chocolate milk or fruit, and keep walking to stretch out your legs. 

Recovery extends beyond the immediate moments after a race. Don’t sign up for a race the next weekend or immediately start a new training plan; take a few days off and devote a couple weeks to easy running. Any efforts to try to push yourself too hard again too soon will only lead to burnout and further derailment from your goals later down the road. Yes, this takes patience, but patience is key to the success of any goal, especially in running. 

After missing your goal, take some time to honestly assess what caused you to miss it. Were conditions less than ideal? Did GI distress or muscles cramps derail you? Was the course harder than you anticipated, were you less than ideally trained, or did you practice less than perfect pacing? Honestly assessing your race will help you prevent making these mistakes again in the future when you attempt to achiever your goals. Use this as an opportunity to make changes to your training, such as adding more speedwork, more hills, or more training at race pace.

Don’t beat yourself up about missing your goal. Focus on what you did achieve instead of what you didn’t achieve. Finishing a race, whether a 5K or a marathon, is a big accomplishment; very few people start the race, and the fact that you kept going when the race got tough is also laudable. If you ran a new PR, celebrate that rather than stressing over the time you wanted to run. 

And finally, don’t let a missed goal discourage you from aiming high. I always believe it is better to reach for the stars and miss a couple times than to never try at all. It’s an old adage, but if at first you don’t succeed, try and try again. After all, it’s that relentless hunger for success and fierce determination that keeps us lacing up our shoes and training day after day. 

Question of the Day:
Have you ever missed a big goal? How did you deal with it?

Sign Up for My Newsletter for More Running Tips

* indicates required

Share this post

6 Responses

  1. Recovery regardless of the result was one of the first things that I said in my post marathon post–you have to honor the effort! And you still have to celebrate what you did and see it as moving in the right direction–you still accomplished progress, after all!

  2. This has happened to me before and it’s an odd mix of emotions. I was talking to someone about this recently and she talked about making effort based goals instead of time specific goals to avoid this scenario – running a great race, maybe PR-ing, but missing a specific time.

  3. I will be running my 24th marathon and hopefully will get my bq soon. I m three minutes away. I visualize that moment every time I need a reminder why I get up every morning at 5am. I enjoy the journey running takes me on and wouldn’t trade what I ve learned for anything!

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *