I woke up Sunday morning ready to run my best half-marathon time yet. I’d put in the work, I’d gauged my fitness, and had settled on a realistic set of goals that would challenge me to set a personal best in the McAllen Marathon.
Mother Nature had different plans.
As a runner, humidity is the biggest factor to consider when you’re assessing the weather. When you run, your body temperature rises, and the body’s natural defense is to produce sweat droplets which carry heat to the surface of your body where it can evaporate. Humidity keeps sweat from evaporating, thus keeping your core temperature high.
When I saw the humidity level before the race, I knew right away I had to rethink my goals. My process is: Observation, Decision, Action, Adjustment.
I observed the situation to come up with a plan. An hour before race time, it was 77 degrees and 72% humidity. This meant it was going to feel more like 97 degrees after running a mile. The wind was coming from the southeast so I knew the tailwind wouldn’t help cool me down. It wasn’t until the turn at mile four that I would have relief.
I decided to back off my goal pace by 30 seconds per mile and hydrate at the water stations. My thought process on hydration is: if you ask yourself “should I stop for water”, you need water.
After observing the situation and deciding on a new set of goals, I take action. I break a half-marathon into three sections: The first three miles, miles 4-10, and 10 to finish. Each segment of the race has its own set of goals, and I adjust on the fly. In a half-marathon, I feel 10 miles is where the training makes a difference. People either break at mile 10 or they are prepared for it and pick up the pace.
It was close to the 11-mile mark in the race when a strong gust of freezing, cold air from the north hit me like a blessing from God. Just as quick as the frigid wind hit me, I knew I needed to reassess my goals once again. I made the decision to pick up the pace, knowing my body temperature would drop. Realizing I only had two miles left to make up as much time as I could, I had to make my move. I had trained to finish the last mile strong, so I knew I would have a kick.
To me, running is a metaphor for life. I often go through this same four-step process with my work and personal goals because it keeps me sharp. Sometimes I adjust them to be more challenging, and sometimes I back off to make them realistic and achievable, given the circumstances.
I went to bed Sunday night completely satisfied with my effort in the McAllen Marathon. I might not have run a personal best, but by readjusting my goals I was able to give maximum effort and leave it all on the course. Having a goal-oriented mindset, and realizing goals are moving targets, helps me achieve results in everything I do. Sometimes, the most challenging physical tasks are really more mental than anything.