THE OLD WAY You trained to beat your peers – and you knew most of them.
THE NEW WAY You might train to beat your peers (in real life or on Strava), to set a PB or simply to cross a finish line feeling strong enough to take an Instagram-worthy selfie (though what’s considered ‘worthy’ in the immediate aftermath of a hard race is a somewhat flexible concept).
THE BEST WAY Ideally, the most important goals you set should not depend on variables you can’t control, says Dr Cindra Kamphoff, director of the Center for Sport and Performance Psychology in Minnesota, US. There are three types of goals: performance goals are related to time (eg ‘I’d like to finish this 5K in under 30 minutes’ or ‘I’d like to finish this marathon before the organisers close the course, pack up and go home’). Process goals are related to how you go about achieving your performance goals – running the second half of the race faster than the first, for example. And outcome goals, such as winning your age group or placing in the top 50, depend on how both you and others perform.
Kamphoff points out that while top performers set all three types of goals, everyday runners don’t need to. Process goals are most important because you can achieve them regardless of race-day conditions. Then, if you’d like to set performance goals, ensure you have a range – including the goal to simply finish – so that variables such as heat or wind don’t ruin your race.