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Just a few runners' goals for the New Year

Posted by: pshields on Saturday, January 08, 2005 - 10:01 AM Print article Printer-friendly page  Email to a friend

Just a few runners' goals for the New Year

Posted on Thu, Jan. 06, 2005

Donald Buraglio

Sedentary people typically make fitness resolutions in early January.

Unfortunately, by February all bets are usually off. This isn't surprising, as studies have shown that it's actually easier to kick a smoking or drug habit than it is to start and maintain a fitness program.

Runners, on the other hand, tend to be fairly goal-oriented and disciplined. With a passion for the sport (as opposed to, say, training on a StairMaster -- does anyone honestly get passionate about that?) and a solid work ethic, there's no limit to what a determined runner can do.

Sometimes, however, even experienced runners can use some suggestions. The following goals range from very basic to seemingly crazy. My point is this: the particular goal you have doesn't really matter. What's important is that you are progressing and challenging yourselves at your own level of fitness. Anything you do tomorrow that is more than you have been doing lately is wonderful. Consider these options:

Run one mile continuously

The basic unit of measurement for distance running is a perfect tangible goal for someone who is just starting a running program. Build up to this by alternating walk/run intervals, and gradually decrease the amount of time spent walking. Don't worry at first about how long the mile takes you -- save that for later (see below).

Run a sub-x minute mile

A generation ago, the mile was the most glamorous event in sports. Though its popularity has since declined, it remains the ultimate test of combined endurance and power. Unless they have been in the military or competed in track, most runners have no idea what their best mile time is. So go to a track and find out, and then try to improve enough to go under the closest round minute. (Note -- although tracks are now measured in meters, most all-weather tracks still have markings for the one-mile start and finish.)

Run a 5K

This is a great entry-level goal for two reasons: 1) The distance is significant enough (3.1 miles) to require some advance preparation, and 2) The best way to run 5K is in a race, which is like a public declaration of your new fitness activity. Local 5Ks are great places to meet fellow runners and stay motivated to keep training. Try the Together With Love 5K in Pacific Grove on Feb. 13 if you are ready or the Big Sur 5K on April 24 if you need more preparation time.

Find your best 10K time

This is the benchmark standard for the vast majority of road racers. Start running with any new group, and it may only be a matter of minutes before someone asks you your 10K time. So why not find out? Find a race to enter, and jump in. The Together With Love run also has a 10K, and Salinas Valley Memorial Hospital hosts the Heart and Sole 5K/10K in May.

Remember to race cautiously. It's very easy to get carried away and start too fast before crashing miserably after the halfway point. In many ways, the 10K is the most difficult distance running event, because (unlike a marathon) people often try to run as fast as they can, and (unlike a 5K) it's an extremely long distance to run full out.

Run a sub-50, or sub-40-minute 10K

It's human nature that once you find your best 10K time, you would want to improve it. The 10K has well-known landmark times that runners often strive many years to accomplish. A 50-minute 10K requires an average pace of 8:03 per mile, and sub-40 requires 6:27.

Break your age in a 10K

For example, if you are 43 years old, try to run a sub-43 minute 10K. The younger you are, the more impressive this feat is. Olympic-caliber runners can do it in their late 20s, top amateur runners in their early-to-mid 30s, and good recreational runners in their 40s.

Run a half marathon

Try the Big Sur Half Marathon On Monterey Bay. In addition to having the longest race title in California, it is a convenient way to test the waters of long-distance running. The distance requires fairly dedicated training, but not to the extreme degree that marathon training demands. Build up your training through our beautiful summer and autumn seasons, and be ready for race day in November.

Run a marathon

Most runners see this as the ultimate challenge. The marathon certainly has the most mystique of any distance race, and the Big Sur Marathon's siren call is always beckoning local runners. Many people (including two certain Herald staffers) attempt to run the marathon just to know the experience. Once they finish, some are content to retire, while others become addicted to the euphoric feeling this race offers. Luckily, the best marathon in North America -- the Big Sur International -- is right here in Monterey County. However, there are many excellent marathons in scenic locations and various times of year all over California.

Run a sub-3 or sub-4 hour marathon

Don't worry about how long your first marathon takes -- just pace yourself to finish and feel (relatively) good at the end. Once you have a couple under your belt, then strive for a target time. As 1-minute intervals are benchmarks for the mile, 1-hour intervals are for the marathon. Tell a runner that you're a sub-3-hour marathoner and he'll know that you're fast. Tell your training group that you want to break 4 hours, and they'll help you practice the necessary pace during your training runs. A sub-3 marathon is 6:52 a mile, sub-4 is 9:10 a mile.

Do an ultramarathon

If you've done several marathons and are looking for a more challenging endurance event, ultras may be for you. The typical distances are 50K, 50-mile, and 100-mile. Training for a 5OK (31 miles) is actually not much harder than a marathon. Most ultras are on trails and dirt roads, through scenic wilderness areas, and feature hills that are steeper and longer than any road you'll ever see.

Clearly, there is a multitude of new challenges to set for yourselves in the coming year. Choose wisely, and start training.

Monterey County Herald

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