Monday, August 29, 2011

Setting Your Bar

My friend asked me the other day whether it was realistic to take 20-30 minutes off of her marathon time.  I didn't have a great explanation for her at the time, just an enthusiastic, "Yes!"  I am always setting my bar pretty high, but I have the results to back it up though.  Stay with me.

Below is one of my favorite quotes ever.  It can apply to anything in life, but it is especially true for running:

The greatest danger for most of us is not that our aim is too high and we miss it, but that it is too low and we reach it. – Michelangelo

Michelangelo says it's a danger to aim too low.  Why would he use that word?  Let's use my running as an example to test this merits of this quote.

I ran my first marathon aiming just to finish.  I got a 3:45.  From there, I went on to run 3 more marathons that same year with almost every one being slower than the one before it.  It would have been easy to "lower my aim," so to speak.  Maybe you are feeling like doing that in running or some other area of your life right now.  Below are the first four marathons I ran:

Rocket City Marathon Huntsville, AL December 8, 2001 3:45:43
Mercedes Marathon Birmingham, AL February 10, 2002 3:47:36
Country Music Marathon Nashville, TN April 27, 2002 3:55:07
Atlanta Marathon Atlanta, GA November 28, 2002 3:54:50

I guess you could say I raised my bar for the next marathon.  I wanted a Boston qualifying time (BQ, or a 3:40 for my age group at that time).  I remember putting in a lot of hard miles preparing for this one with the help of my now-husband, Rick.  Rick guided my training program, and we compared many of our run times (we were a long-distance relationship).  When we ran together, he pushed me.  I remember the feeling somewhere in the last mile of knowing that I had a BQ.  I hit it out of the park with a 3:30!  Take that, first 4 marathons!   I went on to qualify 9 more times, for a total of 10 Boston qualifying marathons.  Four of these were post-babies, as my aim had never changed.  I refused to slow down simply because I was a mother, though finding time to run was much harder now. 

See my list of BQ marathons below: 

(#5) Country Music Marathon Nashville, TN April 26, 2003 3:30:11
(#6) Rock 'N' Roll Marathon San Diego, CA June 1, 2003 3:21:54 
(#7) Rock 'N' Roll Marathon Phoenix, AZ January 11, 2004 3:22:09
(#8) Blue Angel Marathon Pensacola, FL February 28, 2004 3:30:06
(#9) Flying Pig Marathon Cincinnati, OH May 2, 2004 3:28:30
(#11) Rocket City Marathon Huntsville, AL December 11, 2004 3:31:24
(#18) Rock 'N' Roll Mardi Gras Marathon New Orleans, LA February 28, 2010 3:35:57
(#19) Marshall University Huntington, West Virginia November 7, 2010 3:29:25
(#21) Bi-Lo Myrtle Beach Marathon Myrtle Beach, SC February 19, 2011 3:18:05 
(#22) Go! St. Louis Marathon St. Louis, MO April 10, 2011 3:35:43

For many of these races, it was the bar I had placed very high that forced me to reach up on my tippy toes, so to speak, to try to get over it.  None of these races was easy.  But if I had never believed in myself, where would I be?

Everyone running a fall marathon, you probably know that Boston has decided to make its standards tougher for us this year.  My qualifying time is 5 minutes faster than before.  For those of you who've never BQed, maybe you're questioning whether you have what it takes to rise to the challenge, especially with the tougher times. 

I ask you to begin with believing in yourself.  Start now thinking that you can do it.  Have that dream that seems very distant.  And, then, hit it out of the park!  Make Michelangelo (and me) very proud.


  1. I love that quote! Love it! And you are right. Thank you for an awesome reminder!

  2. I love this!!! I keep trying to figure out what a realistic goal is for me and my first marathon. Sure to just finish will be awesome but I already know I can do that I want to accomplish something that will be a stretch. I keep thinking could I qualify for Boston? My husband tells me I don't have enough time to train to get there for November but I say the heck with it I'm going for it. After all it's better that I aim too high and miss.

  3. PERFECT TIMING!! I have realized I have met the goals I set for myself on every race this year (well, except for being 24 seconds off my goal for Cotton Row). I usually set very safe goals. For the marathon I have set the bar very high for myself and I want to work hard to get there. I get very scared doing that because if I start to feel like I can't reach it, I tend to give up. I hope I can remember to keep coming back to this post to keep me motivated to continue to reach higher and higher and then get on my tip toes to reach even higher!! :D

  4. Thank you all for your comments. I am glad you also liked the quote and the sentiment behind it!!