I ran the Philadelphia half-marathon early this morning. I ran it several minutes faster than I ran it two years ago. Despite having walked a mile from my car to the start, and then a mile back, and then spending much of the rest of the day on my feet, I don’t feel that sore. Tired, yes, but not particularly banged up. I made the well-known tactical race error of running the first few miles way under my target race pace. But even though I started too fast, my last few miles weren’t much over race pace.
Which means that my target race pace was probably too slow. Indeed, I have had a sneaky suspicion during my recent training that I have not been pushing myself. I’ve kept track of minutes, not miles, so I don’t know my pace. And to be honest, I haven’t even kept track of my minutes that closely. If I wanted to start running, and racing, faster, that is probably something I could do. I could train for a very fast half-marathon. I could probably train for another full marathon and get a faster time than I did in my first.
But here’s the question: do I want to do that? Running is how I keep in shape, but the way I run is also very pleasant for me. I use that time to figure out how to frame arguments, to mull different ideas, and to enjoy being outside. I have done the drills necessary to get faster before — those 8x800m track repeats that make you want to vomit in between and after — and I can tell you that is not pleasant.
Such is the dilemma of plausible goals. I have no illusion that I will be an astronaut. While at one point many many years ago I thought I might want to go to medical school, or run for office, neither of these holds much appeal to me anymore. But running a sub 2-hour half marathon? With a lot of really, really, hard work, that might be doable. But just because something is doable doesn’t mean it should be done. Plausible goals are always harder to let go than ones that fit more in the fantasy category.
Have you ever abandoned a plausible goal? Why did you decide to do so?
Photo of Philadelphia courtesy flickr user Seth W. I was too busy running to snap any photos this morning.