What Next?

Well, my friends, I’m going through a period where I don’t really have any type of specific fitness goal. I love distance running, and have no plans of giving it up, but where should I let it take me next? I’ve been running for 3½ years, and when I began, my goal was to always keep running farther. Then, when I completed my first marathon, I realized 26.2 miles was as far as I wanted to ever run, so my goal for the next two years became running a marathon in less than four hours. Now that goal is behind me too, so what comes next?

The obvious progression would be to continue trying to run faster in order to qualify for the Boston Marathon, the Holy Grail of distance running. I would need to earn the right to run with the world’s elite runners by shaving 18 minutes off my best marathon finish: That’s a lot of time! Running in Boston would certainly be an experience unlike any other, but on the other hand it would also require much harder work and way more dedication than I have already given to this sport. I’m not sure if I want to return to obsessing about a certain time for the next couple of years like I’ve done during the last two. I may be able to do qualify for Boston, but nothing is certain. Is this how I want to spend the next few years of my life; knowing it would ultimately result in either monumental achievement or devastating disappointment?

Another choice would be to simply run a couple of marathons a year for fun. I’ve been overly serious about each marathon I’ve trained for, and it may be a nice change of pace to just enjoy the running and not overanalyze each workout. This would be the obvious route for most people, but I’ve always been a little different. I worry that without a challenge I would slowly return to a more sedentary life style. I would almost certainly continue running, but I’ve worked too hard to reach this level of fitness to allow myself to morph into a once a week runner. One way to add a specific goal to this choice would be to challenge myself to run a marathon in each of the 50 states. My primary focus could be on the travel and vacationing aspect of these marathons and the training would be secondary. Let’s see, I’ll be 50 next year, and with three marathons a year, I could complete this by the time I’m 67. This could be fun!

How about taking a year or two off from the marathon distance, and shift my focus instead to overall fitness. I could spend more time on diet and strength, but would still need to come up with some type of measureable goal to help me assess progress. Maybe attempting to set new personal records on the 5K, 10K and half marathon distances would give me sufficient motivation. A certain part of me has always believed that my body may be better suited for the half marathon distance anyway. This plan could help me build up a stronger base which would increase my chances of qualifying for Boston should I choose to pursue that goal down the road.

I could always mix in other types of exercise like biking or ultimate fighting. OK, ultimate fighting may not be the best idea as it would require me to get a few dozen tattoos and likely would result in an extended stay at the local hospital. If I purchased a decent bike I could compete in some combination run/bike races like Grand Forks own Dewey Duathalon. If I learned to swim better than using a “dog paddle” I could even enter some triathlons. Am I too old to dream of an “Iron Man” Challenge? (2.4 mile swim, 112 mile bike ride, 26.2 mile running; combined into one race) Maybe I would hurt less after an ultimate fighting event: It would certainly be over a lot quicker!

I expect to weigh these options over the next month or so before deciding which path to follow. The only thing I know for sure is I don’t like being without a focus. I need goals, plans, and structure to be happy, and this area of uncertainty is uncomfortable. Who knew that reaching my goal of a four hour marathon would cause me more problems than not reaching it. Like I said earlier; I’ve always been a little different! By the way, if you see me going anywhere near a tattoo parlor, please stop me!