Recently I was speaking with some parents of young athletes. Our topic was the overall goal of youth athletics and what they want to see their children accomplish and learn from their experiences. What's the end game?
I will not get into the entire discussion on the topic and my opinions youth athletics as that is a different topic for another time. However, it is a good question we should ask ourselves and revisit from time to time as we train and take on these challenges we have set out to conquer. Below are two of the many reasons we should do this.
The first is that it is important to have a reminder of why we have set out on this journey, why have we chosen the road we we are on. We all face different challenges and obstacles and, given enough of them, along with the fatigue that comes with training, it will wear anyone down over time, just as the smallest trickle of water, over time, will crack the largest rock. There will be times almost all athletes question why they have decided to try and do a race. This is is the same for life and what we take on outside of racing. Reflecting on why the first step was taken in the first place will help guide us through the tough times and serve as guide to help us keep pushing forward, to stay the course.
All our goals are different. Some of use race to beat a time, some race to try and get a certain place, others race to finish. And all of these reason are admirable and its important to understand that not one of them is more important then the other. Never think or let anyone tell you that because your goal has nothing do to winning it carries less value. It is important to you, and that is all that matters.
In addition to these, ask yourself what other reasons are you out there? If your only reason is to have a certain place or a time, then, with factors out of your control, you end up not reaching your goal, the day will feel will feel empty., and you will take no joy from it. A good example is Boston this year. With running into 20+mph winds, temps at 40 degrees, and rain, it is not an ideal day to achieve a goal time. If I had wanted to only hit a certain time, I would have been very unhappy. But I also wanted to walk away feeling like I went after the race and had a solid effort. In the end, I did and it that is something I can hang my hat on. So find more then one reason. Perhaps it's to stay healthy and active. Maybe its the challenge of a tough course. Maybe you want to set a positive example for your children, nieces, or nephews.
If you want to explore this further, I encourage you to read "Magical Running" by Bobby McGee as he speaks about targets vs goals and how you can find more meaning in your racing. Yes, it does have the title running in it, but it can be applied to any sport.
The second is to have an idea of what is next. You may not know exactly what you want to do, but having an idea will help you transition after your goal race. Some athletes set out to run a marathon or a do an iron distance triathlon. Then, after a lot of work, time (could be years) and focus the goal is accomplished and they are now left without an idea of what they should do to fill their time. No real thought was put into what comes next.
Did you know many Olympic athletes will deal with depression after their careers are done. To compete at that level and to accomplish what they do, they put the blinders on and push forward and do whatever it takes. Once they are done, there is now a lot of time that is hard to fill and to fill it with the passion and drive they pursed in their careers. Trying to figure out what you want to do next is hard when you just want to focus on your current goal, but having at least an idea will help the transition. It does not have to be a race, it could be you want to focus more on a hobby, write a book, maybe go back to school, or simple have the time to coach your child's soccer team. Having an idea of what you want to do next will allow you to be be able to put your time, energy, and efforts into the new challenge and allow you to have the fulfillment and satisfaction out of life that you deserve.