Goals on the Horizon: A Change of Focus


The point of this blog has been to document my quest to conquer my 50 state marathon goal and ramble about my other favorite past times (yoga, triathlons, cooking, etc). I post about which states I plan to visit each year and review races. I mostly do it because I don’t want to forget the incredible experiences I’ve been fortunate enough to have. It’s purpose is also to update the family and friends that enjoy following me as I work towards this goal. Sometimes, I document training efforts and injuries so I can learn from my mistakes and help others who may find themselves sidelined with something I’ve encountered.

It’s no secret that I’m gunning for a sub-3 hour marathon one of these days, but I don’t dwell on it because I feel like eventually, it will come. For as much as it seems to rule my training lately, pace is ultimately a secondary goal for me. My primary running related goals are to be able to run healthy, train with my friends,  and to see new places. My pace goal is always to run a PR unless I’m legitimately using the race as a training run, like I did with Knoxville for Boston last March. I never really throw out my goals and paces regularly. I guess in the past, I felt like if I actually posted about it and didn’t achieve it, I’d be a failure. But a failure to who? The reality is that I do this for me. I enjoy the camaraderie of the sport, the friends I’ve made along the way, the order it brings to my life, and the time I get to spend outdoors.

I’m still planning on hitting up all 50 states for a marathon, but I’m going to take that goal a little more slowly in 2015. I made some big progress last year- running seven marathons in six new states (Boston was a repeat). From a pace standpoint, if you look at where I started when I ran my first marathon in 2008, the amount of time I’ve cut is huge. I did run a 3:06 in June, but in 2008, my PR was a 4:52 – that’s one hour and 46 minutes slower. To break three hours, I need to cut more than six minutes off of my time, and I can do it. It will take a lot of work, but that’s something I am willing to do.

I’m bringing this up because my ultimate goal is not to break three hours, but to qualify for the 2016 Olympic Trials. Okay. I said it out loud. Go ahead, you can laugh at me – because I laugh at myself when I actually hear what that sounds like. The reality of me actually getting to the 2016 trials is slim, but not because I don’t believe I can do it. The window of time that I have left to qualify is closing quickly.  I need to run a lot faster than a three hour marathon, and I need to do it by January 2016. I have until 30 days before the trials to run my qualifying time, and I need to run a 2:43 to meet the “B” standard. To put it simply, I need to cut off an entire minute per mile from my current marathon time. It’s faster than my current 5K pace and a hell of a lot to ask of myself.

I’m extremely stubborn, persistent and self-motivated. And I’m certainly not a quitter. I didn’t start running until my late 20s, but that just means my legs are fresher than anyone who has 20+ years in the sport. It also means I still have a LOT to learn about racing and training. I didn’t even know much about putting in the work until the last few years, and with just a little effort got to where I am now. I believe I can do this. And if I can’t, and I end up running a 2:50 marathon or something, would I be that disappointed? Helllllllll no!

The whole thing became more of a reality for me after I met and began working with my coach back in August. He asked me what my goals were, and I said I wanted to break three hours in the marathon. He questioned what I would want to do after I break three hours, and I joked, “Oh, I don’t know. Qualify for the Olympic Trials?” I’ve qualified for the other big races. I don’t say that to be snotty, it’s the truth. Boston. New York. Chicago. Check, check, check (though I’ve qualified for NY but haven’t actually run it). I used to be a Boston sqeaker. Then I wasn’t. I might as well try while I can. I don’t have kids, and my husband is extremely supportive. As a teacher, my hours are ideal for training purposes.  I’m also fortunate to have some of the most amazing and supportive friends. People of all different paces to run with, push me, and motivate me.

The reason I even had this idea in my mind was actually thanks to a friend of mine, Bill. He’s a friend that I met through my friend, Bart Yasso (he’s lives a few miles from me!) at the Marshall Marathon and “introduced” me to Ariana Hillbourn’s story. It’s scary similar to mine. She also began running in 2007, in her late 20s and was never spectacular at sports. Like me, she also ran her first marathon in 2008 – and she ran in 4:36. Over time, she had the same goals and milestones I’ve had – qualify for Boston, run sub 3, and now the trials. She just ran a 2:35 at the Twin Cities Marathon – her SECOND trials qualifier, and now qualified under the “A” standard (a 2:37).Coincidentally enough, she was a teacher before all of this began.

So over the next year, I have a rough idea of where I am headed. I’m only going to run courses that are certified and sanctioned by the USAT&F. My coach has put in some serious time planning out the method to this madness. It’s looking like my season will start with a tune up race in February, and run through June. Then, I can do a short recovery and start again for fall – kind of like a split season. So far, these are the races on my schedule:

  • February 15, 2015 – The Lost Dutchman Marathon (Apache Junction, AZ): My goal will be to use this as a benchmark test. I would love to break three here. The reality is that I may not even run a PR. I am only up to a 14 mile long run right now, so this will really be more of a training effort. I may use this race as a chance to try to run sub-7s for an entire marathon. My current PR marathon pace is 7:08. I emailed the race director to ask if the race had USAT&F sanctioning and could be used as a trials qualifier, and he gave me a free entry coupon! As a bonus, I haven’t hit up AZ for a marathon yet, so it will be State #27! Winning.
  • March 22, 2015 – Wrightsville Beach Half Marathon – tune up race for Boston
  • April 20, 2015 – The Boston Marathon – This will be my 5th consecutive Boston. If I could pick one place to break three hours, it would be here. This race has been an integral piece of my running experience. I wrote about how this race has been my source of motivation to overcome obstacles right before the 2013 race. You can read all about that here.
  • June 20, 2015Grandmas Marathon (Duluth, MN): if nothing else, it will be state #28 since I haven’t visited Minnesota for a marathon (or for anything) yet!

I don’t know anything past Grandma’s at this point. I’m eyeing up Indianapolis Monumental for fall, but that’s totally up in the air right now. I’m assuming my spring will be spent chipping away at that sub-3 goal. If I can make that a reality, then I can move onto part 2.

It’s a serious long shot. It’s going to require me to have a day where all of the stars are aligned and my training will have to be on point. But I’ll never know if I don’t try. So yes, this blog will still follow and document my 50 state quest. But over the next year, it’s going to follow my quest to reach my newest goal. I read an article the other day about a 44 year old woman who had a 3:08 PR that qualified for the trials. I’m the right age, I have the time to train, and the desire to go for it. I have a great support system – a husband, family, and friends that support my goal and a coach that might believe I can do it more than I actually believe I can do it. So…here it goes. The clock is ticking!

What’s the craziest goal you’ve ever set for yourself? Did you achieve it? 

22 Replies to “Goals on the Horizon: A Change of Focus”

  1. Woohoo, you finally posted about your Olympic Trials plan!!! I’m so excited to follow your progress and see how it all plays out. I know you can do what you set your mind to! 🙂 And I’m excited to see you at Grandma’s (if not before that!). Good luck! 😀

  2. That’s awesome! It will take some work, but that’s an awesome goal. I have two friends here who have the same goal. One ran a 1:03 half to qualify, the other is still a minute or two off. Can you run a half to qualify like they are?
    I still want to qualify for Boston someday. I’m getting faster, but need to get much faster. Working on it.

    1. You can TOTALLY BQ! Go for it! It sounds like you have some crazy fast friends to help push you to that. That’s a big resource for me – running with the fasties! They would probably have some awesome training advice, too. I like Pfitzinger for running a BQ – it helped me a ton!

      I think I need a 1:15 half. I don’t know why, but using a half marathon as a qualifier seems more intimidating to me than the full. I realize how weird that sounds! I actually don’t know what my half marathon PR is, because I haven’t raced one since 2010. I’ve had marathons where my halves are faster than my current PR, so I am going to see where I am in March at Wrightsville! I’m still way off, but I’ve never worked with a coach. I figured, why not give it a shot!

      1. Ha, you sound just like all my friends who have run Boston! Easier said then done, but I appreciate the support. I’m am relying on some of my fast friends to see if I can’t get there some day. Hmm, haven’t heard of Pfitzinger, but will look it up. A couple of my fast friends here were using Jack Daniels (not the whisky) for training this fall. I haven’t looked it up either, but I heard it’s tough. Thanks so much!

        That is weird, ha! But if you’re more comfortable with 26.2, then stick with that. Funny, but whenever I line up for a race distance I’m not used to, I quickly realize that I don’t know how to pace for it. Good luck with it all!!

      2. I’ve heard of Jack Daniels, Pfitz is in the same category! Definitely check both out! And I think the reason why I prefer the marathon to a half marathon is like you said, I run marathons and it is a distance that I’m used to. I don’t know how to pace well for shorter distance races and always go out too fast! I kind of do that in marathon running too, but I am able to recognize it a little bit better and correct it since it is a longer distance!

  3. Woohoo!!! I’m so glad you put this out there Allison and you are sooooo definitely Olympic trials material fo’ sho’! 😉 you get that goal just keep chipping away at it a little at a time and you’ll get there and not even know it! The craziest goal that I have set for myself is still actually a work in progress and actually grew from the last summer Olympics and it is to go sub-20 in the 5th by the 2016 Olympics. I almost threw in the towel on this goal viewing it as unrealistic after a 4 year PR drought but November’s PR has reinvigorated me. I love your ultimate goal Allison and you’ve got me as a fan cheering you all the way to it for sure! 🙂

  4. I admire you so much for telling all your followers your big goal. I remember hearing about Ariana Hillbourn on a podcast a while ago- I love that you found inspiration in her story since it’s so similar to yours. & seriously, when in Rome- take advantage of your time & all the support while you have it 🙂
    I’ll all the more excited to follow your journey to an OTQ on your blog 😀

  5. This is amazing! You are a very talented runner and getting to the Olympic trials is definitely taking it to the next level. I’m looking forward to following your journey – and getting some inspiration!

    1. Thanks so much! I don’t usually put pace/time goals out there, usually just blog about running in different states. But I really want to hold myself accountable and give this a shot! If anything, I should learn a lot this year and hope to share what I learn and the whole experience for anyone who wants to hear about it.

  6. I loved this post! I’m excited to keep reading about the adventure. My running friends/group is running Grandma’s in 2015. Indy is over my way…I’ve done the Monumental half, not full, but it was a good race

    1. Are you running Grandmas? I am definitely very interested in Indy. Maybe you can answer this question about the course: how is the satellite reception for your watch? I was considering revisiting Chicago but part of the problem was that I had no idea what pace I was running because of the skyscrapers in the city. I’m going to need to have some sort of gauge of my pace if I even have a prayer at making this a reality! I am notorious for going out too quickly.

      1. No, I’m not running Grandma’s. Wish I could join them, but I’m moving a few hours away in May for a residency/externship for the final part of grad school, and travel logistics would be really complicated.
        I didn’t have any problems with reception in Indy (I use a Forerunner 410), and I don’t think anyone else in my group had any issues(?). Totally understand about going out too fast…good luck with everything! 🙂

  7. Girl, so freaking excited for you!!! I am an Olympic nut so was already planning to run LA Marathon so I can also watch the trials race. It would be amazing to be able to cheer for you there!! Love that you’re putting it all out there..,no guts, no glory. Now go light it up 😉

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s