ARTICLE: From goal-oriented to training-oriented

As a runner it’s easy to pick goals for all the wrong reasons: To beat runners we like to compare ourselves with, because they are a “nice round number” and so on. Since deciding to try the programmes on “”, I have drawn the necessary conclusion that the practice of setting a goal and then training to meet it is not the correct approach. Rather you do the training and let it tell you what your goal should be.

On you enter one of your current best results which provides you with a VO2 max equivalent for the performance and some target paces (red: a new question has been added whether you have been running or have been otherwise aerobically active on/off over the last years but I haven’t had the time to analyze what changes it produces to the programs generated). Standard fare so far. Next, however, it generates your training plan with wide-ranging training paces and instructions on how to handle each session. Already you’re in safer hands. But the final detail of the plan is easily overlooked and may be the most important: The software generates your likely time after completion of the 16 or 24 week training cycle.

Let me provide an example: If I enter my half-marathon time of 1:22:29 I get my projected times before and after the training is completed for the distance 1500m, 5k, 10k, half-marathon and marathon. The times projected are close to my PBs so the logic seems strong but let’s look just at the half-marathon so as not to overload with figures. Here the tool predicts that the 24-weeks of training will bring me down to 1:20:25. Nobby admitted on the Lydiard Foundation forums that these targets are most likely pessimistic but it’s safer to stray on that side of the mark to avoid blowing up en-route. Truth is if you set off at 1:20:25 pace and find yourself doing well late in the race you still have a good shot at digging out the 26 second needed to break the 80-minute barrier which would be tempting to those of us who have been closing down on that mark recently.

The program also suggests that you run a 5k or 10k race the Sunday before and estimates (in this particular projection) that they would be run in 17:45 or 37:00 respectively (which is slightly slower than the projection if the 5k or 10k had been the target race, implying you leave a bit in the bank for the half-marathon that constitutes the real goal).

Finally, the system incorporates your training stimulus very intelligently: If you train 7 days a week for the marathon based on a performance like mine in the half-marathon you are estimated to run 2:47 for the marathon after 24-weeks training. If on the other hand you reduce your running days to 5 days a week, the time drops to 2:49 and I would expect to see similar drops if you choose the 4-day plans or the 16-week plans etc.


By having your training dictate your goals you will be less likely to break yourself chasing castles in the air that are not currently within your grasp (focus on “currently”, though, anything can continue to grow if given enough time) and you will be more likely to be happy with your race performance because it will be set using realistic parametres and not a random notion of what it should be.

As a post-script, however, it’s worth adding that the training alone is not enough. As Bill Bowerman was fond of saying “the magic is not in the miles, it’s in the man.” To be successful as a runner at a competitive level Mark Wetmore highlighted four qualities that you need in decent measure: talent, durability, determination, and courage  and adds not having one of them “will kill you” as a runner (Running with the Buffaloes, p. 41).

What does that mean for your goals? This is my take on it: Having the right training and letting that dictate your goal is only the first step in achieving it. You need the talent to back it up, the durability to survive the training prescribed, the determination to stay focused, healthy and lean, and the courage during the race to endure the necessary pain and sacrifice to deliver your result. So that’s our quintet for success: Combining your training-oriented goals with the four qualities that make up a truly competitive runner.


Colm O'Cnoic said…
Train to Race, don't Race to Train.

So what you've concluded is that you race whenever your ready? And the whenever your ready could potentiality be anytime?
Renny said…
Hi Colm,

The article is about letting your training dictate the goals you shoudl take into your races rather than letting it dictate the time when you should race.

Lydiard probably coined the phrase "train to race, don't race to train" and its a fundamental part of his programmes especially to avoid the practice of racing in training.

In his philosophy, training must always be designed around races not the other way around and I agree. If you have 23 weeks to your race, then you work with that. But how you perform in your training and what experts such as those at Go2Lydiard tell us about the results we should expect should guide our immediate (if not long-term) ambitions.

Clearly this is useful for periods if interrupted training in particular where athlete's are very likely to need to adjust their original goals and will race better on the day that way than chasing the original (now likely unattainable) goal.