Last week I wrote about the selfless act of service from Tim – The Sign Guy.  This week I’d like to tell the story of two different experiences running with the 2 Hour Club pace crew over the last couple years.

Last year (2012) was a mild winter where all the rage was global warming and climate change.  A mild winter allowed many of us to enjoy outdoor activities and train extensively.  This year was a terrible, cold, and long winter and scientists now recognize that we're in a decade long period of cooling.  (That’s the last of the political comments.)  More about the impact of cold and warm winters on results later.

Furthermore, last year my youngest son, Jordan, decided to run the 25K for the first time.  Jordan’s an engineer and approached his training systematically and by the book.  He faithfully joined the downtown Saturday long runs – and of course I showed up too.  I also swerved into the Mars Hill Bible Church Tuesday night runs.  I ended up running with a group of Marathoners who did a 5 mile sprint at 6:15 PM.  I chased them and wore myself out with speed work.  This combination of a warm winter, Saturday long runs, and Tuesday speed work lined up my 2012 River Bank Run for a two decade Personal Best Record (PBR).

So much like 2011 with Tim, The Sign Guy, last year (2012) I started with the 2 Hour Club pace group.  5 runners that pull you through the miles.  Stay with them and you hit 2 hours.  Magic!  Well I did and they did.  The good news is that right as we came out of John Ball Park at about mile 13 I was dying and wondering if I can make it to the finish in my goal time.  I overheard a couple of them talking, “ Hey, we're way ahead of schedule.  We can shut this down to 9 minute miles and we'll still be fine.”  What a relief.  Room to rent, we can slow down, and we'll still hit our goal.   We trudged in and I posted a time of 1:58:57.  What a thrill!  What an accomplishment!   I immediately knew that this ‘goal guy’ would run the race the next year and attempt to beat that number.

So 2013 is here and it’s a terrible, cold, and long winter.  Jordan’s not training me and Tuesday nights are blizzards or raining.  I get a late start on serious training but still decide to pursue the 2 Hour Club goal.  I’m only partially prepared – but willing to attempt the run on guts and experience.  I start out and meet Peter in the orange hat and Charlie in the black hat.  They hit their mile pace times like clockwork.  Around Mile 3 I meet Loren who ran a 2:30 – two and half hour - 25K last year and is trying to take 30 minutes off her time.  I thought, “Well, that’s a stretch.”  Loren’s in college at U of M in Ann Arbor studying molecular chemistry for the food industry.  “Whatever,” I think.  I'm too tired to pursue that conversation.  We all come around the halfway point at Johnson Park feeling good and on pace.  Peter and Charlie pull us through the hills at Millennium Park while my hips, hamstrings, and mind are questioning my training and ability to post a sub 2 Hour 25K.  The physical and mental challenges of distance running precisely parallel the daily challenges of life.  Yes, no, maybe, can, can’t, believe, trust, give up all wander through one’s tiring mind.

So right around the Butterworth hills at mile number 11 I decided that I didn't have the mileage base to hit that number.  I watched Loren and the black and orange hats move away from me.  I tried to hang on and keep them in sight – but I understand the ramifications and the low odds of closing that gap.  This is a sad and demoralizing time in the run.  I won't hit my goal – even while I’m modifying my goal in my head.  I decide to shoot for 2:02 minutes.  I have excuses.  It was a long cold winter.  Jordan wasn’t there to train me.   Ah, the challenges of life - when to press on and when to modify one's goals.

As we come through John Ball Zoo I'm wasted and feel like I'm running 9 or 10 minute miles.  I can see mile marker 14 when I hear some Marathon suited stud say to the young lady next to him, “1 ½ miles to go.  If we run 7:35 we’ll hit our goal.”

“Hit what goal?”  I ask.

“2 Hours,” he replies.

“I’m in!”  I retort – and fall in line.  That lasted for about 50 yards.  Wrong idea.

I stumbled and bumbled home in 2:02:35.  I missed my goal by 2 minutes - 2%.  I see Loren near the finish line.  “How’d you do?” I ask.

“I beat 2 hours,” she replied.  I congratulate her and am truly impressed.  Wow, take 2 minutes per mile off your time in one year?  Impressive.

So I’m left wondering and asking questions.  I’ll ask you the same questions:

  • Should I have set a more reasonable goal – one that I could easily achieve?
  • Should I have run the race with no goal at all?  Just run for the pure enjoyment?

There are no right or wrong answers to those questions.  Each of us is different and pursues challenges in different ways.

I do have some opinions and lessons, though:

  • Disciplined planning and preparation are the foundation for successful execution.
  • If you want to excel in life, set your goals and pursue them.  Even if you miss your goal – you'll end up far ahead of wandering aimlessly.
  • Accept 100% impeccable responsibility.  Do not be a victim of life’s circumstances.  Choose your own destiny – with no excuses.

I can assure you that my life and running experience confirm that given clearly defined goals, supported by a reasonable plan with preparation, will consistently deliver superior results and a fulfilling life experience.

Michael Ritsema
i3 Business Solutions, LLC

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