How to set new goals after a marathon.
What do you do after you run a marathon? Well, there are several immediate steps: Keep moving past the finish line. Rehydrate. Refuel. Stretch. Rest. Recover. Maybe even jump in a cold lake.
But what do you do next? What do you do the day after the day after your marathon?
For the last several months, marathon training has consumed your life. What next? What now? You might feel a bit disoriented.
If done right, what you do next can set you up for success. Now is the time to reflect. What worked? What didn’t? What goals do you want to set next?
Below, I’m going to pose a set of questions. Read each question aloud. Spend time in reflection. Grab paper and pen (or laptop, or tablet, or…well, you get it). Write down your answers. Then, grab a cup of tea, go for a long walk, and revisit your answers.
If you want a fillable form with post-marathon review questions, you can download it here. (Scroll down to “downloads.”)
Want help? You can schedule a complimentary call with a running coach here.
Complete this exercise any time you want to extract lessons learned:
- After a major block of training.
- After a major race with buildup.
- At the end of a year.
Here are the questions to ask and answer after you finish your marathon.
What were the highlights of this block of training?
If you aren’t already doing so, keep a running log, either through a physical journal or by using digital platforms like Strava or Garmin Connect. If you already keep a running log, pull it out and notice the highlights. Write them down.
Identify the highlights that contributed to your success. These highlights may include measurable achievements like miles run or personal best race times. Be sure to note intangible highlights like personal connections, places traveled, or moments of running Zen. The definition of success is up to you.
What did you do in your training and racing that brought about those highlights?
Make a list of the factors that contributed to success in training and racing. This can include specific workouts that were particularly effective, and the progression of your training.
You might notice other factors like sleep, hydration, nutrition, and cross-training.
Recognize the positive mindset shifts that played a role in achieving success.
Acknowledge individuals and communities that contributed to your success, such as family members, running clubs, or online communities.
After creating the initial list of success factors, take a break. Come back and generate additional ideas to expand your list.
List the top five success behaviors that you want to repeat going forward.
Identify the top five success behaviors that should be repeated. These behaviors could include:
- consistent training,
- effective recovery strategies,
- setting realistic goals,
- maintaining a positive mindset,
- or seeking support from the running community.
What do you want to do differently or get better at?
It is also important to reflect on areas that could be improved or approached differently. This should be done without judgment or self-criticism.
What challenges stood in your way? What hindered your success?
Why do you think things did not go well?
It’s important to ask why things did not always go well. It’s equally important to avoid self-blame or negativity.
Instead, focus on understanding the root causes.
What would success look like going forward?
Set clear goals. This could be centered around happiness, health, consistency, speed, endurance, exploring new types of races (such as trail races, ultramarathons, or relays), becoming a more social runner, or running in new locations.
Picture yourself achieving these goals. See them clearly in your mind. This will help you create a roadmap for your next block of training.
What barriers or obstacles could stand in the way of achieving your next goal?
Identify potential barriers or obstacles that might impede progress toward your next goal.
These can include time constraints, physical limitations, lack of resources, or external commitments. When you are aware of these challenges, you can plan proactively.
What can you do to overcome the obstacles?
Develop strategies to overcome these obstacles. This might involve asking for support from family or friends, finding a running buddy, joining a run club, or establishing a relationship with a local running store.
You might need to adjust your schedule, raise funds, or simply utilize existing resources.
What specific action steps can you take to set yourself up for success?
Finally, create an action plan to set yourself up for success.
This plan should consist of specific steps that you will take to support your training and achieve your goals.
Break down the plan into smaller, manageable tasks.
Regularly review and adjust the plan as needed.
Reference: Yelling, Martin, and Deena Kastor. "Episode 7: Preparing for Running Success in 2023." Marathon Talk. December 1, 2022. Podcast, https://open.spotify.com/episode/105gvgxGDs45goKTg76Lt2?si=265dd053b838427f