Collage showing man on left holding t-shirt that says "I ran the length of Japan" with map of Japan's four largest islands and text overlaying it that says "My running goals for 2020 and beyond."
fitness,  Japan

My running goals for 2020 and beyond

The end of the year usually brings about reflection and goal setting for the new year.  After taking time the past few weeks to reflect on 2019 and thinking about the future I’ve set some long-term running goals for myself.  I may accomplish some of these goals in 2020, but these are long-term goals, so I do not have a specific deadline.

Setting my goals

A few months ago, I participated in a 10-mile race.  It wasn’t officially timed, but I clocked in at 1:24 (about an 8:30 pace).  I shared this accomplishment on my personal Facebook page because I am proud of how far I have come with my running.  Almost instantly two friends responded with “suggestions” to further my running.  One waxed poetically about running an additional five kilometers (approximately 3.1 miles), which would be equivalent to running a half marathon.  Another suggested I complete half marathons on every island in Japan.

Well before my friend’s suggestion to run a half marathon I had contemplated that as a running goal.  In November, I signed up with my local running club to participate in the Tachikawa Half Marathon.  However, over the past year of running I feel like completing a half marathon would be “easy” for me.  I don’t say that to diminish the accomplishment of finishing a half marathon, but as a reflection of where I am with running.  If I am going to set a goal for myself, I want to try and challenge myself.

As a geographer I needed clarification from my friend who suggested I complete a half marathon on every island.  Japan has 6,852 (430 inhabited) islands, but four “home” islands.  So, I asked my friend what islands he meant.  He clarified that he was referencing the Japan’s four largest islands.  Taking this under consideration, I thought about a way to incorporate this idea and challenge myself.

My first running goal

My first long-term running goal is to run a World Athletics certified marathon on all four of Japan’s home islands (Hokkaidō, Honshū, Shikoku, and Kyushu).  I may be overly ambitious to run four marathons, much less one, before I’ve even run a half marathon.  However, when I completed the “I Ran the Length of Japan” challenge last spring I was running seven to eight miles per day.  So, I feel confident in my ability to complete a marathon.  For me the real challenge will be the logistics of each race such as registration, transportation, and lodging.  Many races in Japan have English-language web sites, so I should be able to register without too many issues.

With my goal established now I must narrow down the list of races.  As of October 18, 2019, there are 33 World Athletics certified marathons in Japan that are open to all competitors (see the full list here).  Of the races, 23 are on Honshū, five are on Kyushu, three are on Shikoku, and two are on Hokkaidō.  Additionally, two races are for women only, which means there are only 31 total races and 21 races on Honshū for me.  There are races throughout the year, but the majority are from February to April and October to November.  Registration fees range from ¥5,000 (about $45) to ¥17,000 (about $155).

A monthly race

In November 2019 I joined my local running club.  The club offers a lot of benefits, but the primary perk is discounted entry fees for races.  The club typically registers for two races per month.  As I’ve contemplated goals, I felt like competing in at least one race a month is reasonable.  I won’t be aiming to compete in a full marathon each month, but I think it is feasible to compete in at least a 5K, 10K, or half marathon each month.

Moving benchmarks

Setting goals can be easy and difficult at the same time.  It was easy to set goals of running a marathon on each of the home islands.  It was easy deciding to run in at least one race per month.  However, I’ve been thinking about personal records for different races is much more difficult.  I have not yet competed in a chip-timed race, so I don’t know exactly how fast I can run a 5K or half marathon much less a full marathon.  When I complete a workout run, I consistently average about 8 minutes per mile.  So, I have a reference point for my speed, but it’s not the same as having a timed result.

Right now, that means I can’t confidently set goals about running any race, regardless of distance, under a certain time.  Really it means I can’t set goals that challenge myself.  That means I will have to revisit my time goals as I compete in races over the coming year.

Preparing for the challenges ahead

Now with goals in hand I get to delve into some literature to help me achieve these goals.  I picked up two books at my local library: Fast 5K by Pete Magill and Runner’s World Race Everything by Bart Yasso and Erin Strout.  I have not delved into them yet, but from perusing the table of contents can see that they both offer a strong foundation for a novice runner like myself.  The book I most look forward to reading is Pete Pfitzinger and Scott Douglas’ Advanced Marathoning.  It probably covers more advanced topics than I am ready to dive into right now, but I expect that it will be a great resource as I work toward establishing and breaking personal records in the future.

What running (or fitness) goals do you have?  Do your running goals involve time benchmarks, like a Boston Marathon qualifying time?  Do you have bucket list races that you want to run?  What do you do once you achieve your goal(s)?

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