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Reality Check

by Meghann on August 31, 2010

The Chicago marathon is now just a little more than a month away and – let’s face it – my pace is no where near where should it be at this point in my training.  This race has been a tough one to train for and after a slow 7 miler this morning, I knew it was time to give myself a reality check.

All of my long runs have been a minute to thirty seconds slower per mile than my plan calls for. The extra hot summer has left me feeling defeated on most runs and forcing me to stop more often then I should. My speedwork hasn’t been on mark and the improvement I have seen has been far and few  in between. I’ve been staying positive throughout training and every milestone I reach is still celebrated and appreciated, but lately I have been re-evaluating my initial goal of qualifying for Boston in Chicago.

I think the more and more I fall behind in reaching my pace goals, the further and further that goal seems from reality. There is no doubt in my mind that I will qualify for Boston someday, I’m just not sure it will be this year. I’m going to continue to train my little heart out, only now I have a new goal of completing a sub 4:00 marathon. If I meet this goal it will still be over a twelve minute PR and one I will be just as proud of. 🙂

Who knows what will actually happen the day of the race, but giving myself a new goal feels like this huge weight has been lifted off my shoulders. Every marathon is different and how you feel training for every marathon varies as well. It’s never something we can predict at the beginning of each journey, we only have to stick with it to see how it will evolve. And this time it evolved into a 4:00 minute marathon. It’s better to be realistic then to push myself to hard into injury.

I feel so much better now.

The 7 miler this morning really gave me time to think. I thought about Chicago, I thought about my upcoming travel schedule, and I thought about all my upcoming races. Nothing like a long run to help you clear your head.

After the run my body was begging for a cold and refreshing smoothie.


  • Frozen Mixed Berries
  • Frozen Pineapple
  • Plain Yogurt
  • Almond Milk
  • Xanthum Gum
  • Vega Chocolate Shake & Go Smoothie Mix
  • PB2


A little Attune Chocolate Granola to finish it off.


Enjoyed with a spoon in front of the tv. Is there a better way to start your day? I think not! 😉

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1 Amanda August 31, 2010 at 9:24 am

You are an amazing runner. Your drive and motivation along with the ability to set realistic goals is ideal. Good luck with your marathon. No matter what happens time wise it is such an accomplishment to finish a marathon, let alone multiple!

2 britchickruns August 31, 2010 at 9:26 am

I think yoiu’re doing the right thing. The fact that you said a huge weight has been lifted proves that! Good on you for recognising that you had to change your goal 🙂 Plus, I think you sub4hr goal is incredible in itself!

3 madisonruns August 31, 2010 at 9:26 am

I know exactly what you mean about the summer heat. My goal is to also break 4 at Chicago… while my pace is where it needs to be (sometimes!), I’m completely out of it mentally. I feel like I’m excerting WAY to much effort to run the paces that felt easy in the spring. I’m glad I’m not the only one!

40 days!

4 Kelly August 31, 2010 at 9:32 am

40 days!!!!! 🙂 Can’t believe it!

5 anotherannabanana August 31, 2010 at 9:27 am

It’s good to be real with yourself, but make sure you’re also giving yourself the credit you deserve. You are an amazing runner and a HUGE, HUGE, HUGE source of inspiration to wanna be runners (like myself). I would love to be able to run as well as you do someday — so watching you push yourself to new levels of excellence always inspires me.

A 12 minute PR is amazing! And, who knows, on race day your adrenaline may carry you through to even more. The fact that you can run a marathon is mindblowing — and you’ve done it several times. Keep it up lady, you’re wonderful!

6 chandra August 31, 2010 at 9:28 am

I definitely think it’s great that you’ve thought everything out and set a separate goal, but don’t get too discouraged about your pace! October in Chicago will be (should be) *much* cooler than Florida has been – and from what I hear the Chicago course is super flat & fast. You’ll do amazing, I’m sure of it! 🙂

I’m 95% sure my friend and I are running it next year, so I can’t wait to hear about your experience!

7 Gabriela @ Une Vie Saine August 31, 2010 at 9:29 am

You’re right- you can definitely qualify for Boston in your lifetime, so there’s no use pushing yourself too hard if you feel like this isn’t the race. A sub-4 is still one hell of an accomplishment- you’ll rock it!

8 NYCRunnerGirl August 31, 2010 at 9:30 am

Glad that you feel better after re-evaluating your goals. There is nothing wrong with aiming for a sub-4 hour marathon! I think that will make the next leap (qualifying for Boston) feel a bit more attainable. As always, I love reading about your training.

9 Amy August 31, 2010 at 9:30 am

Well said, Meghann 🙂 The beauty of running is that it is such a personal sport, and can be tailored to your body’s needs and abilities — race by race. It’s your responsibility as a runner to listen to your body and set (& re-adjust for) achievable goals you can be proud of. Your honesty & positivity are refreshing– and I know you are going to rock this marathon!

10 Kelly August 31, 2010 at 9:30 am

I think chosing a sub 4 hr marathon goal is really smart. I think reaching that 4 hr goal will make reaching 3:40 seem more attainable. This summer has been brutal with the heat and it’s definitely made training for the marathon much harder than it should be. I know that one day you will qualify for Boston because you have the heart and determination to do so. 🙂

11 Carly (Swim, Run, Om) August 31, 2010 at 9:30 am

I think it’s great that you posted this – people (myself included) can be way hard on themselves for not reaching/achieving a particular goal by a particular deadline. Just like you said, it’s important to realize that a change in plans doesn’t mean an end to the dream, and all you can do is wait and see how the journey evolves. Whatever happens, you will ROCK at the marathon – of that, I am sure! 🙂

12 Heather August 31, 2010 at 9:38 am

I get the whole target pace thing but coming from the Chicagoland area & having run the Chicago marathon twice, I can tell you that nothing you do will truly prepare you for that day. The weather is a crap shoot! I ran it in 2004 & it was pretty warm. 2005 was red flagged for excessive heat (they literally forced runners to turn back & made them stop running.) I ran it again in 2006 & it was FREEZING!!! I ran the whole race with a headband to keep my ears warm & two pairs of gloves.

Just train your best & do your best on race day! Chicago is such a sight to see on race day that I hope you will just take it all in & not overly focus on beating the clock.

And don’t forget to slow down & have fun in Boys Town. They go ALL out to make it a neat place to be!!!!!

Good luck to you Meghann!

13 Heather August 31, 2010 at 9:39 am

I had to have a reality check with myself before my last half marathon – training did not go as I wanted it to and I ended up finishing 30 seconds after my last half time. I chalked it up to poor training and killer hills on that course…but I was PROUD OF MYSELF FOR FINISHING!

Great post – it is so hard to be honest with ourselves some times!

14 Jo August 31, 2010 at 9:52 am

Sounds like a very sensible change of heart. Its always worth re-evaluating your goals as unachievable ones don’t do anyone any good!

15 Lizz @ Leading the Good Life August 31, 2010 at 9:52 am

Good for you for being brave enough to reevaluate your goals! Like you said, this is not a goal you have to forfeit forever. The fact that you feel so much better after your ‘tweak’ is a good sign that you’re doing the right thing.

In my most recent post I talked a lot about goal setting – and how the fact that it’s so personal makes it hard to be public about it. I appreciate that you share your goals with us…it’s inspiring and motivating!

16 lauren August 31, 2010 at 9:55 am

It takes a lot of courage to re-evaluate and realize your dream might not happen at this instance, BUT it will happen!
Still you are running a marathon, which freakin’ rocks!

17 Beth @ Will Run for Books August 31, 2010 at 10:06 am

I think you made the right decision!! There will be other marathons – you have to take your progression slowly.

18 Emily @ The Front Burner Blog August 31, 2010 at 10:08 am

Girl, you know I am right there with you. Boston is NOT going to happen for me in October, and that’s not being negative, that’s being realistic. Admitting it has made me feel sooo much better. I have so many great races left in me – it doesn’t have to be this one. Same for you – your running journey is just getting started!

During my long run last weekend I had an epiphany that out of 5 marathons, my two fastest times have been in the spring. Fall/winter marathons = training in the heat = slower times. It will happen. Enjoy Chicago! 🙂

19 LiveForTheRun August 31, 2010 at 10:15 am

You have plenty of time to get focused and get excited. You’re going to do great, just competing is amazing. Relax and ENJOY every moment of training you can. You know the reward at the finish will make up for the good and the bad training days.

20 runningwithsass August 31, 2010 at 10:21 am

your smoothie looks so good!
gl in your training, I feel ya on the hot summer!

21 Mary August 31, 2010 at 10:29 am

I’m glad you feel better. Thank you for this post, it’s making me feel better about altering my goals about chicago too and makes me realize that you too are human 🙂 I wanted to finish chicago in under 5 hours but now I just want to finish because it my first marathon and I had an extemely hard time training for it this summer with everything that has happened in my life over the last few months.

I hope to see you in Chi-town! 🙂

22 ida August 31, 2010 at 10:39 am

Training in the summer is so hard- between the heat and traveling the body really takes a beating. But a PR is always something to be proud of, and the BQ will mean that much more when you get it. And maybe you and your sister can run together now.

23 Stephanie August 31, 2010 at 10:43 am

Summer training is tough! I don’t know what I was thinking training for my first marathon in this weather! This was a great post though, it’s always better to be realistic and honest with yourself.

Looks like you made a lot of improvement though in your speed. It may not have been enough to BQ, but try and use this marathon as your ease into the BQ’ing race. I bet if you stick with the speed work for a few more months, your next marathon could be it!

Either way, you are totally going to rock the Chicago Marathon!

24 April B August 31, 2010 at 10:44 am

I think it’s great that you are re-evaluating your goals. That’s part of being a smart runner. I too hope to BQ sooner than later, but am going into Chicago knowing that now is not the time, and am instead also focusing on sub-4:00 (a 20 min PR for me). I do think the heat both in FL and TX (where I live) played a role in training this summer. A 12 minute PR is nothing to sneeze at and a sub-4:00 marathon is also a huge milestone!! You’ll get to Boston soon and I’ll bet you have a fantastic Chicago time as well. Plus, you’ll enjoy the experience so much more with a more attainable goal.
See you there!!

25 Shanna, like Banana August 31, 2010 at 11:10 am

You’re running seems pretty fabulous to me…don’t be too hard on yourself! You are incredible!

26 Amelia August 31, 2010 at 11:20 am

While I’m sure it was tough to face this, I think it’s better you modify your goals now than right before the race. This way you can continue to train hard, but take some of the added pressure off your shoulders. I think it’d be much worse if you were midway through the marathon and got hit with the realization that you might not BQ. That said, I have no doubt you will accomplish that goal soon! 🙂

27 Kelly August 31, 2010 at 11:39 am

It’s good to be real with yourself, maybe try to BQ when all of your training won’t take place during the summer? I’m sure that makes it more difficult. Either way BQ or no BQ i’m sure you will do great!

28 Lauren @ Running Examiner August 31, 2010 at 11:46 am

You’ll do great at Chicago. BQing isn’t everything!

29 gingerbreadcake August 31, 2010 at 11:48 am

I love the page you created with all of your favorite things in Orlando. I used to live in Orlando and I noticed that you listed some of my favorite places. 🙂 I’ve been a long time reader of your blog but finally decided to comment!

30 Caitlin August 31, 2010 at 11:52 am

It’s always important to match your goals to your current training instead of your ideal conditions. That happened to me a lot while I was swimming–my goals were often unrealistic given how over-trained and under-rested I was.

I’m sure you will rock the marathon. In the eyes of non-runners, just FINISHING a marathon is an incredible feat. It’s interesting how perspectives vary!

31 Chinye August 31, 2010 at 11:58 am

I just had the same realization too! This summer I was training for the Chicago Half, but decided to drop down to the 5k because I am not where I thought I’d be in terms of training.

I’m glad you realized your strenghts too! Plus, finishing sub 4 hours is an accomplishment in itself!

32 Pearl August 31, 2010 at 12:13 pm

You’ll do really well at the Chicago marathon – I’m constantly blown away by your stats everytime you run!

And that smoothie looks good!

33 theprocessofhealing August 31, 2010 at 12:26 pm

I agree with everyone.. you’re definitely doing the right thing! No pressure! You’re running a marathon.. something only some people dream of!

34 Corey - The Runner's Cookie August 31, 2010 at 12:31 pm

A couple of the most important aspects of goal setting are to be flexible and realistic. I think it’s great that you are willing to adjust based on your knowledge of yourself and running, and that you aren’t getting down about it! That’s exactly the right attitude – so what if this isn’t the marathon that’s going to qualify you for Boston? It doesn’t mean it’s a waste, and to set a new goal (sub-4 hrs) to be excited about is awesome. Go Meghann!

35 wendy sue August 31, 2010 at 12:49 pm

I hear you on the reevaluating the BQ goal. That is my goal too and I have had to adjust, which is hard to do. When I am feeling down about it, I try to remind myself that training and running a marathon in and of itself is amazing, and not everyone runs marathons or even runs at all.
I was training for richmond but have had to slow down due to plantar fasciitis. I want to do chicago next fall, it was full when I tried to get in.

36 Lauren August 31, 2010 at 12:53 pm

I think the fact that you have run 2 marathons, a handful of 1/2’s, an ironman, and about a bazillion other races, makes you one of the most amazing and skilled runners that I know! The pressure that you put on yourself is definitely justified, as we all strive to do better in anything we set our minds to, but please never get discouraged because you are truly an incredible athlete and an inspiration for so many! (including me! 😉

37 Jillian @reshapeyourlife August 31, 2010 at 1:11 pm

It’s good that you can be real with yourself about your expectations… I’m having trouble with that right now… I’ve only recently started running and I really want to just be able to get out and run for miles and miles… But that is totally not realistic for me right now. But I have to keep my head up because I’ll get there, and every 10th of a mile more I run is one step closer to my goal. 🙂

How quickly did you increase your running when you first started? Do you have any tips for people who are just starting out?

38 Kim August 31, 2010 at 1:15 pm

You never know, as soon as some of the heat/humidity lifts and fall weather comes in, your times may decrease dramatically. But if they don’t, a PR is always awesome even if it’s not a BQ. And even just finishing the marathon – putting in the training and then running the race! – is an achievement!

39 Chelsea @ Strawberry Sweat August 31, 2010 at 1:25 pm

I like how you are being realistic and not pressuring yourself. However, it will be interesting to see how you do on race day. You might just surprise yourself! Just keep training and pushing yourself on those speed workouts!

40 Amber@momsgottheruns August 31, 2010 at 1:33 pm

Meghann, I think thats really smart of you! Obviously you will qualify in the future! You’re awesome! : D Training in the heat, in the south, is really hard to do! There’s no shame in your game! : D

41 Lizzy August 31, 2010 at 2:54 pm

I think that is the smart decision Meghann! You don’t want to have too lofty goals and then feel defeated. Breaking 4 hours is still an amazing accomplishment and I think its smartest to have a step by step goal. Shattering almost 30 minutes in a marathon is quite the feat but cutting 12 minutes off your time is totally realistic. Good luck!

42 Ally August 31, 2010 at 4:44 pm

I’m really slow, so, I know that a BQ for me is YEARS away, but, it’s important to listen to your body and like you said, have realistic goals. Our summer has been miserable, I mean, so miserable that I can barely get through my long runs at all. Ick. The heat really does make training so much harder! Good luck on that sub 4! I know you’ll rock it!

43 sarah (the SHU box) August 31, 2010 at 6:13 pm

i think it is brave and smart of you to make this decision now. after all, you have plenty of time to work on qualifying – and i still think you have a huge PR in you now that will be a giant accomplishment in and of itself!

my marathon times so far have been: 4:01, 3:56, 3:53, 3:48 (in that order). as you can see, even small improvements can take a LOT of time and experience. at this rate i’m thinking 2 more and maybe i could qualify. baby steps, right?! someday!!

for now we can both just be happy we can run (without pain!) and keep having great goals to shoot for!

44 sirenjess August 31, 2010 at 9:09 pm

I commend you for your realization, but you can still qualify. When I qualified for Boston I never ran a long run at marathon pace. You should run them at one to one minute and thirty seconds slower than goal pace. I ran with a friend who was much slower than me and I use to complain that I wasn’t running my goal pace, blah, blah. But when I got to San Francisco and run I ran goal pace and kept it. Well when it came to the hills I slowed down (obviously) but on the flats increased to make up for the hills.

Run with the pace group in Chicago if at any point you feel that you can’t hang then change to your second goal.

I also want to point out that I live in Texas and I feel your pain with the heat and humidity. Run strong.

45 hemp jogger August 31, 2010 at 9:31 pm

holy cow girl…a 4 minute marathon? watch out! 😉

46 Sana September 1, 2010 at 5:23 am

I am so proud of you for adjusting your goals. Sometimes I can be stubborn (in other aspects of my life) and not be honest with myself. When in actuality you feel BETTER about achieving a manageable and equally impressive goal. I can’t wait to virtually cheer you on on Chicago!

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