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  • Writer's pictureBrent Beckham

Pivoting My Running Goals

Updated: Jul 19, 2020

I am changing my latest running goal.

But Brent, you can't just give up? What are you thinking?? What about your 3 hour (or faster) marathon goal? Are you going to come back to it? What's next that's sooo important?

Well, let me explain... :)

Boston Qualifying (BQ) Marathon Time

The Boston Qualifying (BQ) Marathon time has been on my running goals list (in my head) for a long time. Probably since I got into running more seriously with my first road races back in 2011. More recently I set a specific goal for a 3 hour marathon.

In a previous post I talked about my unannounced attempt at a BQ time, well attempt is a loose word, but decided to just "go for it" during the 2014 Cleveland (CLE) Marathon. There was some intentional mid-distance runs (I remember a 8 mi training run in particular) at race pace during my training cycle and lots of weekly speed work. In that CLE marathon, I set a half marathon personal best (PB) with a 1:37 (1 hour 37 minutes), where my official half time was a 1:39. So I knew I was in uncharted territory as soon as I hit that marker and saw the giant numbers posted on the clock at the side of the course. I was averaging between a 6:45 or 7:00 min/mi pace up that point, which I admit was waaay too quick, but hindsight allows you to realize that's part of the fun in having an open ended goal of "going for it." For me, it was to find out what I was made of at that point in time and test my limits, obviously in a controlled and safe environment as this was during a major marathon with lots of support and aid readily available. Back to the race, the wheels came off shortly after that point. I could actually see the 3:07 (or 3:10) pacing group (a BQ time was around a 3:07 for my age group back in 2014) in the near distance as I started to slow. So I had actually caught up to them, after having started further back at that start of the race in order to start with my wife and a lifelong best friend (who were both doing the half).

Though my legs just couldn't keep up the pace that my mind wanted to continue.

I ended up with a 3:50 marathon time for that race, after run (well shuffling running) / walking the second half of the marathon. You can probably do the math but that meant it took me about 2 hours and 13 minutes to finish the second half of the marathon, 36 minutes longer than the first half. Don't get me wrong, I am still happy about that time, as my first time in my first marathon was about 4:23 or 4:30.

It wasn't long after that race that I was lured towards ultra running, thanks in part to recently going vegan and learning / reading everything I could about one particular ultra runner, Scott Jurek. I'll revisit this story in a separate post because it opens up a lot more topics besides running. For example, my wife for my 29th birthday rented Scott's "Eat & Run" as well as Rich Roll's "Finding Ultra" books from the library. I was all amped and excited to launch into Scott's book until I read the inside jacket of Rich's book and was immediately struck by how similar, to different and sometimes much greater degrees, his life was to mine even though he's about 17 years my senior. So really from 2014 to present, I've been thoroughly enjoying and loving the trail running and ultra running scene, because I realized I could blend two of my loves: running and the great outdoors.

With that story in mind...

I come back to the above questions because as much as that 3 hour marathon time would be awesome to hit, I know now, given the 2014 experience, it will take a lot more targeted training to obtain. It's still an obtainable goal. I already know my body can carry me about half way to it, it's just a matter of knocking out the other half.

Let's start with the, "What's next that's sooo important?" question as that will lead into the other questions:

In short...

My Annual Birthday Run

That's what's so important. :)

A Bit of History

Inadvertently, I had started this annual run back in 2015 with my first ultra, the Post Canyon 50k. That race coincidentally landed on my 30th birthday. The short back story here is, I wanted to run an ultra, a 50k made the most sense as I had completed two marathons to date. I had a 50k training plan picked out but didn't have a race. So I said, "Well if I start this plan today (or the following Monday as this was likely being hashed out over a weekend), where does that take me date wise and put the race?" Sure enough it was August 15th, my birthday. Then began the internet search, scouring for a race that landed on August 15th. Sure enough the Post Canyon 50k, in Oregon, came back as a result. Little did I know, until I was actually there day of, that it was the inaugural running of this race, ha! That didn't matter (outside of one marked turn that had a number of us runners perplexed and some mistakenly sent back to the start, turning their 50k into a 60+k), it was still an awesome run through the hills and mountainous Oregon country side. Did I mention the amazing views of the iconic snow capped mountains nearby? Anyways, check it out, as it's a cool and low key (at least back in 2015) one for sure. In the end, at least according to my watch, I ran 29 mi and change, but found out also that ultras can be the posted distance give or take a fair amount of miles / kilometers. Needless to say, it counted in my book and I was proud of the accomplishment.

2016 I didn't end up doing a 31 mi race, as I didn't really have the idea to continue and commit to a goal of an annual birthday run.

It wasn't until 2017, after I did my next ultra race (a 75k) that I wanted to actually commit to this standing goal of running 1 mile for every year old I am. So in 2017, it was an awesome 33 mi run. Yep, an extra mile for my 32nd birthday, given the chosen running course was an out and back on the famous Two Bays Walking Track (trail) across the Mornington Peninsula in the state of Victoria (VIC), in Australia. It's a beautiful traverse diagonally across the peninsula from Port Philip to the Southern Ocean (or vice versa depending where you start). For me, I started in Dromana, ran to Cape Schanck, and then back.

2018 brought a lofty goal of trying to run hill repeats for 33 mi on a famous track (trail), called Lyrebird Track in the Dandenong Ranges (lovingly called The Dandy's). The Dandies are an hour east outside of Melbourne, VIC, Australia. I should note that we lived in Australia, specifically the Melbourne area, from 2015 to 2019. The run itself was going to be about 14,000 feet of elevation gain AND loss over 33 miles, which is admittedly a lot. Though I had worked that into my training program, specifically to work on building elevation change along with building distance. However, I overdid it in training, specifically running up hills too hard and too often, and ended up with an extremely painful bursa in the joint of my left big toe. So the 2018 run didn't happen, as that injury had me out of commission for around 6 months.

2019 brought 34 years and 34 miles, which was a bit of a gimme because I had set another lofty goal of completing my first 100k race, which was to coincide with our family travels around Southeast Asia, Vanuatu, and New Zealand, after leaving Australia in August of 2019. So I had signed up for the Vietnam Mountain 100k. That race ended in a "Did Not Finish" (DNF) at mile 50 (80k), to which I talked about and reflected upon in a previous post (here) as well as documented and shared on my YouTube channel (here). I swear I'll get the "Part 2" video out there someday, just been a lesser priority in the grand scheme of life. The "Part 2" was the last 22.5k / 14mi of that race, which was beautiful and I went back a week after the official race to finish it solo and self supported. Either way, it was about a month after my birthday, and 50 miles in one go more than covered it, and yes I granted myself the leeway versus having to do the run right on my birthday.

So that brings me to 2020 and 35 miles for this year's birthday run. It's currently the beginning of June as I write this and in turn only gives me a bit over 2 months to train and prepare for it. So I am going to pivot from the marathon time goal and over to my annual birthday goal.

Current Status

I've also been dealing with a few foot injuries in recent months as well as mental health issues, both of which taking me out of commission running wise.

The pivot will also allow me just to get back into a consistent training routine again, which was the plan with the 3 hour marathon goal and training but wasn't panning out.

The current plan is to use this birthday run to build my endurance back up, at an easy pace, and then use that base to come back to the marathon goal.

So no, this isn't giving up, it's just reevaluating what I currently need from my running for me at this point in time. Sounds pretty self centered but I think it's important to identify the "why" I am doing what I am doing versus unintentionally follow a path that doesn't serve me and ultimately those around me. I say this because if I come out a better person, then that allows me to be a better person to others.


I think it is also okay to change our goals. Life is fluid and so should our goals, and let us reposition them for what makes sense in the moment and the perceived future. It also shouldn't be a cop-out. For example, I am pivoting my goal from the 3 hour marathon to my 35 mile birthday run, BUT THEN coming back to my 3 hour marathon goal.

I am just trying to convey that goals are great, but they need to be held in check to ensure we don't burn ourselves out or get lost in them at the detriment of other things in our lives.


Happy Running! ✌ :)

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