While some people don’t like the idea of having multiple goals because they feel like it’s too easy to give up on the primary goal and go for a fallback, I do like the idea.
I get the concern of those who don’t like multiple goals. It can be too easy when the going gets tough to back off your primary goal and accept a fallback goal. If you’re setting your goals right, challenging but attainable, there will be some point in any race where you might question yourself. If you have a fallback goal, it can be very tempting to accept that this goal is “good enough”. If you set multiple goals, this is something you need to guard against.
However, what if things really do start going wrong? What if, 20 miles into your marathon, you find yourself 5 minutes off pace? What do you do then? What if you’re simply having a bad day or the course was more challenging than you expected? What do you do then?
It can be easy to give up and say it’s over. Not everyone will do this but the same mentality that can lead to accepting the secondary goal too easily can definitely lead to giving up when the primary goal is clearly not going to happen and there is no goal to fall back on.
This is where having a secondary goal and even a tertiary goal can make a lot of sense. To use Cesar’s example, maybe you hit 22 miles well short of 3 hour pace. That goal is out. But you can still hold it together and run 3:10. Maybe that’s good enough for you to qualify for Boston but not that pipe dream goal of breaking 3 hours. So get on it over the last 4 miles and qualify for Boston. Isn’t that better than packing it in and finishing in 3:15 or 3:20? Or saying you’re done, the goal is out of reach, and dropping out?
I’m not going to tell you that you must have multiple goals for a race. If you don’t want to, don’t. However, at least consider the idea. If things don’t break in your favor, having a secondary or even tertiary goal may give you the motivation to keep pushing through and at least making the most of a bad day.