We all know the simple definition of winning: crossing the finish line first.
But there’s much more to winning than just that. In large races, only one of thousands of runners can cross the finish line first. Many more may have run the best they could and have accomplished all the goals that had set out for themselves.
In fact, it’s possible that the first person across the line accomplished fewer of that individual’s goals than many of the people finishing farther back.
The last thing I want to do is belittle the competitive side of the sport. Finishing first in a race is a very worthy goal and a great accomplishment. At some level, it’s what racing is all about. That’s why it’s called a race. That said, it’s not the only definition of winning.
Why does this matter? In short, you need to define what winning will look like for yourself both before you can make the plan that will lead to your win and before you can honestly measure whether you got your win.
Once you define what winning is for you, then you can build the training plan that will get you there. You have the point where you are and the point where you want to go and you can figure out the path to get there. Before you have winning defined, you can train but you don’t have a specific target you’re training for, which can make things more difficult.
On race day, if you have a clear vision of what winning will look like, you can build a plan to execute the race in a way that will lead to the win. If something happens during the race, you will be able to figure out how to respond to maximize your chance of winning. If you don’t have a clear vision of what winning will look like, then you’re not certain of what you’re trying to accomplish. This can make the difficult decisions that we need to make quickly during a race much more difficult.
So define what winning will look like to you. Is it a time goal? Is it a place goal? Is it “just” finishing a distance you’ve never attempted before? No goal is inappropriate if it fits your desires and commitment. All have a place in our sport and all can lead to great wins, whether you finish first, last, or anywhere in between. As long as you define it ahead of time so you know at the start line what a win is going to look like at the finish line.