What is winning to you?

Don’t tell me she’s not winning

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.

Photo credit: Finish line! by Steve Doherty, on Flickr

2 Replies to “What is winning to you?”

  1. Well said Ryan!! The advantage of our sport is that can win in different ways, for example you can target 2-3 times in a race, for example : Goal A) Run 3 hour in the maratón, Goal B) 3:10 Goal c) just to finish. I mean if you cant accomplish your primary goal, you pretty much can win in other goals, eventhough are not the primary goal that you set for yourself. I hope that makes sense! Cheers!

    1. Thanks Cesar. Actually, maybe I should write about multiple goals some time. I’ll put it on my list of topics because I do like setting goals like you mention.

      In your example of multi-tiered goals, the wins may look something like this:

      If you break 3 hours in the marathon, that may be your equivalent of an Olympic victory.
      If you break 3:10, you still get a major personal victory.
      If you finish, that’s still a win worth celebrating.

      That’s great if you have goals you may see slipping away because seeing the goal slip away can cause some people to lose engagement. “My goal was to break 3 hours. I’m on 3:07 pace with no hope of getting back to sub-3 pace. I’m losing. I might as well pack it in.” Big credit to those who can battle through those thoughts and still give their best effort but not everyone will do that. Having those back up goals can help keep you engaged when things are going well but not as perfectly as hoped for. “Sub-3 pace is gone but I’m still on 3:07 pace. I can hold it together to break 3:10 and get that secondary goal.”

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