What a better way to celebrate our weekly Running Coaches’ Corner than talking about setting marathon race goals… as well as what mine are for Twin Cities Marathon! P.S. Learn more about how you can link up with Debbie, Rachel, Susie and me below for our weekly series –> plus, see links to other great articles all about running!

I think setting (smart) marathon race goals are really hard to do. For weeks upon weeks (even sometimes up to a year for a goal race), we are so focused on our marathon that it can be hard to take a step back and think about what we can truly achieve. I’ve made some really dumb goals over the years — trying to tell myself that I’m PR ready when I’m really not. 

And you know what? That’s OK. Not all races are going to be a PR, but it’s important to recognize that to a) not kill your motivation or b) make you hate running. 

Tips for setting smart marathon race day goals | Crazy Running Girl


When it comes to setting your marathon race goals:


Be objective. 

It’s so easy to be like “OMG I SO DESERVE TO PR” and not really think about what your training cycle looked like. 

When you think about your marathon race goals, think about where you stand based on your training. Did you hit your goal paces, run your distances and hardly skip any runs? And with that, how are you feeling physically and mentally? 

That can be a great indicator of where you will stand on race day. BUT, and a big but, it does not mean that it will necessarily dictate how your race goes. I have felt amazing race day morning and still not come close to my PR. The one race I always draw on is when I ran the NYC Marathon in 2010 and was undertrained and managed to take 10 minutes off my previous PR. That race, I’ll never quite figure it out. 


Pull from your training. 

Post-Yassos selfie | Crazy Running Girl


So yes, take a look at your training and think about how it went. There will be struggles and most likely, a few missed workouts. But, when you think about your training –> did you:

  • Knock it out of the park, and know that you could do the same with a marathon? 
  • Hit the minimum on everything, but don’t know how you feel about it all overall? 
  • Forgot that you had a marathon on the calendar, and basically had to cram your workouts? 


Bucketing into one of those will be a good indication of how your race day goals should look. 


Think about what you’ve accomplished, and what you might be able to accomplish. 



This is perhaps one of my favorite things to do when I start thinking about marathon race day goals! So, what have you accomplished… this training cycle, in your running career and even for your mental strength overall? 

And, most importantly, how does this translate into what your goals might be? 



Listen to your gut.

Oh the whole listening to your gut thing. I love listening to my gut (especially since I just realized how important it is in life) and I feel like this is the best barometer to figure out your race-day goals… as long as you are doing #1. But, what do YOU think that you can do?

Do you feel like you’ve trained for a PR?

Are you ready for a negative split marathon?

Do you just want to finish within 10 minutes of your PR time?

Think about what makes the most sense based on what you know from your training and how you feel. I also don’t think it’s a bad thing to be a little optimistic here. 


Set more than one goal. 

Finish line photo at Grandma's Marathon | Crazy Running Girl


I am a big proponent in setting A, B and C goals. YES, it’s always a little disappointing if you set some big goals and only attain your C goal… but you know what?! You ran a marathon and that’s still completely amazing. Not many people can say that they’ve done that! 

AND, there will always be another race (hey, that’s pretty much how I got up to 21…). 


So, with that —> my race day goals for Twin Cities Marathon

I’ve gone back and forth on these. I went into training right after Grandma’s Marathon, where I felt pretty strong and *almost* PRed completely (I’ll take the new-old PR though). Over the past few weeks, I feel like my training has fallen off because of big life things like getting a new job, moving across the country and getting settled into a new life (all good things that I’m so happy about!). 

Anyways, part of me wants to scale back on my goals but the other part of me wants to learn from that NYC Marathon so many years ago where I first hit 3:31 and knocked nearly 10 minutes off my goal. I went into that race feeling unprepared and hardly able to hit a PR by a few seconds and BAM, I knocked it out of the park. 

I don’t think I have a “knock it out of the park” in me for this race, but I’m aiming for…

A: That unattainable attainable PR.

Oh I feel like I’ve written this same paragraph SO MANY TIMES for my races over the years. So many times that this PR is starting to feel a little unattainable. But I know that I can freaking do it! I know that I have it in me to cut at least 1 minute and 20 seconds off my race over the course of 26.2 miles…

SO YES, my A goal is to get that sub-3:30. I feel like while I haven’t been focused on the marathon over the past few weeks, I did have a solid training cycle (and trained in the Texas heat for goodness sake, that has to count for something) and I think that mentally, I can get there over the next few days.


B: Under 3:45

If I can’t hit that PR pace, I would still love to finish under 3:45. I feel like this is DEFINITELY doable given my current fitness level and how I feel overall. 


I really don’t have a C goal (have fun? finish?)… those two are goals for every race, so I’m just going to leave it at A or B for the Twin Cities Marathon this weekend.


What do you think about when you set a race day goal? 

What’s a goal that you’ve been targeting for a long time? How do you stay motivated to keep it your #1 goal and not think that you can’t attain it?  

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