Goal Setting for the Chicago Marathon

Yesterday was my first official day of working with the new coach I hired to help me meet my Chicago marathon goals.

I had just three easy miles on the schedule so I hit up my favorite place after work to knock ’em out. It was a beautiful night out; warm but with a small breeze and low humidity (66%).


I love that the days are getting longer. Since I’m still stuck with that extra long commute home from work I don’t get to the beach until 7:30ish at night and I appreciate that it stays light up for about another hour now! That gives me time to get in a decent run and then still kick back and relax for a minute before I head home for a late dinner.


So, as I mentioned earlier, I’ve hired a new coach to guide me along this summer. I had an incredible year of running under Lauren where I PR’d in every single distance; I even PR’d in the half marathon twice within a 2.5 month span. Lauren is a very knowledgeable coach and someone I’m glad to call a friend now. That being said, I decided I wanted to shake things up for Chicago this year which is why I’m now working with someone new.

My new coach lives here in Florida (although not here in South Florida) and so far I have been really impressed with all of our conversations.


When my new coach and I first started speaking about the Chicago Marathon she of course asked me the million dollar question, “what is your goal for this race?” 

*radio silence*

To be honest I just want to perform the best that I can while meeting the cut off time. I know that my performance last year at Portland was sub-par. Based on my 20-miler I should have finished that race faster than I did.

But every marathon presents the potential for curve balls – and lots of them.

What would I LIKE to achieve? 5:59 or 13:41 pace. What am I going to actually train for? What is the goal that I should realistically be striving for at this particular race in October? That’s still TBD.

Next Tuesday I’ll be running a 5K timed trial; this is to assess my current fitness level and to set the paces I’ll use throughout the summer for my training. Based on this time trial my coach will more or less be able to determine what my realistic goal for Chicago should be.

Based on my 5K time from back in December it’s looking like a 6:10 marathon is realistic. I used the McMillan Running Calculator to get this prediction.

Screen Shot 2015-06-08 at 10.16.34 PM

It’s been six months since I ran my 37:57 PR though so I’m hoping I can knock out an even faster time during my time trial… but let’s be real, it’s hot out right now and I’m just coming back from some significantly reduced mileage.

Excuses aside, I’ll be giving the time trial my very best effort. I need to run something like 36:51 (11:52/mi) during the 5K trial for a 5:59 at Chicago to seem realistic. I know I can run one mile at that pace since I did so just a couple of weeks ago right before I got sick. Now it’s just a matter of figuring out if I can string three of those miles together.

Stay tuned!

How do you set goals for your races? Do you use a pace prediction calculator?

Have you set a goal for your big fall race yet?



  1. June 9, 2015 / 5:27 am

    Im excited to follow your training! A new coach is exciting- I could see why it would make sense to work with someone new just to get a different kind of training method this time around.

  2. Susan
    June 9, 2015 / 6:09 am

    It is going to be so fun to follow along w/ you on your journey–thanks for taking us along. I am boring: I don’t race so I never have to do anything but go out and run (which is how I want it)….but I do enjoy watching others achieve their goals! Good luck, girl.

  3. June 9, 2015 / 7:02 am

    I’m excited to see how your training goes for this cycle. It sounds like you have things down and that you learned a lot from your last marathon. Training throughout the summer in Fort Lauderdale is gonna be tough, but I bet it will make you so strong for Chicago. I tend to pick goal race paces by how I am doing on shorter distances. I have used race prediction calculators, and they generally just tell me what I thought was my goal. I have not really picked a hard time goal for Chicago. I think I’m more concerned with just finishing the distance.

    • June 10, 2015 / 10:05 pm

      I think that’s a great goal for Chicago! Your first marathon should feel as pressure free as possible, I think! Savor the experience as much as you can without the added stress of trying to reach a specific finishing time.

      Marathon training during the summer down here is no joke. Last year I had to get up at 4am for a few of my super long runs to make sure I would be done or almost done by the time the sun rises, because it heats up so fast! I’m not really looking forward to those 4am wake up calls again this year …. but the nap afterwards feels SO GOOD! haha

  4. June 9, 2015 / 8:32 am

    I do race calculators just for fun. 🙂 But normally I get a better idea of what race pace I can do as I am going through my training. And obviously, it depends on my distance. My tempo run paces I banged out while training for my 10k REALLY informed me on what I thought would be possible for myself come race day. And for marathons, long runs around 15+ miles would also inform me. I think pace calculators are good to give someone an idea if their goals are going to be in the realm of possibilities!

  5. June 9, 2015 / 8:45 am

    Can’t wait to follow along as you work towards your goals. I would think it would be hard to set a goal for such a big race… saying you just want to perform your best sounds good to me 🙂

  6. June 9, 2015 / 9:00 am

    I’m really excited to follow your training! I hope your new coach works out well for you. Other than just wanting to shake things up this cycle, was there any particular reason you choose not to work with Lauren again? As a non-coached runner, I’m curious how you decide which coach to work with or when to move on from a coach.

    It is a lot of fun to play around with pace predictors, but most of them assume you are running 70+ mile weeks for the marathon predictions. Which in my case….haha, nope! My 5k PR predicts a 3:25 marathon…maybe some day!

    • June 9, 2015 / 12:29 pm

      Hey Heather! It was actually a really difficult decision to stop working with Lauren since I had seen such consistent success with her. However, as a relatively new runner I like trying out new training methods and hearing about new training philosophies from knowledgable people. I think working with different coaches, especially for the marathon distance, will help me find the training type that is right for me. I learned a lot from Lauren but felt like I wanted some new insight from someone else who is a qualified coach. Before Lauren I had worked with my previous coach for just about a year as well. I think a year is a good amount of time to really learn from someone and to understand and apply the training philosophy they subscribe to.

      Lauren was recommended to me by a friend who’s opinion on running matters I really respect (she was also coached by Lauren). My new coach was also recommended to me by someone whose opinion I respect (and who is a client of my new coach as well).

      • June 10, 2015 / 8:08 am

        I can imagine it is a bit scary to decide to move to a different coach especially when you have gotten great results with Lauren. But, it really makes sense! I also consider myself a new runner and I am still working to figure out exactly what does and does not work for me in terms of training. If you don’t try out a different approach you won’t be able to find out what works best. Thanks for sharing your insight!

  7. June 9, 2015 / 9:48 am

    I’m so excited you’re about to start training again!! So many great memories from the beginning of our friendship at this time last year!!

    I actually picked my marathon goal on the advice of a guy in my running group. I was running with them one Saturday back in December and he mentioned that for most people, a good realistic number to shoot for us a 5% improvement over their last marathon time (assuming they ran the last marathon at their best effort). So, for me, that meant about 12 minutes off my 4:02 which came out to just under 3:50. (FWIW, he also pointed out that people who are running slower marathons have the potential to shave off more than that. It’s always going to be easier for a 5:00 marathoner to shave off 10 minutes than it is for a 3:00 marathoner). I liked that goal, it was a big improvement but still realistic. When I had first signed up for Grandma’s I had dreams of a 3:40-3:45 but I had a feeling that wasn’t very realistic for me. I’m not one of those runners who likes to set insane, reach-for-the-stars unrealistic goals. I don’t think it’s very productive.

    I’ve found McMillan to be the most solid of all the calculators. Like Heather said, I think it does assume you are training at a high level, but I don’t train nearly that much and it’s still accurate for me. It’s good for a ballpark figure but it’s not gospel. I like that it gives you suggested training paces based on your current fitness though.

    • June 10, 2015 / 10:08 pm

      Oh how interesting, I had not heard of the 5% rule before. That sounds like a good predictor for improvement after a solid training cycle.

      Yes, I’ve heard that slower runners often can shave off big time from their marathon debuts. I know someone who ran her second marathon over 60 minutes faster than her first. It would be nice to pull something like that off!

      I didn’t realize McMillan assumed you were training at about 70mpw (ouch) but I do know already that I’ll be running a higher volume this year vs. what I did last year. That cumulative fatigue you’ve been talking about is in my near future!

  8. June 9, 2015 / 9:50 am

    New coach is exciting. Can’t wait to see your time trial, your going to do a great job.

    I pretty much use my training as a gauge for how I want a run to go. No sense having subpar training and lofty race expectations right??

    For my marathon in November, I would really love to be under 3:30, then build towards a BQ in the spring.

    Btw, I’ve been thinking of getting some advice from a coach, I might shoot some questions your way.

    • June 10, 2015 / 10:09 pm

      DANG a sub 3:30 for your first marathon! You can totally do it though! I believe in you!

      Happy to answer any questions about coaching. Have you looked at Sage’s training plans as well? I bet his marathon plan would be a great fit for you.

  9. June 9, 2015 / 11:41 am

    I’m looking forward to following along with your training! Especially because I’m not doing a fall marathon myself. I think it can be really hard to set goal times for the marathon distance. It’s a long race with a lot of variables and the training takes so long that you’re really in a completely different place (physically and emotionally) by the end of it. I think if you train smart, which it sounds like you already are by hiring a coach and thinking through it, a 6-hour goal is totally realistic. You are just coming off reduced mileage, but you have been working on overall strength and that solid base that you had established will come back quickly.

    I like the McMillan calculator because I like that it gives suggested paces for different workouts. I actually find that it does a pretty good job with my estimated times. I think the tricky thing with it is that you need relatively up-to-date race info for it, but your time trial should provide you with that.

    Keep us updated! I love vicariously experiencing marathon training through the blog world. 🙂

    • June 10, 2015 / 10:12 pm

      I think the McMillan calculator is fairly accurate for me as well. For instance, based on the 5K time I ran in December it very accurately predicted the half marathon time that I ran in January – it predicted 2:55 and I ran a 2:57 – but I also ended up running longer than 13.1 because I did a whole lot of weaving. I guess we’ll see how it goes this fall!

  10. June 9, 2015 / 12:00 pm

    I know that no matter what time goal you set for yourself you will crush it! You are one of the most consistent runners I know and you almost always stick to your training plan perfectly and are so organized. I wish I had that kind of discipline and determination. I can’t wait to follow along on your training and see you rock Chicago!

  11. June 9, 2015 / 12:21 pm

    I’m playing with a new goal for my marathon, too, but it’s obvious that 20-milers are way easier than a full! So I’m deciding if my goal is looking for too much of an improvement in such a short time. I can’t wait to train “together” again!

  12. June 9, 2015 / 3:39 pm

    Super excited for you! I am excited you will be working with a new coach. I’ve entered times in every pace predictor calculator – the range is about 10-20 minutes depending how conservative I go at whether I use a 5K or Half time. I have a 5K in a couple of weeks, will be curious where my times line up. I’ve been using a 32:00 as my 5K timefor the RLRF time tables (they give the pace for tempo, speed, long run based on the 5K).

  13. June 9, 2015 / 5:44 pm

    That first photo is amazing. Once again I’m jealous of your Florida life haha 😀
    So fun you’ll be working with a new coach. I hope you’ll get great results 😀 I’m sure you’ll learn a lot of new things. New people means new knowledge, right? 😉
    When I set goals I normally just have a time in my head. Nothing too fancy here haha 🙂
    I haven’t set a goal for any of my coming races yet, I don’t want to stress too much about it.

  14. June 9, 2015 / 8:55 pm

    Did I mention how cool it is that we are training for the same marathon?! 😀

    I like to play around with pace calculators and I also use the Runner’s Ally app on the phone as well for fun. I don’t hold too much in their predictions though since we all know race day can be totally unpredictable!

  15. June 9, 2015 / 9:28 pm

    I had a very lofty goal at the start of the year. But now that we are half way through the year I am realizing that it’s probably not going to happen (which makes me kind of sad). I’ve heard you should not have a time goal for your first marathon. Did you have one for your first?

    • June 10, 2015 / 7:12 am

      My #1 goal for Portland was just to finish. I had it in my mind that I would have liked to finish in 5:59 last year too… I thought it might be possible given the cold weather and being able to shave off some time from that. That was stupid thinking for my first marathon, haha. The best goal for first time marathoners is definitely just finishing. You don’t want to have a dark cloud hanging over this incredible experience because you didn’t meet some time goal!

  16. June 10, 2015 / 6:39 pm

    How exciting you have a new coach 🙂 I hope you can hit those goals! It is so hot for you right now, I admire you for pushing yourself in those conditions. I do use a pace predictor, I always have and it’s been pretty close usually, but you are so right, race day can throw you big curve balls! so you prep and have an A goal, but we have to adapt too. I thi k you adapted well in Portland and high five you finished!! even with the challenging heat you did it 🙂

  17. June 10, 2015 / 8:08 pm

    Very exciting, Kristina! I look forward to following you in this training. I feel you about the need to do a 5K time trial but that it’s summer now and so hot! Those prediction calculators aren’t accurate for me. Based on my 5K time, I should be running a half marathon significantly faster than I can and based on half marathon time should be running a 5K much slower than I am. My coach–a running friend who helps me–helps me set time goals based on my past race time and how it went. He recommends a fitness test during the training cycle to see where you’re at and adjust time goals accordingly.

    • June 10, 2015 / 10:02 pm

      Hey Jenn, I like that your friend has you do a fitness test during the training cycle to reassess where you’re at and to adjust time goals accordingly. I believe I will be doing the same thing midway through this training cycle. My coach really wants me to find a half marathon to do, but I’m not 100% sure I’m going to. I would LOVE to race a half marathon sometime this summer but I would need to fly somewhere to do it and I’m already taking two other vacations (to other warm weather places with no races). We’ll see how it goes!

  18. June 11, 2015 / 11:38 pm

    I may have missed this in one of your posts, but is there a reason you switched coaches? I’m just curious… how did you pick your new coach?

    I usually set goals for my races based on past performances and current fitness level. I always like to strive a little high, but not too unrealistically. Honestly, when I was racing last year my coach and I worked together on my goals and he helped me set attainable goals a little outside of my comfort zone. His predictions were always within minutes of my actual finish times – pretty cool. I can’t wait to hear what your goals are for Chicago. Aim high, Kristina, and know you can do it!