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Be Ready to Adjust Your Goals

Adjusting goals key to professor Cindra Kamphoff's marathon finish.

Cindra Kamphoff, Minnesota State Mankato faculty member, Mankato Free Press, 4-22-2012

PHOTO CUTLINE: Cindra Kamphoff (right) is pictured with Katherine Switzer, who in 1967 became the first woman to enter the Boston Marathon and complete it. (Photo submitted by Cindra Kamphoff.)


As I walked back to our hotel the night before the Boston Marathon, I was mad. Even though I knew I couldn’t con­trol the weather, I was mad at Mother Nature.

The weather was projected to reach a record high of 87 in Boston for the race the next day —and most experts sug­gest a marathoner’s perform­ance is optimal when the air temperature is around 50 degrees. I knew that my goal time had to be adjusted because of the conditions.

After months and months of training, I felt both mad and unlucky.

It’s hard for many of us to adjust our goals and control our emotions in situations like this. When you’ve worked so hard and so long in the pursuit of a specific achievement or perform­ance, it’s difficult to let go of your expectations for that event. But I knew that I had to be willing to rethink my plan for the race.

Before going to bed that night, I wrote out my race plan — something I usually do several days in advance.

In this case, it was good that I had waited, because I needed to factor in the con­ditions.

The plan I wrote that night included physical things such as starting slow, listening to my body, run­ning consistently in the mid­dle of the race, and pushing the final 6 miles only if I felt good.

But it also included important mental strategies. I knew that if I remained mad and let myself feel unlucky, I would not perform at my best. I had to accept what the day would bring — record high temperatures and all. I had to adjust my goals, and I needed to feel empowered that I could get through anything that happened the next day.

I planned things I would say to myself during the race. Phrases like “Remain calm,” “ Savor it” and “I am positivity” were written on my plan and then on my arm as visual cues during the race. I knew I must stay positive and calm to face the elements.

I also planned to enjoy the run. A few months ago I wasn’t even sure I would be able to run the race because of my anemia (iron deficiency). I planned to enjoy whatever the day brought me. I wrote down on my plan all my best experiences running in the heat to build my confidence and remind myself that I could handle running 26.2 miles on a hot day.

The race plan worked. I woke up on Marathon Monday with a new perspective, ready to go and empowered to be my best regardless of the elements.

I had adjusted my plan and my goals and was ready to rock it in the heat.

I followed my race plan to a tee. I started conservatively; my first two miles were my slowest miles of the race. When my quads felt tight at mile 11, I backed off and took it easy to mile 14.

I stayed strong up the hills to the top of the infamous Heartbreak Hill at mile 20. Then I kicked it in during the final six miles to finish almost a minute per mile faster than I had started the race.

In Boston, I used my mind more than I have in any previous race. I ran smart and listened to my body. I remained patient because I knew I might not finish the race if I didn’t.

I smiled a lot and enjoyed the experience.

And I finished the race in three hours and 14 minutes, three minutes faster than my best marathon time, even in the heat — the 89th woman among 8,933 female finishers.

It felt like a mental victory in so many ways, and was an important lesson for me to listen to my body in future marathons.

There were more than 21,000 people who started the Boston Marathon last Monday, and approximately 2,100 of those runners — almost 10 percent of the total — were treated for a heat-related illness during the race. The dangerous heat made many of us more aware of how we were feeling and how we had to adjust our goals accordingly, including several other runners from the Mankato area.

Chaun Cox, who has run more than 20 marathonss and ran Boston for the second time that day, also learned quickly that the heat would require him to adjust his goals. He started the race at his goal time, but realized by the three-mile mark that he had to adjust. He listened to physical cues like his breathing and his heavy legs and made the decision to adjust.

"Boston was a good exercise in being flexible and being honest," he said. "You can't control the weather or how things go that day ... You have to be flexible, smart and listen to your body."

Jim Kalina, who ran his first Boston Marathon this year, knew in the starting corral that he needed to adjust his goals. The time he was hoping for was no longer an option. Although he was disappointed that he had to change his plan, he knew he could finish the race if he ran smart.

"Ninety percent of things, you have control over," Kalina said. "But there is that little bit that you don't have control over, like the weather. Embrace that because you can't change it."

Many of us set a goal and then are unwilling to adjust it. We let emotions like anger or disappointment get the best of us. But the Boston Marathon this year was a good lesson of the importance of adjusting goals and controlling emotions during a performance. You can apply this concept to any performance including a job interview, speaking in front of a group, or playing a team sport like basketball or hockey.

All we can control is ourselves, and our reaction to a situation. We cannot control what happens around us — be it the weather or other people.

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