I am very pleased to say that I completed the Nice Half Marathon yesterday in a very respectful time of 1h57m which for me is a big deal! I worked hard, trained well and even worked with a coach to get that little bit extra from myself.
It was a big deal for me because I am returning to running after many years of not being on form. Last year was my return to any sort of competitive sport and did a 10K, then a half marathon followed by a sprint triathlon. After a four-year layoff due to injury and illness, last year was all about just ‘dipping my toes’ back into the competitive arena. This year, it is about seeing what else I can get in terms of results when I follow a focused and structured training programme.
Now that my half marathon is over (and many other big city marathons completed with some amazing results!), I am wondering, as many do … what next?
Setting your sights on a big goal and preparing for whatever your performance is going to be takes alot of time. You may have spent many hours thinking and discussing the big goal. You will likely have also spent many hours doing the actual preparation and in the case for sports performances, physical training. So whether that goal has been to complete a half marathon, a course of studies or qualifications or anything else that requires time, energy and attention to complete, when it’s over, you might wonder what next.
Immediately after the event, people often feel as if they are on a high from actually doing what they set out to do. The sense of achievement and accomplishment might fill them with pride at what they have done and what that achievement means to them. Yet, many people I have talked to, and I have experienced it myself, is a sense of loss and bewilderment afterwards.
After being on the ‘high’ of achieving their goal, then often comes the ‘low’ afterwards and the uncertainty of what to do next. It is as if there is a void in their daily lives and they are wondering how they will fill that void. They might wonder what they will focus on next, what goals they will chose to pursue and how they might fill their time.
Much like after any other kind of loss, the important thing is to give yourself some time. Time to just absorb what you have done and absorb the fact that you did it! Take time to really appreciate what that achievement means to you and the difference to your life now that you have achieved the goal. This is an opportunity to give yourself a pat on the back, acknowledge the hard work and then rest / recover from all the effort you have done. Then, start to look out towards the horizon and ponder what next.
When you are ready to look at what is next, think about what challenges you might like to take on. It does not have to always be bigger and bigger things, just different. You might pick a similar goal, rather than picking a bigger goal such as the marathon distance. I know lots of ultra runners where they see running a marathon is simply like a warm up to most other people! You might, for example, chose another half marathon and chose to see about improving your technique and speed. Or you might chose another goal in completely another area like learning a new skill (Italian is on my radar screen at the moment as I am so close to the Italian border!).
Remember, sometimes your goals can be allowing yourself to simply ‘be’, rather than always ‘doing’ stuff. For example, when I first arrived in France four months ago (can’t believe it’s already been four months!), rather than jump straight into big goals, my main goal which I focused on was ‘happiness’. The aim of this goal was to allow myself time and space to settle into life in France, to adjust to the cultural differences and settle into the life/living differences. It also meant that I would only chose those things that brought me happiness and joy. This is an ongoing daily focus for me! Yet now that I have achieved the half marathon goal, I’m pondering what next and will give myself some space for things to settle down before deciding on my next big goal!
How can you give yourself space after achieving this last goal to acknowledge all that you have done? What will be your next goal to pursue? Might you chose a similar outcome (such as running a half marathon) yet with a different focus as your next goal? Might a goal of simply ‘being’ rather than ‘doing’ be your next goal?