Racing Wisely: Choosing a Fall Goal Race

It’s the time of year to commit to a fall goal race. As you consider your options, here’s some advice from my latest book, Racing Wisely.

RW thumbRacing at your personal best is different from setting a personal record (PR), although the two can certainly happen simultaneously. When you race at your best, you finish satisfied that you did the utmost you could on that day, on that course, on the training you banked. You will not always be able to run your personal record, especially as you age. But when you race wisely, every race can be a personal victory. In a personal best race, you predetermine the major challenges that you can control, take steps to mitigate them, and execute your plan with grace and efficiency. More importantly, you maintain a positive attitude toward the things you can’t control, using them as an opportunity for resilience, endurance, and happiness in the face of shifting circumstances.

In this way, racing wisely and achieving your personal best means being practical, applying your energy where it’s most needed to reach the goals you want, and philosophical, adjusting your attitude about the things you can’t control by remembering your intention. Learning to race wisely means developing tools for meeting every situation with the appropriate energy, and this extends far beyond racing. It applies to dealing with traffic, with medical diagnoses, with job offers, with any demand on your energy. It applies to dealing with all aspects of your life.

As you set out to learn about yourself through racing, it’s important to reflect on what you already know about yourself. Self-reflection helps you choose the right race for your personal strengths, which is critical for your success. Are you an introvert who wants or needs to maintain internal focus during the race? Are you an extrovert who feeds off the support of the crowd? Do you thrive on the repetition of a flat beach course or on the changing scenery and shifting challenge of mountainous terrain?

As you consider what race to sign up for, or which of several races to target as your major goal—the A-priority race, the one where you’re racing for your personal best—you’ll need to think through what, who, where, when, and why. Then the how becomes clear. Ask yourself these questions.

Race Planning Questionnaire


  • What do you want to feel when you cross the finish line?
  • What will be a satisfying performance?
  • What kind of race environment suits you best?
  • What is the right race distance and race size to achieve your desired outcome?


  • Who in your life is affected by your training and racing? Will they support you in the way you need?
  • Whom will you train with? Do you plan to race with them?


  • Where can you viably travel to race?
  • What kind of terrain and courses suit your strengths?


  • When do you have free time to train? To travel to race?
  • When are your major work deadlines?
  • When may your family and relationships experience transitions during your training cycle?
  • When will seasonal weather changes impact your training? How does the training weather compare to anticipated race-day weather?


  • Why do you want to run this race?
  • Why is now the very best time for it?


  • Given these broad-stroke answers, how can you best train wisely?

Find a downloadable, customizable version of this race planning questionnaire at In upcoming posts, we’ll investigate these questions in depth.