Mark Armstrong: Why all runners need a BHAG

Runners at the start of the Norfolk Gazelles Valentine's 10k run at Easton College. Picture: DENISE

Throwback to last year's Valentine's 10K - runners get off at the start line at Easton College. Picture: DENISE BRADLEY - Credit: Copyright: Archant 2020

I came across the term BHAG this week. 

For anyone who hasn’t heard this before it stands for Big Hairy Audacious Goal. 

Essentially, it’s used as a business term by many as a goal companies can aim for that might be just out of reach. 

But it got me thinking... every runner has got their own BHAG haven’t they? 

We’ve all had a lot more time to think about any big goals for when racing returns... too much if anything but there does appear to be light on the horizon. 

Anyway, I hinted at it in last week’s column but here is my BHAG: To run a sub three-hour marathon. 

I’m not silly enough to put a timeframe on that but if I could run a marathon that starts with a ‘2’ then, to coin a phrase by Jay from the Inbetweeners it would be a case of ‘Running? Completed it, mate’. 

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I realise that at some stage my relationship with running is going to have to change and evolve. It can’t always be about personal bests and running distances in the shortest time possible. 

But I’m not there yet – I'd like to think I’ve got a good few years before it’s even a consideration. 

So under three hours for a marathon is the BHAG – my coach Neil Featherby is convinced it’s achievable in the right circumstances but there’s work to do convincing myself. 

Committing to running marathons (certainly how I want to) isn’t really conducive to having a young family. Lara, 7, and Logan, 2, just want their dad around as much as possible and I want to take advantage of that before they realise their old man is a bit of a wally and they’d much rather be with their friends. 

There’s also the fact my wife, Alison, also has her running goals – although she’s a bit coyer when it comes to her BHAG... 

But what I can do is start putting the building blocks in place – long runs, quality sessions, good nutrition, consistent strength and conditioning. If I neglect one of these and the others suffer. 

If there’s one thing I’ve learned is that there aren’t any shortcuts.  

I'm not a natural runner by any means and if I neglect some of the conditioning work I’ve picked up over the years then I start to feel it. The life of a home schooler has meant on a few occasions I’ve not done the strength and stretching work that I was doing towards the end of last year. I had a well-earned beer instead. 

But after a while my body starts to feel it and deep down, I know I can’t run how I want to unless I do all the necessary work around it. 

I got a taste of the kind of progress I can make from when I was furloughed from work last year – running gave me a focus and I was able to get back to and move beyond the level I was at before I broke my ankle towards the end of 2019. 

But with life as it is at the moment I can’t commit to adopting the same kind of focus that I need to get anywhere near that sub three-hour goal. But I can start chipping away at it. 

The process starts now, which means focusing on 5K and 10K training under Neil’s guidance. That can then proceed to some 10-mile and half marathon races where the goal has to be to run under 90 minutes and that is a target I can work towards and a box that needs to be ticked before moving on. 

That can be this year’s main goal - that almost feels like a BHAG in itself...