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7 golden rules of goal-setting

Gerda Steyn
Gerda Steyn

There’s a knack for visualising and sticking to your goals. Gerda Steyn, the country’s fastest female marathon runner and, in recent years, winner of both the Two Oceans and Comrades ultramarathons, is no stranger to smashing hers.

Target a goal you’re passionate about

I’m obsessed with anything running-related. I’ll forget to sleep reading articles about runners, or watching a race, even if I’ve never heard of it. I don’t think that’s a bad thing. Why not live your passion if it brings you joy?

Then, imagine what it’ll feel like to achieve it

If I’m doing a training run and a car or motorbike passes me, I imagine it’s the lead vehicle. And that I’m chasing down my competition – even if no one’s actually in front of me! So, when I get to race day, it’s almost like it’s not new for me because I can relate it to an experience I’ve had in the past.

Gather your supporters

My coach Andrew Booyens trusts I’ll always give my best and be honest because you can’t coach an athlete who isn't truthful about how training makes them feel, physically and mentally. Andrew contributes his many years experience to my training; he knows how to put the puzzle pieces together and challenges me.

Boost your resilience

Working toward a goal makes you realise anything worth having is hard work, but the results you see from pushing yourself are so satisfying. Running, in particular, makes you mentally strong. It brings structure to your day, and you know your body so well that you can tell long before you start showing symptoms if something’s off.

Check in with yourself

I ran the Comrades Marathon (approximately 89km) in just under six hours, so it wouldn’t have been wise to expend all my energy in the first hour. I had to be honest about how I felt in the moment and ask myself if I could sustain a particular effort for that length of time. Did I need nutrition or water? Was my face relaxed because I knew that then the rest of me would be?

Consider it an opportunity for growth

The Tokyo 2020 Olympics was my first time representing South Africa in green and gold in a small field of the best athletes in the world. Looking back, I think I ran a little too conservatively due to that added pressure, but I ran within my abilities and finished an Olympian, which might not have happened if I'd raced too hard. That experience will help me prepare for my next championship race.

Celebrate your victories, then move on

Running isn’t just a job for me, it’s something I’ve found great joy in, so I’ll have a glass of champagne with my husband. But I try not to celebrate for too long because yesterday’s victory has nothing to do with tomorrow – tomorrow’s a running day, and there are new goals on the horizon.

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