Set A Personal Goal And Run With It

06/10/2011 12:02 pm ET | Updated Aug 10, 2011

I recently stumbled into setting a personal goal. On the morning of my 40th birthday, I looked at myself in the bathroom mirror unimpressed at the portrait of portliness on show. Years of non-stop business travel, junk food, binge drinking and work all-nighters had taken their toll.

In a state of self-disgust, I made the decision to start a healthier life. I rushed to my computer, thought about things that athletic people do and signed up to run a marathon. Feeling good that I had taken my first stride after filling out my race entry form with a charitable cause, I fell back a step and set out for a long day and night of 40th-birthday debauchery.

I had completely forgotten about my marathon commitment until my phone started ringing the next morning. On the phone was an energetic woman named Renee from the American Red Cross, the charity for which I had signed up to raise money by running in the marathon. She and her colleagues had read my entry to run for their charity and were interested in my personal story. She wanted to write a feature about me for the Red Cross website, post a picture and a blurb about me on the marathon Facebook page and maybe interview me on race day.

I was flattered and stunned. It was nice to hear that they liked my description of a middle-aged dad trying to impress his two young sons. But my personal concern was much greater, as I realized that I was actually going to have to run a marathon. My hasty sign-up got me into this mess in the first place.

I have to say that I am not one who normally embraces personal challenges like running a marathon. Marathon running is a cliché goal, right up there with climbing a big mountain or sailing around something.

But I am buying into the cliché. Perhaps these personal goals that we set ourselves act like booster shots to keep us sprinting through life to the best of our ability and to look outside of our core work and family responsibilities and lives. At 40 I found that many things that were personal were getting pushed to the side for work and family commitments.

This goal setting seems to be working. My muscles tend to rebel a bit at times, but I am now five weeks into training and just passed the seven-and-a-half-mile mark on my long run. As I jog toward this marathon, I am more open to setting personal goals again. Maybe I will climb a big mountain, sail around something or think of new challenges. In the meantime I will keep running.