The thing is, though, we are a nosy bunch.
Everyone wants to know what time you’ve done in a race and for most runners that’s perfectly fine.
However, for a novice, it can be quite off putting and intimidating.
The task of completing the race is enough of a challenge without worrying about the added pressure of getting over the line in so many hours.
Personally, I think most runners, outside of the elites, are far too obsessed with times.
Time goals can be a huge motivator.
However, I believe that the training process is far more important than setting a goal that you may or may not be able to stick to based on circumstance.
Take care in your training and the race time will take care of itself.
Getting over the finish line is a huge achievement and any number of variables can turn a sub-four hour target into a sub-five, or worse.
The marathon medal I’m most proud of is from the Great Limerick Run in 2014.
I ran one of my slowest races ever - 4:29 if memory serves me right, some 40 minutes below my norm - but I was in my last semester of college, I had a final year project to finish and exams to study for.
Life was so, so busy.
I knew a few weeks before that, while I was fit enough to finish comfortably, I didn’t have the miles in my legs to run a sub-four.
I can still put that medal next to my personal bests and feel happy with it. I really enjoyed the race that day because I took everything in and felt no pressure.
My advice is to keep a rough time in mind but don’t get too attached to it. You don’t need the stress and worry.
Train as well as you can and the rewards will come.
Inevitably, well-meaning people will ask what time you are aiming for and if this makes you uncomfortable, do what I do.
Tell them you are aiming to break the world record!
It currently stands at 2:02:57 and was set by Kenya’s Dennis Kimetto at the 2014 Berlin Marathon - in case they enquire further.
It’s a clear signal, in the most polite way possible, that you would prefer to keep your target to yourself.
You can move on without the ignominy of having to compare yourself to another runner - a comparison that does nothing to serve either of you.
Everyone has different lives, circumstances, injuries, etc., so don’t try to keep up with the Joneses, or the Kenyans as the case may be.