What Does PR Mean In Running?


If you’ve been in the running community for any time at all, you’ve probably heard the term “PR.” No, we’re not talking about public relations!

Your PR is something that’s unique to you. Every runner’s PR is different, and it changes constantly as you go through your running journey.

But what does a PR mean in running? Does it affect your performance? Is it something you need to know, or can you run without it?

If you aren’t sure what it is or how to improve yours, keep reading! We’ll be going through everything you need to know so you can start working on yours!

What is a PR? What is a PB?

PR stands for “personal record.” You may also see PB, which is short for “personal best.” They’re one and the same!

Technically, you get your first PR once you’ve finished your first race at any given distance. Your finishing time (which will be the only one you have, since you’ve only run one race) is your personal record!

Over your running career, you will have a variety of different PRs, because you’ll run a variety of different distances. For example, your PR for a 5k race will be one time, but your PR for a 10k race will obviously be different.

If you run a faster time in your second race, your PR has improved! If you run a slower time, your PR remains what it was.

If you haven’t yet run a race, or you’re not planning to, you can still have a PR. Just keep track of your time across a range of distances while you’re training, and you’ll naturally have a best time that you can work against to improve your performance. For every running route you have, you can keep track of your PR over that course.

How Can You Put A PR To Work?

Knowing your PR is nice, but if you’re a serious runner, you’ll want to use it to improve your performance. Having a number to work towards can be a tangible motivation!

Here’s how to use that number to improve your performance.

Set a Goal

Knowing your PR means you know the absolute best you’ve done, the hardest you’ve pushed, the fastest you’ve gone!

It also means that if you’re running consistently, you should be constantly improving, even if it is just by a little. Your PR is what you reached before. Logically, if you continue training and improving, you should be able to beat it slightly on a regular basis!

Your PR can be a great goal. You don’t need to smash it to pieces every time! Small improvements are of great significance.

If you usually run a 5k route for your training and your PR is 29:30, aim for 29: 28. It may be just 2 seconds. But if you’re knocking 2 seconds off your time every week or even every second week, you’ll find your performance improving dramatically and quickly!

Remember that if you are new to running, your PRs will follow the “hockey stick” line if you were to plot them on a graph. Basically, if you continue to run and train regularly, you’ll see some big improvements in your PRs. But as you run more and more, it gets harder to see those big jumps.

You also don’t need to wait for races to improve your PR. If you can make regular improvements while training, it’s an almost sure bet that you’ll hit a new PR in your next race.

Work for It

You can carry on at the same intensity every week if you wish. But the results you get out of it depend on the work you put in!

Work hard to shave off a second or two every week. If you find that you’ve been stuck on a PR for a few weeks and you’re getting frustrated, switch it up a little. Instead of working on your 5k PR, work on your 1-mile PR.

Whatever you’re working on, work at it hard. If you put in the effort, you’ll get results! If you find that you’re having a really hard time getting close to your PR again, take some time to consider your nutrition, your training methods, and your stress levels.

Remember, every aspect of your lifestyle has an impact on your exercise. In order to reach those PRs consistently, make sure every part of your lifestyle is working for you, and not against you!

Tips for Setting A New PR

If hitting a new PR is on your to-do list, here are some tips and tricks to make it as easy as possible for you.

1. Have a Goal and a Plan of Attack

Start with your current PR. You should always work from this number when setting new goals. Remember, you’ll have a few different PRs for different distances that you run.

If you’re planning on shaving 5 seconds off your PR on the next race day, which is 5 weeks away, you’ll need to improve by a second every week during training.

It’s a good idea to have a few different aims for race day. PR Aim #1 should be the ultimate goal. If beating your PR by 30 seconds is your biggest aim, then this would be goal #1.

If you feel that you should comfortably beat your PR by 10 seconds, this should be your secondary goal. It’s the one you’re more likely to hit.

Lastly, you should have an “I’d be happy with…” goal. If you beat your PR by a second, would you still be happy? That’s your final goal.

2. Pick a Race Course That’s Flat

Flat courses produce the most PRs! While you may have more challenging courses on your list of races to run, if you’re aiming specifically to beat that PR, choose a flat course to do it on. Often, courses will brag on their registration page about being “flat and fast.” That’s your course.

Hills, bumps, and even curvy corners can slow you down. It may only slow you down by a second, but those seconds add up!

If you’re new to the idea of working towards new PRs in your races, stick to the flatter courses with fewer turns if you can. Once you’re used to smashing your PRs on flat courses, you can challenge yourself by moving onto hillier courses.

3. Incorporate Speed Drills and/or Hill Work into Your Training

Training is where PRs are beaten. If you’re serious about improving your time every race you run, you need to be improving your time during training.

It’s an excellent idea to add one speed drill into your weekly training routine. This will not only build up your strength for sprinting (if you need to make up seconds in a race), but hill sprints can also help to strengthen your ankles and calves, reducing the chances of injury.

4. Break Your Goal Down Mile By Mile

When working towards a goal, you’ll obviously need to have your main time in mind when you start your race. But it’s far easier to keep track (and adjust accordingly) if you break down your main time into mile-long (or kilometer-long) chunks.

For example, let’s say you’re aiming for a time of 50:50 in a 5-mile race. If that number is all you keep in mind during your race, you can still get there.

But it’s easier (and more effective) to split it up by mile. A time of 50:50 in 5 miles would equal 10:10 per mile.

This is helpful because you can reassess at the end of each mile and figure out if you can keep going the same way for your next mile or if you need to up the intensity slightly.

By the time you hit mile number 5, you’ll know exactly how hard you need to push for the last mile in order to reach your goal.

5. Connect with Others

If you’re a lone runner, you can still smash your PRs if you have enough motivation. But more sociable runners might do better training in a group.

If you can find another runner who runs a similar time to you, this is first prize for a training partner. Running together gives you someone to pass the time with, but it also means you have someone to motivate you.

Running with someone of similar ability next to you means you’ll always have a challenge. If you’re lagging behind, you’ll be motivated to keep up. If you aren’t feeling strong on a particular day, you’ll have someone to push you forward.

It also helps keep you accountable. There’s no excuse to stay in bed because it’s warmer when you have a training partner relying on you!

It can also help to do hard workouts with someone who is fast with you – something called “training up.” If, every time you do an interval workout, you are chasing someone to keep up with them, you will improve faster. See if you can join a group that runs such workouts regularly, so you have someone to push you on the hard days.

6. Positive Self Talk

Of course, running is a physical sport. But it’s also a mental game. If your mindset isn’t tough, your performance will suffer.

Staying positive isn’t always easy but it’s important. If you find motivation by covering your walls with posters of your running idols, then do it! If leaving yourself positive, motivating notes works for you, then go ahead.

It’s important to figure out what motivates you. If you aren’t sure yet, experiment! Positive self-talk, visualization, meditation, creating a vision board, or joining a community of supportive people are just some of the ways to stay inspired.

Above all, stay positive, even when it’s tough. This is how heroes are made!

7. Recovery is Critical

Don’t get so busy pushing towards your goal that you forget recovery. It’s wise to incorporate a stretching routine into your training, and using a foam roller for myofascial release can keep your muscles loose and ready for action.

Make sure you’re also getting enough sleep and paying attention to your nutrition. First and foremost, make sure you’re eating the right amount of calories for your body to recover. Make sure those calories come from high-quality food.

8. Get the Right Gear

You may be surprised at how the right gear can supercharge your performance and speed you towards a new PR. If you’ve been running in the same old shoes for years, now is the time to invest in new ones, especially if you’re going to be doing races.

Make sure you’re choosing the right type of shoe for your foot. If your feet turn inwards while walking or running (known as overpronation), you’ll need a stability shoe. If not, you can go for a neutral shoe.

Other gear that might help you along the way to a new PR include:

  • A hydration pack
  • Fitness tracker or GPS watch
  • Running-specific socks
  • Breathable shirt and shorts

9. Get More Experience

The more you run, the better you’ll get! As long as you commit to working towards your goals and constantly improving, you’ll find that your performance keeps getting better.

Also, the more experience you have, the better you’ll get at figuring out what works for you. This goes for training methods, nutrition, and race preparation.

Final Words

What’s your PR? What are you aiming for? Whatever your goal is, the recipe for racing success is a combination of training hard and smart, eating right, recovering well, and staying motivated.

Working at beating your own PR is an excellent way to stay motivated. You don’t need anyone else to keep you going! It’s you against you, and it’s a great way to see how well you’re progressing and challenge yourself to keep improving.

If you haven’t been using your PR as a motivational tool, now is the time to start!

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Shanna is a writer who runs... And cycles, jumps rope, and lifts weights. She lives in beautiful South Africa and enjoys sharing her knowledge and experience with other avid athletes.