What is a PR in Running? Unlocking Your Personal Best

Have you ever heard runners celebrating their new “PR” and found yourself wondering what they’re talking about?

Let’s pull back the curtain on this insider’s lingo.

Welcome to my definitive guide where I unravel the mystery of the term: “What is a PR in running?”

Whether you’re a seasoned runner or a newcomer to the track, understanding PRs can elevate your training, make your races more rewarding, and bring a whole new level of excitement to your running journey.

Let’s lace up those running shoes and dive right in!

What is a PR in Running?

A PR or personal record is your best finishing time in a race of a specific distance. After completing your first road race and recording your finishing time, that becomes your record.

To elaborate, let’s say you run a 5k (half marathon) in 30.46. The time taken to finish the race becomes your PR for 5k races.

In your next race, if you beat your record by running the 5k  faster than 30.46, you’ve set yourself a new record, which becomes your new PR.

It’s worth noting that you’ll have different PRs for different race distances. You can even decide to keep a record of your indoor track PR, outdoor track PR, and 1-miler PR to your marathon PR. This will help you monitor your progress in each specific race.

This guide will delve deeper into PR, why it’s crucial to track and field athletes, how it differs from PB, and how you can achieve and improve your PR.

Importance of PR in Track and Field

As an aspiring track and field athlete, you’ve probably had a few run-ins with the term PR. Maybe you heard it from your favorite pro athletes or picked it up during a training session.

But the personal record is more than a pleasant lingo for runners. They love talking about their PR because having the goal helps them stay motivated and inspired.

For many runners, the competition isn’t against other runners but against themselves. So as a runner, a PR can help you stay motivated to complete your training workouts by trying to beat your last record.

And whenever you beat a PR, it shows that you’re improving and that all the hard work you put towards your training is paying off.

You don’t have to be a professional athlete to gain from tracking your PR. Whether your running goals are to stay healthy, lose weight, or get that boost of adrenaline from working out, challenging yourself by constantly working towards a new PR can be the perfect benchmark to help you achieve those goals.

PR vs PB: What’s the Difference?

PB is another tracking lingo you might run into. The term is an abbreviation of personal best. PB can be used interchangeably with PR. 

When you achieve a new PR or PB, you’ve shaved a few seconds or even minutes off the time you took to complete a previous race.

However, the two terms have different regional usage. For example, if you live in Canada and the UK, you’ll probably hear athletes talking about their personal best. On the other hand, PR is much more common in the United States.

Aside from regional differences, subtle nuances exist between the terms. For example, PR should refer to your fastest time in an actual race that has been officially sanctioned.

On the other hand, personal best should define your best performance in unofficial races or the fastest time you take to complete a race according to your running watch.

How to Run a Personal Record in a Half Marathon and Other Races

If you’re looking to get started on personal record keeping, it means you’d like to keep improving and smashing goal after goal as you set them.

But after running a few races, you may start to feel stagnant as running a personal record becomes challenging.

A great way to beat your PR is to get faster and increase your capacity to run longer. To achieve this, you must up your speed workouts, improve your pace, and incorporate new training regimes.

If a method has helped you achieve a new PR in the past, then simply increasing the intensity of the specific workout can help you improve.

Practice makes perfect, don’t be discouraged if results take longer to manifest.

Here are some other strategies that will help you beat your current PR.

Identify Your Baseline and Adjust Your Running Form

If you’ve run your first road race course, that can be a great reference point for your current PR. This benchmark helps clarify your vision and is a significant first step toward becoming a PR runner.

After identifying your initial PR, adjusting your running form is a great way to start improving on it as a new runner. You’d be surprised how whacky hand movement can slow you down and waste energy.

To get into the correct running form:

  • Take short strides with your feet close to the ground—no need to waste energy trying to fly off the ground.
  • Don’t pull your upper body in front of the rest of your body. Instead, keep your hips aligned with your shoulders.
  • Look ahead, relax, and gently swing your arms back and forth, not from side to side.
  • Gently clench your fists

Set a Realistic PR Goal

Your goal should be realistic and achievable. For example, a goal too close to your current PR will be too easy to achieve and, therefore, won’t provide any motivation. On the other hand, if you set one too challenging, you’ll likely give up on the way due to frustration.

Set the perfect goal, and factor in a reasonable goal time and your fitness level. Remember to also factor in your records as you progress through training. You can also run a few related races to assess your improvement better.

The final thing to consider when setting PR goals is managing your expectations. Don’t expect PR at every finish line. However, you’ll eventually achieve your goals through hard work and gradual improvement.

Learn How to Control Your Running Pace

Understanding your running pace will give you an idea of what it feels like to run at different speeds. When you achieve a goal pace, it means you know how to control your breathing and have a feel for how fast you’re going.

When you don’t know how to control your pace, you’ll likely burn through your stored energy at the beginning of the race without even realizing you’re going too fast.

One way to master your pace is by using a running watch. You can check your watch at every mile marker to gauge how fast you’ve been going. Then, factor in your muscle fatigue and see if you need to slow down or pick up the pace.

Find the Right Race

Choosing the right racing course can be a significant deciding factor on whether or not you PR.

If you’re training on a flat racing course, achieving a PR on a hilly course will be an arduous task.

Also, most runners plan races during ideal conditions, dry and cool weather. Training in the sweltering heat of summer will not get you a PR in this cool, dry condition. Therefore, it would be best to aim for a fall race.

If you’re hoping to PR in a specific race, it would be best to find out every detail about your goal race and train under the specific conditions of the race.

Create a Training Plan for the Race

Looking through the race information and the course profile well before the race can help you develop an effective training plan. For example, if you notice some elevation points within the course, you can prepare for that by including hills in your training schedule.

Factor in your pace as you plan for the race. Decide when to slow down and pick up the pace to achieve a new personal record.

As you work hard to achieve your goal, don’t race crazy and start skipping rest days. Too much training may lead to slower race times due to burnout and overuse injuries.

Keep Track of Your PR

The best way to keep track of your PRs is in a training app, training log, website, or the good old pen and paper in a physical book.

Keeping track of your PR can give you a visualization of how you’re progressing with your training. It can also boost motivation by reflecting on how far you’ve come.

Final Take: What is a PR in Running?

Whether or not you’re a new runner, working with a personal record may be what your running game needs to get to the next level.

Keeping personal records will not only give you bragging rights whenever you smash a PR goal, but it can also be a great source of motivation to keep getting better at running.

And if you’re looking to achieve PR in your next race, remember to devise a realistic strategy, work on your running form, find the right running pace, and up your training regime. You’ll be making improvements in no time.

What is a PR in Running: Frequently Asked Questions

What are PRs on track?

PR stands for a personal record, the fastest time a runner takes to complete a particular race. So if you finish a 5k marathon in 28.15, that’s your pr.

What’s the difference between Personal Best and personal record?

Though personal best and personal record can be used interchangeably, the two terms differ slightly. The personal record refers to the fastest race time for a runner in official races. On the other hand, personal best can describe your shortest time in any unofficial race.

How do you beat your Personal Best in running?

To beat your personal bests in running, you need to increase your capacity for running by working on speed training, doing strength training, and gradually intensifying your training regime. Learning how to pace yourself and get in the correct running form can also make you save energy and run faster.

What does PR mean in sports?

A personal record or PR is your best performance in a sporting discipline. For example, PR is commonly used to keep track of performance in weightlifting, running,  and swimming.

 How do you breathe when running?

While running, it’s best to breathe through your nose and mouth. This will ensure your diaphragm is engaged, allowing you to absorb maximum oxygen. With this technique, you’ll also expel carbon dioxide quicker.