What is a PR in running? 7 Tips for success

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What is a PR in running?

A PR in running stands for a personal record. This could be for any distance. You can set a PR for a specific race like a marathon, a 10k, or even a PR on your favorite Strava segment. 
Read on to learn about what expectations you should be setting for yourself. And different tactics to set your next PR.

Setting a PR Running Goal

To set a goal for a personal record, you first need to set a timeframe.

Then you need to understand your limitations.

For any athlete, change occurs slowly. Don’t set a goal that is too hard to reach, a smart athlete sets goals that are also…not too easy. You will have different PR goals for each particular distance.

For example, if you ran a 10k in 55:34 last year, and want to set a PR. You need to take a serious look at what you have done since that race. Have you maintained the same weight, gained, or lost weight? Have you had any injuries? Have you increased or decreased training volume? 

For young runners, it’s common to get faster each year. For runners in their late 40’s or early 50’s, you might need to work harder to maintain that PR from last year. Studies show that athletes in their 40’s seem to dominate endurance sports because it takes so many years to build up the aerobic base. 

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7 Strategies for Running a Faster Race

  Here are our top tips that will help you run faster this year, and get your PR in running. 

  1. Incorporate Speed work and/or Hills

Your body needs to get used to running fast. There is a time for running slow. In fact about 80% of the time you should be running slow. The other 20% of the time, you should be working hard. 
Incorporating a speed workout and hills will make you a stronger runner. You can’t expect to get faster without pushing your body. 

  1. Break Your Goal Down Mile By Mile

Breaking your goal down by mile can make it easier to digest. If you shave one second off each mile you’ll get a PR. 
If you start analyzing your pace by mile, you can spend time understanding your racing style. If you run a negative split or a positive split race. A negative split is when you run the second half of the race faster than the first half, and a positive is the opposite.

There are benefits mentally and physically to training for a negative split race. To beginners, this may seem like a crazy concept, where half the racers walk across the finish line but watch the seasoned athletes. They have a smile on their face and are running as fast as the beginning. This is not by accident. You can work hard to start slow, and end fast. Once you make it a habit, you’ll enjoy the race that much more. The mental game of running is as difficult as the physical. 

  1. Connect with Others

Running with others provides so many benefits. Friends push each other to run more frequently, longer, and if you’ve been a part of a club, you know the run flies by. The difficult part of running with friends is finding people that run your speed. For the purposes of meeting a PR, it’s actually beneficial to run with faster friends. They will push you to run hard on those days where you need an extra boost. You can also look at asking a running coach for tips and help here is an article to read on how to choose a running coach.

  1. Race more often for an experience

Racing is an art in itself. The mental preparation, the early morning, the starting line shuffle all contribute to a different experience from leaving your front door. Once you race multiple running races, you’ll start to set expectations a little differently. Different races will challenge you in different ways. Something as simple as more enthusiastic fans may give you a boost you never got in training. This can help hit that PR goal. Most running races have Facebook pages or other social pages that give you a glimpse into the experience of the race. 

  1. Varied speed workouts

If you haven’t heard of the 80/20 rule for running, the concept is you need to spend 80% of your time running slow, and 20% of your time running fast. The variation of speed works for different muscle groups. And trains your body to use fat-as-fuel, which is a must for endurance runners. If your goal is to set a PR, and you don’t do varied speed workouts yet, this might be all you need to hit that PR. According to Runnersworld “club runners to follow either this 50/50 split or an 80/20 split, the 80/20 group improved their 10K times by five percent compared with 3.5 percent for the 50/50 group” a 3.5% improvement means 2 minutes and 6 seconds every hour. Not a bad improvement for running slower! 

  1. Asses running form

Running form is critical. Different bodies will fare better with different running types. Despite what your friends tell you, switching to their running style can take months or even years if you decide to try. 
You should rely on a trained physical therapist or physiotherapist to assess your running form. They provide a trained medical opinion on tips to improve. The single biggest threat to a runner making their PR is an injury. Proper running form for your body can help reduce injury. 

  1. Recovery workouts

The thing that sets elite athletes apart from recreational athletes..other than the sponsors…is a relentless focus on recovery. The athlete knows (and now you do too) that effective recovery is critical. After a run, you need to foam roll, drink fluids, eat healthy foods, maybe even get a proper massage. Everything you do between runs will affect your odds of hitting your PR. 

Using Personal Records for Motivation

A PR in running can be motivating, but don’t rely on it as your sole motivator. There are so many reasons to love the sport of running. The freedom, the meditative aspect, the health benefits, and of course the friends you make along the way. It’s great to have a PR goal, and you should do everything you can to achieve it. Remember there are millions of runners faster than you, and millions slower than you. 

We all have different reasons for running. Some like to focus on their personal records, while others enjoy the experience of running. And that’s awesome! For those who love to compete, their personal records can be a way of motivating themselves to push harder and improve.

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How to Find PR Running Races

PR running races tend to be flat races, in ideal running temperatures. If your last race was a scorching Arizona summer marathon. You might find an easy time beating your time in a fall Florida flat road race. Be careful not to set your PR too fast, or every hilly marathon you do you’ll be comparing yourself to that flat fast run. 

Should you try to PR every race?

You should not PR every race. You cannot PR every race. Getting faster and setting personal records happens over the course of years. If you are only racing once per year, then sure, try to PR every race! Make sure you are running safe and check your heart rate here is an article on how to do that.

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How to Track Your PR in Running

There are a few ways to track your personal records. Many keep them in their heads because we’re a little crazy like that. Like remembering your kid’s birthdays or where you left your keys, PR numbers stick in your brain. By the way, your keys were in your pocket. 
If you use apps like map my run or Strava, your PRs will be tracked, and you can go into the app anytime to prove to your friends or colleagues that you did, in fact, used to be a fast runner. These apps are great if you are running multiple race events. If you like pr running you might want to try a lot of different events. Then you will have multiple PRs to track your 5K race, 10K race, half marathon pr, marathon pr, ironman.
Question to the reader. What is your next PR? What year do you plan on achieving it? 
Thank you for reading!

I’m a runner, a dad, a writer, just trying to help runners make better decisions. My running career started back in 2013 getting into olympic triathlons, increasing to full distance Ironmans in 2017. Through the process of run training as a hobby and trying to train the least possible to avoid injury and still compete at the Ironman distance, I’ve put years of research and testing into simple running routines and techniques. As a writer, working with coaches and experts we take their experience and provide articles to help runners at every level.

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