Most of the races I’ve run this year have been a PR for me, a personal record. I’ve somehow managed to complete the distance faster than I did last time. How did I do it?
I did it again Saturday with the quarter marathon. Last year I ran the quarter marathon in 1 hour and 3 minutes. Saturday I ran that same race in under an hour (59:52), and after completing a 5K just 30 minutes before. I found myself wondering how PRs happen. What did I do to run that same race course and distance 3 minutes faster than I did last time?
As I thought about that, I realized that there is some logic to the madness. I didn’t just go out and run a PR. There was some preparation involved.
- Run varied paces and courses. My weekly runs are never the same pace or the same course. Sometimes I run 12 minute miles on a treadmill, a super easy run. At the track I run 7:30 minute miles or faster. At least once during the week, I’m running 5 miles at about a 9 minute/mile pace. I’m also running hills, not every week, but regularly, and running varying distances. Some runs may only be 3 miles. Longer runs, especially now that I’m training for a marathon, are over 15 miles. But I think the key to getting a PR is varying pace and course. Running faster helps you run faster, and changing the course works your muscles differently. Put that all together and when race day comes around, your body can go faster regardless of what the course throws at you.
- Decide you’re going to try for a PR. For me, there’s something about going into a race knowing that I want this to be a PR that prepares me for the effort that will be needed. Racing is about pushing yourself to begin with, but when you decide to go for a PR, there’s a bit of extra effort that’s needed. It may come on that hill when your legs are screaming for mercy but you know if you walk, you won’t make your time, so you keep going. Going for a PR is motivation for me to keep going.
- Know your limits. Pushing yourself is important for a PR, yes, but it’s also important to know what you can do. If you’ve never sustained a pace that would be needed to get your PR, you may not get the PR. Sometimes in shorter races, I like to push myself a bit more just to see if I can sustain that faster pace. I ran my last 5K in just under 26 minutes, and I know that’s about my limit right now. I’m going to have to work a lot more on speed before I break the 25 minute mark. But have realistic expectations. My goal often times is just to beat my last time, even by a few seconds. I don’t usually go into a PR with a goal of shaving 5 minutes off my time. Sometimes my goal going into races is just to make the same time I did last time.
- Evaluate yourself, the course, the weather. Some days runners are just “off”. You may not feel quite your best. You may be tired. Allergies may be making you cranky. Whatever it is, sometimes you just don’t feel like you can run any faster. And the course may be a difficult one with lots of hills. It’s hard to maintain a faster pace on a hilly course, at least for me. The weather, of course, can play a huge role in speed and your performance as well. Heat and humidity can really slow a runner down. Rain slows me down, too. I’m super cautious about not slipping on the water. Sometimes the best you can do is just finish the race, which is okay too. Not every race has to be a PR. Take everything into consideration and decide if this will be a good race to try for a PR or not.
So that’s my guide to getting a PR. Now, go out and get one!
Talk to me:
What other advice would you give to someone to reach a PR?
What motivates you to keep working toward a goal?