Personal Record Versus Personal Best

In the running lexicon “personal record” and “personal best” have the same meaning: your best race time at a specific race distance distance. But as I was running the .US National 12K this weekend, I realized that we should recognize a difference. By the 5K point I knew I wasn’t going to set a personal record, but I dug deep to give it my personal best. 

Personal Record
The day started off well. It was cold (barely 40F at the start) but sunshine and blue skies made it feel great to be outside. I had checked my race recap from last year, saw the weather forecast was similar, and decided to wear the same top. I brought lightweight gloves, but realized that I didn’t need them when I almost left them in the grass after taking pictures by the water.

USTAF 12K 2015

Even though this race is a national championship race with elite runners and significant cash prizes, it’s still a relatively low-key event with easy logistics. Leaving the house at 7:00 for a 7:55 race start is a rare treat!

As I headed into the corral for the singing of the National Anthem, I noticed the police presence, and especially noticed one officer facing the oncoming runners instead of the stage. I assume he was scanning the crowds for safety issues (I’ll leave it at that), and was grateful for his diligence. While I always appreciate when an officer stops traffic while I cross an intersection, I felt more aware than ever that their primary role is public safety.  

USTAF 2015

So, about that personal record. When I checked my results from last year (1:01:05, 8:11 pace) I thought I had a chance of at least matching that pace, but knew a lot would depend on my right piriformis/ITB. It started to act up about 2 weeks ago, before the Race To End Women’s Cancer 5K, and had been pretty cranky after that personal record. I tried to bribe it with plenty of time on a lacrosse ball, foam rolling, and a sports massage, but as I took a few minutes to warm-up before the race, I knew it was going to be an issue.  

My first few mile splits were a hard-fought 8:05-ish pace, but after that my pace got progessively slower: 8:19, 8:28, 8:41; 9:02. It was really hard to keep up my motivation after I knew I wasn’t going to match last year’s results, but I tried to put some tactics from The Runner’s Brain into practice. 

I found myself thinking that the out-and-back course along the parkway was boring, and reminded myself that it really was beautiful.

I found myself discouraged that I wouldn’t be setting a personal record, and decided that I could still make it a personal best. 

  • The person that ran an 8:11 pace last year (and an 8:05 pace the year before on a different course) didn’t have a cranky ITB.
  • The person that ran an 8:11 pace last year hadn’t run an 8:24 5K the previous weekend.
  • The person that ran an 8:11 pace last year had done longer, faster training runs. 
  • The person that ran an 8:11 pace last year might have been in better shape, slept better, fueled better, hydrated better, or just had a better day.

When I realized that I couldn’t match the personal record I set last year because I wasn’t the same person I was last year–or least not in the same condition–I was able to shrug off my disappointment and run the best race I could run.  Isn’t that what a “personal best” should mean?

USTAF 2015

Yes, the medal is massive!

Today’s Wednesday Word is cherish. Now that my last race of 2015 is in the books, I look forward to cherishing the simple joys of running, and a few months of chasing sunrises instead of personal records.

Deb Runs

Do you struggle with always expecting to do better?

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34 Responses to Personal Record Versus Personal Best

  1. Carla says:

    I know Ive told you this before—but I dont struggle with that AND I really do think Id be more successful (hell I might even be a runner!) if I had just a bit more of that internal spark.
    Carla recently posted…Im terrified of GLUTEN.My Profile

  2. Of course I always want to do better! But I also know it isn’t always possible and I believe there IS a difference between PR & PB.

    And I can tell you from personal experience a cranky IT can take a long, long time to vpcalm down.
    Judy @ Chocolaterunsjudy recently posted…Cherish is the word I use to describe . . .My Profile

  3. Kelli says:

    That’s a really good perspective! Congrats on the PB effort! Tough to dig deep when you’re missing an A goal
    Kelli recently posted…What can Resting Heart Rate tell you?My Profile

  4. HoHo Rins says:

    Very good points! You still had a great finish time in my book too. I know when I finally get to line up after this injury it will be for a personal best, not a personal record! That is a huge medal!
    HoHo Rins recently posted…I Cherish…My Profile

  5. jennifer says:

    WOW, in my 25 years of running I never thought of there being a difference between PB and PR, just a semantics preference. Now, I totally see how that are two different things!
    jennifer recently posted…Spicy-Sweet Smokehouse Bacon Almond Granola #GameChangingFlavorMy Profile

  6. Pahla B says:

    I had to let go of chasing PRs a few years ago, and I have found the lack of mental pressure so freeing. I am running a lot of PBs these days that are much slower than my PRs, but I’m enjoying them more. ๐Ÿ™‚
    Great job on your race and the mental fortitude it took to finish strong!
    Pahla B recently posted…Straight Up Strength Training โ€“ Full Body Dumbbell WorkoutMy Profile

  7. I do struggle with that, we always want to be better and I feel sometimes I might just be in the way of myself ๐Ÿ™‚ Cherish the run and the whole experience I say- cheers to your personal best!
    Mary Beth Jackson recently posted…To Simply CherishMy Profile

  8. Never thought about the difference between a PR and a PB – love your perspective!
    Michelle @ Running with Attitude recently posted…Thursday Thoughts – Recovery MadnessMy Profile

  9. Marcia says:

    Nice work Coco! I don’t struggle with wanting to be faster anymore because, like you said, I’m not the same person. I’m dragging around 10 extra pounds. But I do ask myself in the heat of races if I’m giving it my best. That’s really all I can ask of myself.
    Marcia recently posted…Rock n Roll Vegas Race ReportMy Profile

  10. I struggle with the whole PR vs PB. I tend to use the term personal record when I talk about finish times. I agree with you, personal best, is just that. Your best effort!

    Great job on that race!
    Wendy@Taking the Long Way Home recently posted…CherishMy Profile

  11. I like this way of looking at your race and finding the positives. I believe it is unrealistic to think every race can be a PR but you are right every race can be a personal best.
    Deborah Brooks @ Confessions of a Mother Runner recently posted…Birthday Week Races & Runs RecapMy Profile

  12. Darlene says:

    I’ll have to remember this.
    Darlene recently posted…Running & NYC WeekendMy Profile

  13. Anne says:

    That is a very fine result, congratulations!
    Anne recently posted…Cherishing Small ThingsMy Profile

  14. karen says:

    I love this perspective ๐Ÿ™‚
    I have a few friends that always use PB when speaking about their record times.
    You still have a very speedy finish time there, ma’am ๐Ÿ™‚ Well done!!
    you know I have given my PB during a race and sometimes because of heat and humility, or fatigue…a 2:14 half was the absolute best I could do that day. There are so many factors that go into a “good run” we can not hit a peak every time we go out, right.
    karen recently posted…Have I Told You!?My Profile

  15. What an incredible way to establish the difference between those phrases! I think this just became one of my all-time favorite blog posts. Seriously, the way you changed your perspective (oh wait, that was a couple words ago *wink*) is incredibly inspiring!
    Amanda @ Adventures with FitNyx recently posted…Wednesday Word: CherishMy Profile

  16. Chaitali says:

    I love this way of thinking of a personal best vs a personal record. I’ve never thought of it that way before. Congrats on a well run race and a personal best ๐Ÿ™‚
    Chaitali recently posted…Wine and Dine (half of a) Half Marathon review – Part 2My Profile

  17. Kristen says:

    I LOVE this post! I’ve had moments mid-race where I knew I wasn’t going to PR and let myself slow down and not do my best. This is a great way to think about it instead. I’m so stealing this idea to use in my next tough race!
    Kristen recently posted…Dear Non-Injured Meโ€ฆMy Profile

  18. Lauren says:

    Oh I love this perspective…I never even stopped to think about it before! And woah, that medal is huge, love it!
    Lauren recently posted…Cherish Those Precious MomentsMy Profile

  19. Cassi says:

    Each day seek out to do your personal best and you will see those personal records right?
    Cassi recently posted…Show Me Your CoreMy Profile

  20. Great post. I’m a little nervous for Annapolis tomorrow because my goal is very close to a PR and I’m scared that I won’t be able to live up to that. It’s so important to have perspective and look at the big picture. Congrats on your race!
    Janelle @ Run With No Regrets recently posted…Running Club Roundup: Fairmount Running ClubMy Profile

  21. Thanks for pointing out what a change in perspective can do!! Now I may think about MCM and realized that while it wasn’t a PR for me, it was a personal best for that moment!
    Sue @ This Mama Runs for Cupcakes recently posted…Rock N Roll #Stripatnight Half Marathon Recap: An epic racecationMy Profile

  22. jill conyers says:

    Coco this is awesome! I have a friend who always says your best is what you can do right now. Maybe your best is different tomorrow but for now appreciate what your best is and doing it.

    Thanks for sharing with Fitness Friday! xoxo
    jill conyers recently posted…Banana Pumpkin BreadMy Profile

  23. I suppose when I’m in the middle of a race and realize that I’m not going to reach the goal I’d set for myself, I don’t exactly cherish that feeling; however, I do cherish the satisfying feeling of a race well run especially if my aim was to have fun and enjoy the race.
    Debbie @ Deb Runs recently posted…Five Favorite Holiday DrinksMy Profile

  24. I never thought of this before – what a good tactic to use. Hope you had a good birthday and it was nice seeing you!
    Jennifer @ Run Jenny Run recently posted…2015 Chicago Marathon Race Recap Part 2My Profile

  25. Meagan says:

    Congrats on sticking with it. I love how you changed your outlook and love the distinction you made between PR and PB. There is definitely something to be said for giving your personal best on that day, based on your training and other factors contributing to your current situation. Enjoy your low-key off season!
    Meagan recently posted…A New Approach for ThanksgivingMy Profile

  26. I felt the same way! I knew I couldn’t match my pace from 2 years ago, but fought hard for what my body was able to give me. Congrats on your race and on staying positive!
    Alison @racingtales recently posted…Racing Hard – Because I Know No Other WayMy Profile

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