Thursday, March 4, 2010

What Makes a Personal Record?

I had recently written an entry about setting a personal record on the 10K based on the timing mat split at a half marathon, and I asked people to chime in with their personal rules and regulations for PRs, as I've noticed different people have different views on the whole PR thing.  And at the end of this post, I want to bring it all together about how great the PR is, regardless of how you measure it.  But first...

Below are what seem to be the different styles of how to count a PR, and some comments and thoughts I gathered from others and a few of my own.
  1. In a Race
    1. At the Finish Line - This is the most common way people define a PR, and my far the most popular response to my blog entry
    2. At a Timing Mat Split - Bryan (@bryanjd) was willing to count this but not a split measured by a Garmin only.  This one is nice because it's published in the results so it's a public PR.
    3. As measured by Garmin for any split - no one came to the defense of this tactic
  2. On a Training Run
    • Keith brought up a good point that typically he only uses official finish times for PR unless it's a distance like 1 mile PR where he would never ever tend to enter a 1 Mile race.  My response was that no wonder I count my 5K and 10K PRs from training runs because I rarely race anything shorter than a 15K!  And Jeremy's in the position where he's run an ultramarathon but not a marathon race, so his MARATHON PR is from a training run.  So your treatment of PRs is relative to the distances you race I think too.
    • This was a timely topic to Karen who remarked, "Speaking as someone who just set a PR for a 5K time in a training run. I count it. I say anytime you do it, count it. I will try again at my next 5K actual race and see if I can duplicate it. I have been trying to break a 35 minute 5K for something like 8 months. I am very pleased."
    • Jeremy (@jldrunner) added the caveat to the training run PR that a treadmill run does not count. Yes, very different conditions.  Although you could have your "treadmill PR" for different distances as well!
  3. BOTH! Some people, like Leah (@quixotique) and Bryan (@bryanjd) commented that they keep track separately of official race PRs and "anytime" or training run PRs.  This led Erica (@celluloidcinema) to decide she's going to start tracking her training run PRs additionally too!  Michelle K. adds "I only count PRs at races, but I do keep track of my neighborhood training runs and note to myself when it is a "course record." A course record is almost like a PR in my mind. I love to have something to strive for when I am training."
There were some additional comments about things I didn't think to include as part of the discussion originally.

Andy said "In my humble opinion, true PRs are only with respect to the same course - i.e., "my (new) PR for the Cowtown Half-Marathon course is ..." Otherwise there is too much difference between courses, elevation changes, terrain, etc. for as fair comparison. (Even on the same course there are weather differences and other factors, but c'est la vie). So you can PR on anything - race, training run, or treadmill - but its just with respect to the same course, route, or treadmill settings."

Allie (@alliebear) said that all her PRs were in races because she really pushes herself and runs faster at races.  Which was interesting since I think I'm prouder sometimes of my training run PRs because there's no aid stations, cheering crowds, race day adrenaline, and no finish line (i.e. you really can just put on the brakes and stop any time).  Although Leah (@quixotique) brings up a good point that there's a lot more opportunities for training run PRs than race PRs!

And Jeremy (@jldrunner) brought up that your treatment of PRs will be very based on your motivation behind tracking PRs in the first place - elite athlete? running resume? motivation? tracking own's improvement?

No matter how you count a PR, I just have to say that I love the concept of the PR.  Because it has nothing to do with being 4th place or 400th place!  It's a competition between you and, well, just you!  It's about the trek towards self-improvement and for striving to be our best and not about how that compares to the running populace.  And regardless for how you measure that, it's a good thing!

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