I had a conversation recently with a friend about PRs. As runners, a PR is something we strive for often when we race. Maybe not every single time but that goal is out there. And for those that are not familiar with the running lingo… a PR (Personal Record) is your best time in a particular distance… and it is usually during a race.

During this conversation with my friend, I mentioned that another friend was doing a new distance for the first time… to which my friend replied “automatic PR”

If it is your first time racing a particular distance then that first race time is a PR. I have nothing against this line of thinking, but for me personally, I won’t count it as a PR.

I look at all my race times and all the races I have done, and I can easily pick out my PR times… Mostly because they are color-coded in my race dedicated excel spreadsheet. But in looking at all my race times (and there are a lot), never have I chosen the first time racing a distance as a PR… at least not until I have raced that distance again. In fact, I have run a 15K once and I do not have it marked as a PR.

Again, I have no issues with the first time racing a distance giving yourself that time as a PR. I really don’t. In fact, I have congratulated friends on a PR when it was the first time they raced the distance. And I have certainly used the phrase “automatic PR” many many times.

But for me… I don’t count it as a PR.

Let me now state that I believe that runners do what they want with their times and distances and goals. Part of my line of thinking may have a LOT to do with how I treated racing when I first started racing… back when I only did a handful of them a year

Take a moment to gasp in shock at that last statement… Better now? Great, moving on

I remember my first race clearly…It was a 10K and the first time I had ever run more than 6 miles had been the Monday before. I was running it with a friend and she had a clear time goal… she wanted to run it in under an hour. I recall briefly thinking I might keep up with her but quickly learned that was not going to happen. I had zero goals going into the race. And when I saw my official time, I was happy with it… but I never once called it a PR… the following year when I ran the same race, I ran it much faster. My goal for the race was actually no walking instead of a time goal. But that was my 10K PR time until I blew my PR time out of the water at the race this past year

I remember my second race just as clearly my dad was there and it was my first official 5K race. I was such a novice that it never occurred to me to want to get a specific time. I only knew that up to that point, my typical 3ish mile run was about 33 minutes… so that is what I told my dad. I was beyond shocked when I crossed the finish line and saw my time. It was at that race that I decided to run my next 5K for time… and I did… And I crushed my goal… I rode on that high for weeks. That race and time remains my 5K PR.

In 2010, I also ran a 15K and a half marathon for the first time. I have since run a second half marathon. My only goal with the first one was to finish. I originally wanted to beat my time for the second one… but life happened and training sucked… so there was no time goal on race day. After the second half marathon, I marked my first half marathon as a PR.

That 15K – Yep… only 15K I have ever run… But I have never marked it as a PR and I likely never will… unless I run another 15K in the future.

My first 8K… which, oddly, was just last year at Shamrock. I never marked that as a PR. I marked my 8K PR after completing another 8K a few months later (post to come in a few weeks). That race was my PR until I crushed it this year.

My first 10 Miler – also not a PR in my book… I got my 10 mile PR this year when I ran Soldier Field.

For me, I prefer having something to compare it to. And I suppose I could compare my first race in a particular distance to a training run of the same distance… But races always different. There is definitely a lot to be said for race day adrenaline… and, sometimes, the running gods allowing things to fall perfectly into place (which I sort of think is how I got a few of my PRs this year…)

I just don’t like finishing a race distance for the first time and calling it a PR just because I haven’t taken on that distance in a race before. It’s just not my preference.

However, if someone were to congratulate me on a PR because it was the first time to race that distance, I would not correct them. I would just smile and say thank you. But it would not be record as a PR on the Excel spreadsheet and I would never think of it as a PR.

It’s all because of that comparison factor. I have a LOT of 5K and 10K race times now so I can compare all of them and choose my best (and worse) time out of those.

But again, I would never say that someone else didn’t get a PR because it was the first time they raced the distance. How they choose to keep their records and running numbers is not for me to dispute

Does anyone else do this? Or am I just an odd duck?


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