Friday, November 9, 2012

5 Reasons You Don’t Need to PR* at Your Next Race

{*For those who aren’t familiar, a PR is a “Personal Record” or your best time at a certain race distance}.

I don’t know if it’s just a quality of runners in general, but we sure are an over achieving bunch. Many of us have a difficult time running “just” to run. We beat ourselves up if we don’t continue to see improvement (or, is this just me?). This constant self-imposed pressure not only leads to a continued feeling of being less than, but can make us push harder than our bodies are ready for. The outcome of this? Physical and mental injury.

What would happen if we took a load off? If we just met running exactly where we are, not trying to be something that we are not? What if we stopped comparing ourselves to others or even to our our own selves at a time when we felt more in shape or younger or more on our game? What if we just loved running for running and weren't so tied to the outcome?

In this same vein, PRs (Personal Records) can be over-rated. Here’s why:

1. Not every race has to be a time goal. Leave your watch at home. Go for the experience, go for the scenery, go to be part of a greater community. Amazing things can happen when you get outside of the numbers in your head and you fully take in your surroundings. Be present, not pre-occupied.

Big Sur Marathon (where, from what I’ve heard, you won’t PR anyway)

2. Training runs are good too. Don’t go out for time as much as for the experience of being part of a race. It’s the perfect way to practice.

3. There is no comparison. Pick a distance you’ve never run before. This way you have no clue what your PR really should be. Any time you get is your PR. PR without pressure! YES!

4. Stop thinking people care. In reality, no one cares that much about your running or your race times. Sure your family and friends want you to be happy and want to support you in doing something that you love. But, at the end of the day (<most overused expression) they’re not judging you. And, if they are, why do you hang out with them anyway?

5. It’s good to fail. Okay, that’s a bit dramatic. Just because you don’t PR, doesn’t mean you fail. The point is – there is no better way to relax and to ease up a bit on yourself than to not be perfect, to make mistakes and to realize it’s okay – life goes on anyway. It’s like when you buy a new car and you spend days, weeks, months trying to make sure you don't get one scratch or ding. Then one day while you’re grocery shopping you come out to find a small dent in the door. It sucks, but there is a slight relief in knowing you don’t have to keep it all perfect anymore. No one loves you less because you have a bad race, a DNF or don’t meet a time goal. You shouldn’t love yourself less either.

Don’t get me wrong. I think it’s admirable and motivating to have goals. But, when we get in the mentality that every race has to be our best race, something gets lost in the mix. Give yourself permission to relax. You just might enjoy yourself more.

Do you compare yourself to others (or to a previous version of yourself) when you run? Yes and Yes. If I have a less than stellar run, I can get down on myself (internal dialogue “Wow, you can barely run six miles without stopping. How will you ever run a marathon again?”).

Do you attempt to make each race a PR? Not really. I’m pretty realistic about this one, and know where my body is at that day. I am also realistic about the type of training I’ve done. I typically go into the race knowing I’ll do my best, but understanding it might not be my day. Now, there are races I have worked my butt of for, and am I expecting a PR. But not every race.

SUAR

51 comments:

  1. Do I compare myself to others...? Sadly, more often then I should. An epiphany occurred a few years ago after finishing a 10K in which I thought I had done pretty well, until I wander up to the Gatorade and find several 50's-age, sports-bra only wearing, chubby runner ladies who had clearly finished before me by several minutes. Poof. Self-esteem vanished. And shame on me, I get it. But not only do I hope for a PR every race, I hope for a PR every RUN.."yes, I can do this 6-miler jusssst a little better time-wise than last weeks..." CONSTANT. STRUGGLE.

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  2. I totally agree with this post. I think it's why I started running trail races, because I know for sure I won't PR. Plus the hills force you to take things more slowly, thereby to take a step back and look around. I think it's good to have goals for every race, even if that goal is just to have a good time.

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    1. I agree! Trail runs can be very humbling!

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  3. Timely post for me, I just posted something about calming the F down on my blog after bailing on a 20 miler. And your right, no one really cares about our running goals but us. If they really are caught up (dare I say obsessed)on our "success or faliures" then it their problem. AMEN. AMEN! AMEN!
    But I still better PR at CIM, just sayin'

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  4. Sure, tomorrow's marathon will be a PR for me since it's my first, but that's assuming I finish it LOL! I've trained hard but faced some injuries, and I am uncertain how race day will pan out. Still a lot of race jitters here today!

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  5. I can honestly say that some races are just for fun and to be with whoever I am running with. Others are for me and for time. And I very clear with those around me, which is which.

    The Kidless Kronicles

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  6. It took me a while but I've stopped comparing myself to others. It just messed me up too much. I know that my PR window is quickly diminishing and I'm struggling to come to terms with it. I was supposed to run NYC last weekend and I went into race weekend knowing absolutely that it would not be about time, it would be all about the experience. It was a bit of struggle mentally but once I finally wrestled my competitive side into submission, I was actually looking forward to a pressure free race. Hopefully I'll get the chance to do that next year!

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  7. Girl, you were reading my mail. I ran a half marathon (again) a couple of weeks ago and fell short of my vague goal by 4 minutes. And then beat myself up about it. I had to take a step by and realize that I was getting way too uptight about all this. So the rest of my runs/races this year are not allowed to have any goal. LOL!

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  8. I've been telling myself this for the past couple of weeks. I'm running my second marathon tomorrow and I feel so unsure. I know I can finish it, but I'm sure I'm going to be really slow. My Dad spent 7 1/2 weeks in the hospital 700 miles away and that has really screwed my training. But he's way more important than a PR and thankfully he was moved to a rehab center in my hometown this week. My plan for tomorrow is to smile at every mile marker and be grateful that I can run.

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  9. This is an amazing post. I am going into my second half marathon seriously doubting my training since my last race 3 weeks ago. But reading this made me pull up my granny panties and set my head straight. I am running this race at the beach with a bunch of friends. It should be fun no matter what the clock says.

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  10. That's great advice and always what I plan until I get to the start line and gun goes off. All bets are off!! Then I do nothing but check my pace and think that everyone around me thinks I'm running slow, so I push myself faster. What the hell is wrong with me? That's what I say after every race... Unless it's a PR of course, then I'm glad I pushed it! Twisted... I'm dealing with an injury and this Sunday I am racing and am really going to try to experience the slow run race pace. We'll see how that goes...

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  11. I don't think that being competitive and over-achieving and having high expectations for yourself necessarily means that you'll have all this racing angst & lose the ability to just enjoy running. I'm definitely competitive with myself and with others, and (unless I know for a fact that I'm not in top shape), I definitely go into every race with the attitude that I am going to try to PR, and I don't think that's ever caused me to feel angsty / unhappy / disappointed with myself. I think it's because even though that's my goal and I take it seriously, I know that the fact is that it's not always going to happen, and that's just fine. I think I have a really positive and healthy relationship with my competitiveness. It doesn't get in the way of my just enjoying running to run or being happy with myself as a runner. It is possible to have your cake & eat it too!

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    1. You are right. It doesn't HAVE to cause angst and you and running seem to have a healthy relationship...but for some of us, we haven't reached that point yet and are still trying to find the balance...

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  12. Each race is definitely not a PR attempt for me. I usually just go out to see what happens, because whenever I set a time goal I go out too fast and end up dying later on. I AM really competitive with friends though, so that's usually what gets me moving again.

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  13. Oh Beth. I needed this today. Tomorrow I am running a last minute unplanned marathon with no time goals. Im starting to doubt myself, doubt that I really can just let it go and be present. You reminded me that I can. That running is a part of life that I love but isnt my life. I need to have a good time for once and embrace the moment. Thank you.

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    1. Wow I love your spontaneity and courage to run a marathon last minute. Good luck and soak it up b/c not many people can knock out 26.2 miles on the spur of the moment!

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  14. I just ran my first race with no time goal in mind (a 5K with my sons). It was THE race that started it all for me, running-wise, because I wanted to be ABLE to run it. That was my ONLY goal but then I caught the bug and it was all about PR's, and timing, and on and on. This year, though, I ran with my boys in the rain (and jumped in puddles along the way) just for the fun of it. And they both finished, which I'm extremely proud of.

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  15. I think it's fun to run a race without the pressure to try for a PR. Running is a hobby of mine, not how I make a living. (I am not even a mid-pack runner) I want to keep it fun!

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  16. I've gone through a tough time with my running this year. In March I couldn't run more than 500m without having to walk. I ran a half marathon in October and even though it was almost 20 mins slower than my PB, it felt like a new one.

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  17. I love to shoot for a PR -- if I am willing to put in the hard training starting months before. I have gotten a lot of PRs only because when I started out I was slow and not very ambitious, so many of my PRs are soft - especially for distances I haven't run in a few years.

    Ultrarunning, my chosen sport, is great for those who don't want/need to PR. Every course is so different (terrain, elevation, even distance) so there really aren't PRs, only your record for that course. And it's long enough that no one (except the elites) looks at their mile split times or anything like that.

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  18. I have had a hard time not comparing myself to how I was a few years ago, beating myself up for not being able to still run as fast as that PR I got 10 years ago. At 50 yrs. of age, I still tell myself that my best race is still out there, and I believe it is - it just may not have anything to do with a PR, and that is freeing in itself.

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  19. I definitely don't compare myself to others, but that hasn't always been the case. I spent a lot of time worrying about age group placement (or worse, overall place) in my earlier days of running. Now, I only look to improve myself. So in that regard, I DO always look to set a PR, but I race so infrequently that I feel I still spend a very healthy amount of time (probably 2/3 - 3/4 of the year) running just to run. When not preparing for a race, I only care to do intervals to keep my speed and power sharp simply to feel good. I could run easy all day, but ultimately I love the rush of running outside of my comfort zone.

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  20. Yes; I always think the next race should be a PR and every training run should be just as fast if not faster than the last time I completed that distance. I love and hate my Garmin watch; I'm one of those who looks at it every tenth of a mile to see if I'm running fast enough then stress and hate it if I'm not. Sometimes, however, I do realize the best gift I get is when I find it dead (which actually, frutratingly happens way too often - what is up with that??) and I run without knowing my time or the distance. I end up enjoying myself tremendously and I notice everything but my speed. Then, I go back to Map My Run and typically find out I ran farther than planned without even realizing it. I know I will only get better if I keep pushing, but some days I like just running....

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  21. I compare myself way more than I should (especially to people I don't care for...is that terrible?) and I really do want a PR at every race. But there are days where I show up and I'm just not feeling it, so I tell myself to just enjoy the run and do the best I can do. As long as I do better than so and so. :)

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  22. I don't care if I PR. I do whatever my leggies wanna do that day and I just wanna have fun. I just wanna finish the race before any cutoff times and have that experience.

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  23. Hahhahahaha! I love this! My PR's are so old that it is so unlikely that I will PR in any distance again in this lifetime...though not entirely out of the realm of possibilities ;-) The few times a year that I race, I really use it more as a gauge of how I am doing *right now*...how effective has my training been? where am I in a training cycle (if I am even in one!) ? Every day is a PR for *that* day :) And every day is different! I don't compare myself to others in running...I spent too long doing that in my previous sport and it was not all that fun :P Though I must say it is fun to nail a PR and it is fun to beat people in a race. Does that make me a hypocrite? Or just confused? LOL

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  24. I learned pretty early in running not to compare myself to others, but I'm pretty hard on myself when it comes to comparing myself to my better times.

    Right now, I'm basically starting over with being able to run a 5k without stopping because long runs and half marathons ruined running (and my body) for me.

    I have my first 5k race since this spring, on Saturday morning and I'm struggling with trying to keep myself from setting a time goal. I've heard the course is pretty and it's a fun day, so I'm really trying to tell myself to just enjoy it and work up from there. So hard to do!

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  25. PERFECT TIMING for me to read this post. I am now 9, almost 8 days pre-first marathon. I read somewhere the other day just run at a comfortable pace, a pace where you could say to yourself, "I could just run like this all day." Well, maybe not all day, but you get the idea.

    Since this is my first marathon, the pressure is off. And the event takes place in a gorgeous setting. So I intend to take it all in, every bit of it. I think that taking the pressure off is key for me for every race. Just go out there and have fun, enjoy the experience and the fact that after 40-some years, I realized that I had it in my all along!

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  26. Soooo, I have this handy-dandy list that shows what you should be able to run in any race based on whatever distance race you've already done. Dangerous thing. But it fits right in with my OCD tendencies...

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    1. Yes. one of them is the McMillan calculator and that gets me in trouble too.

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  27. My problem is feeling like each run has to be further or faster than the last one - there comes a point where that is o longer possible. I sort-of set myself up to fail.

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  28. So far for me every race since I started running 3.5 years ago has been a PR. 3x 10 milers, 2 half marathons and 2 fulls. I wonder when I'll max out? I'm only 29 so I guess I have a while yet. I can't stand the thought of not getting faster. I wonder how I'll break 80 minutes for the next 10 miler and how I'll ever run a 3:35 full and qualify for Boston. From March to October I drive myself crazy with the pressure I put on myself. But its that feeling of constantly wanting to better myself that ignites a fire inside me and gets me up to run at 5am before work. I know that to get faster I've got to keep taking my training to the next level. When I do peak I imagine I'll be a lot older, with a more relaxed mindset. Right now I'm not ready to let go and give up the fight.

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  29. I try to balance the competitive side of the sport with the reality that I will almost never ever be the fastest person out there. Constantly NOT winning certainly drives home the point and keeps me running for the fun of it!

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  30. I've just started running recently so everything is a PR lol.

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  31. I am 46 and have been running since I was 12. I thought PR's were way past me but I just took 6 minutes off my marathon PR and got my BQ with plenty of time to spare for the rolling admission. I was so shocked and still 2 weeks later am on a high about it! It was a magical day that I don't think will happen again. So instead of worrying about another PR I will sit and savor that one for awhile! (until Boston 2014 that is)

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  32. Well...yes and no re: going out for a PR - I started running again recently (2 years ago), and I've been pretty consistent about setting a PB everytime I go out and race, and it is kind of intentional. That being said, if I feel like crap, or the weather isn't good, then I scale back my goal time. So yes, it may end up as a PB, but it wasn't the original goal. I know eventually this will end, in which case it will be more based on how I feel on any particular day.

    One of the things that was suggested to me and some other runners was to have 'age group PRs', so basically everytime you move up a 5 year age group you start over again. It's a nice idea, I think, particularly because if you run for 10, 15, 20 or whatever years, you likely won't be as fast as you were x number of years ago, but you can still get that feeling of a PB. Of course, you could probably find a calculator online that could age grade your time for you, so you could compare it to your younger years.

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  33. Thank you for this post. I just ran the Turkey Trot this morning in Longmont for the first time and accidentally got in the 2mi race instead of the 10k race. I had had all these major expectations of the time I was going to get and all. The morning started out great and it looked like an awesome morning to get a PB or close to (I'm chasing after a time I got 7 years ago!) and then I totally messed up everything. I was happy with my splits for the first two miles, but.... lol! I wasn't even breathing heavy by the time I got to my car and thought how upset I would have felt 7 years ago if I had done this and felt that it was such a waste of time. But ya know, it's better than no exercise at all. I can always go out any time of the day any day I want and try to run my fastest 10k ever, no one's stopping me. Who needs a race and a bunch of people to make that happen, right? Anyway, I enjoyed your post--put things in perspective. A perspective I don't know I ever would have seen 7 years ago!

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    1. Very good points!! I was out there too - it was chilly but a great weather day to be running overall.

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  34. I love your site! I was just talking with someone yesterday about why I love running better than other forms of exercise - because there is a clock associated with every run! You can measure your progress in running vs. kickboxing or an aerobics class and that is highly motivating. But I also agree with you that not every race has to be a PR even though I always compete with myself. I tend to go into races with low expectations anyway so I'm not disappointed if I don't hit a PR, then when I do, I'm pretty excited and it has more meaning to me! This might also explain why I hardly ever PR...

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  35. A couple years ago, when I got into longer distances than 3 miles, I discovered that I got a LOT faster. I started winning my age group, or at least placing. Since then, I approach every 5K or 5 mile race with the expectation that I will win an age group award. It is so important to me that during a Halloween run in which my husband and a couple friends dressed up in a group costume, but I insisted on running fast per usual. I won $50 for this effort, but wasn't part of the group.
    It's hard for me to fathom doing a 5K run for "fun".

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  36. Thank you so much for this post. I did my first marathon over the weekend and was so, so disappointed in my performance -- it's still a PR, but not one I feel proud of. But it was a beautiful day, a great course with fantastic spectators and volunteers, and a fun weekend overall with some great people. Going in I was sure I'd never do another one, but I think now I'm hooked -- I want to improve! So overall, I think on balance it was a good day despite my disappointment :)

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  37. I just got back from running the Disney Wine and Dine half marathon and am catching up on your posts. I was running this race for fun, not time so a PR was not my objective. With about 4 miles to go I did the math and realized I could get a PR if I stopped taking photos and ran the rest of the way. I quickly mentally slapped myself and reminded myself this was for FUN and I was carrying my camera for a reason, to take photos. I came across the Osborne Christmas at Disney Hollywood Studios and stopped to take a bunch of photos, a PR was not important. I finished 1 min slower then my PR and had a great run. I know in my heart I made the right decision, just to enjoy the run, pay attention to where I was running and forgetting about the clock.

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