What’s a PR? And Why You Need One

by Lara Rosenbaum
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What’s a PR? And Why You Need One

You may have heard the term “PR” in reference to running, but what the heck is it? PR stands for personal record, which means it’s your own, individual best performance — and it can be your best friend when it comes to training.

Scoring and even simply eyeing a PR can help boost your runs from a casual jog in the park to a powerful calorie-burning session. “A PR provides a specific framework in order to achieve a goal,” explains Tom Holland, professional runner, Ironman coach and exercise physiologist.

That framework usually means a time goal over a specific distance. For example, someone may wish to beat their last PR of 3:44 in a marathon. Runners get even more specific and seek to run distances at a certain pace. For example, a runner may wish to run a marathon at an average 8:44/mile pace.


Turn it into a goal. “Reaching any fitness goal means sticking to your workouts — and a PR goal can provide a great deal of added motivation,” Holland says. In other words, it will help you stick to your runs.

To start — and set that PR goal — think about what you wish to achieve with your running. Next, you’ll want to start from where you are now. If you’ve never run a race and don’t yet know your usual pace or time, try timing your distances with MapMyRun. For example, if you usually run a mile-long loop after work, see how fast you go. That can be your baseline. From there, see if you can shave a second, or a few seconds, off your time each week.


Let’s say you’re building up to a 5K distance, try increasing your distance by 1/4–1/2 mile each week. You can accomplish both in one week, too: On one run day, push your distance; on another, shoot to shave time. Baby-step goals can have a big payoff: A recent study published in the Journal of Applied Behavior Analysis revealed that when adults set short, weekly performance goals while working toward a long-term goal, they all increased their running distance.

For a more specific long-term time goal, Holland suggests shooting for a 10-minute mile or a 30-minute 5K race. “Where to start depends greatly on numerous factors, like your age and fitness level,” he says. “But a 10-minute mile is generally a good starting point.” (For reference, the average pace of a 30-year-old man running a 5K is 9:55/mile, and for women, 11:42.*)

Have you recently set a new PR? Share your experience in the comments below.


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  • Dillon Fortier

    Set PR on 5K of 24min 1993, finally broke 24 in 2015; PR 22:39 July 2016 and now struggling to get back to it!

    • Monica Mogollon

      you can do it

  • Spencer Freedman

    I don’t think I’ll ever be able to run a 30 minute 5k. My PR is 42:07, the first and only one I’ve run just two weeks ago at the NJ Marathon in Long Branch. I do intervals of 1 min run: 1:30 walk. I also don’t feel the need to have to run a 30 minute 5k. I’m just happy to run these, let alone finish!

    • Monica Mogollon

      hi Spencer. No worries . just enjoy every single race you do. Keep moving should be our daily goal!!!!

  • sarapsu08

    Set a half marathon PR 1:58:46 at PGH Marathon!!

  • Karen Landrian

    I set a 5k PR this past weekend. My goal was to avg. 11:00 min/mile and came close with an average of 11:11. Finished the race in just over 34 min. The last race I ran was last September with a finish time of 39:04 and an avg. pace of 11:44 so I was pretty happy with my result this past weekend. I think I owe all of my success to my training at OrangeTheory Fitness. By the way, I’m 55 yrs. old and a stroke survivor!

    • Monica Mogollon

      wow!!! congratulations Karen . I’m impressive with your testimony. I’m a breast cancer survivor and also a stroke survivor . I just run my first half marathon in Eugene in
      2h 44m..

      • Karen Landrian

        Way to go – congratulations! Do you plan on doing future 1/2 marathons? I ran the Long Beach Half Marathon last October (my first and most likely last 1/2, LOL!) to raise Stroke Awareness. I had a goal of finishing in under 3 hrs. and I just made it at 2:53:25. Whew! Are you participating in any of the National Stroke Assn. Comeback Trail races? Ours here in Chicago is a 5k on June 3rd.

        • Monica Mogollon

          yes . I would like to do more half and improve my pace. I live in Oregon and here is a lot of races .. no I haven’t heard about the National stroke Assn…

  • Liz Dobrowolski

    My PR goal for my last 5k (less than a week ago) was to be under 33 minutes, trying to average an 11 minute mile. I did it in 32:33!! I used to run 16 minute miles, 2 years ago and now here I am!