What’s a PR? And Why You Need One

Lara Rosenbaum
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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About the Author

Lara Rosenbaum
Lara Rosenbaum
Lara is a writer, athlete and wellness expert living in Nashville, Tennessee. She has held editorial positions at several magazines, including Women’s Health, where she was the founding fitness editor. Lara is a former elite athlete, traveling the world as a member of the U.S. Freestyle Ski Team, as well as a certified personal trainer and yoga teacher. In her free time she enjoys playing with her dogs, spotting art and strumming her guitar.


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