What is a PR in Running and Why is it Important?

If you’ve spent any time in the world of athletics, following track and field, or simply becoming interested in running you’ve probably heard the term “PR.”

None of those categories sound like you? Maybe you saw the abbreviation written in a friend’s social media post after their last half marathon. Now you’re wondering, “What exactly is a PR in running lingo?

Personal Record Meaning

What PR stands for in running is simply “personal record.” You might occasionally hear someone say, “I earned a new personal record.”

But more often than not, a person who runs races regularly will use the shortened version. “I earned a new PR” really does just roll off the tongue, don’t you agree?

But What is a Personal Record in Running?

A Personal Record is the fastest race time for a runner in any particular race.

Runners are almost always aiming to run a PR whether running a 5k, half marathon, or marathon. Think about the gratification you feel whenever you do something better than you did the last time you tried it. Runners spend a lot of time training so earning a PR is one of the greatest victories.

What is a PR versus a PB in Running?

Now you know the meaning of the abbreviation “PR” in running, but there’s another one you should know about.

“PB” is an abbreviation that runners will occasionally use. This phrase is “Personal Best.”

Personal Record Versus Personal Best

So what’s the difference between a Personal Record and a Personal Best? Nothing, really.

Whether someone achieved a new PR or a new PB, it just means that they ran the best race yet. They likely worked really hard to take anywhere from a few seconds to several minutes off of their time from a previous race.

In my own experience, it appears that most runners will use “PR” over “PB.” Whichever one speaks to you will be well understood in the running community.

I See the Abbreviation “PR’d.” What’s the Meaning?

Knowing that “PR” is a running term for “Personal Record” you likely could put two and two together to understand the meaning of “PR’d.”

Yep, you’re exactly right. It means “I earned a Personal Record.”

Check around the different social media accounts of your favorite runners and you might find some posts with captions saying, “I’m so excited I PR’d. I worked for months to make this happen.”

Now that you understand the lingo of the running community feel free to congratulate your runner friends when you see them earn their next PRs.

Why You should Try Running a Personal Record

Have you run at least one race of any distance that you’d like to try again?

You should try running a Personal Record next. Why?


In the sport of running, a person must be highly motivated in order to continue racing. For some people, racing isn’t against others. Racing, instead, is against ourselves.

By trying to best your last race finish time, you have some motivation to put in the work and complete all of your training workouts.

How do I become a PR runner?

You’ve decided to try your hand at earning a PR. Now what?

You’ll need to create a plan, stay highly focused, and work hard to make it happen. You can do it!

How to Run a PR

1. Identify Your Current PR

Starting with your current PR is key. You don’t want to go into the race without a vision. Knowing your baseline will be the first step in becoming a PR runner.

2. Set a Realistic PR Goal

It can be really exciting to think about what your next PR time might be when planning, but be practical.

How to Set a Goal Time to Earn a Personal Record

If you ran your last marathon in 4 hours 35 minutes, taking 36 minutes off that time to earn a PR and a sub-4-hour marathon is creating a lot of pressure for you. Instead, consider a PR time that is within 10 minutes of your current PR.

If you happen to take more time off your race, then you’re still winning. Setting a reasonable goal time for your PR will keep you excited about running instead of feeling defeated.

3. Find the Perfect PR Race

If you’re serious about earning a PR you need to plan properly. Training as normal and then heading to race at Pikes Peak Marathon and Ascent (one of the absolute toughest marathons in the US) is not advised.

Instead, consider a marathon that is known to be “flat and fast.” These courses are the ones that many runners tend to choose when they are looking to PR or earn a Boston Marathon Qualifying time.

Not sure which race is right for you? Check out my list of the best marathons in the US!

4. Train Like You Mean It

So you’ve set your sights on a sensible PR, you picked your goal race, what’s next?

Create a training plan that’s going to guide you to a successful race day. Not sure where to begin with a training plan?

Hire a running coach!

A running coach is a professional who can guide you through the ins and outs of training, help refer you to a specialist if the need arises, and be a friend cheering you on. 

5. Learn How to Control Your Running Pace

One area of focus in your training should be on controlling your running pace. It’s important to understand your body, identify what it feels like to run at a certain speed, and know how to check in with yourself to know your limit.

Learning to control your running pace could take a lot of time. One tool you could use is a running watch. This can help you visually see what your pace is and know whether you need to speed up or slow down.

Another technique many runners try is running solely by feel.

This means ditching the running watch and focusing more on your breath and overall bodily experience. This method might require more time and effort to perfect but can prove to be quite useful. If you find your running watch has no charge on race morning, knowing how to run by tuning in to your body will be invaluable.

Does Pace Matter When Running?

Your pace when running only matters as much as you feel it does. Are you highly competitive, even if only against yourself? Then I’m sure running pace is going to matter a whole lot to you!

It’s important to know your expectations and recognize that some runners can care about pace while others just enjoy the sport. The variety of those who run is what help to make the sport so enjoyable.

In fact, it’s entirely fine to run a race and never earn a PR at any races you run after. If you’re happy with your run journey then you’re already succeeding.

6. Mentally Prepare for a PR

Spending some time envisioning yourself crossing the finish line with a new PR can be a serious boost to your morale.

This is true throughout the length of your training but becomes more important during the week and days leading up to the race. If you’re familiar with the course you’ll be running you can spend time visualizing your race and seeing your success before race day arrives.

Woman meditating in a seated position, a great technique to help earn a PR in a running race.

Using visualization has proven throughout numerous studies to be incredibly helpful. This particular study saw athletes experience motor skill improvement, muscle strength gains, self-confidence boosted, and anxiety reduced – all by visualizing.

A positive mindset is a perfect tool to have at the start line of your next race.

7. Remind Yourself Not to Go Out too Fast

A common issue when running a race for many runners is starting too quickly. If you go out too fast you run the risk of crashing and burning, metaphorically, of course.

Instead, you’ll want to dip into the muscle memory you created in training when you were learning to control your pace. Remember that going a little slower at the start can seriously help you avoid overdoing it leading to an unenjoyable race experience.

Many races offer pace groups with pace leaders. These groups are a great tool to utilize if you enjoy company while running and could use the extra help of staying on pace to earn a PR.

8. Celebrate Your New PR in Running

You did all you needed in training, you prepared well in the days leading up to the race, and finally, you achieved your goal. You earned a new PR. Now it’s time to celebrate!

Depending on the size of the race you might have some opportunities to celebrate at the finish line festival. Some races have a “PR Bell” which is to be rung by any runners who accomplish a PR that day.

In addition to ringing out to let the world know your achievement, ringing the bell makes for a great photo op!

Should I track my PRs?

100% YES! This is a big deal. If you’re a runner who runs frequently you know that PRs don’t happen every day. The time between races can sometimes be months to years so be sure to keep a log of those Personal Records so you won’t forget.

Remember that you’ll need to know your previous PR when setting a new goal. That means you’ll want the information at the ready when the time comes.

There are different apps that can help you keep a running log of races and identify which races were PRs. You could also use a simple “Notes” app on your smartphone. If you love the analog ways, consider purchasing a run journal to keep your race finish times safe.

What’s the Difference Between a PR and a Course PR

Now you’re a professional when it comes to understanding what a PR is in running whether it’s a marathon, a 5k, or another track and field event.

But what is the meaning of a “Course PR?”

You might already have an inkling about what it is. A Course PR can only happen when you have previously run the same race. You might run 5 minutes quicker than the last time you ran that specific race, but 3 minutes slower than your actual race PR.

This means you’ve earned a Course PR.

Most runners will agree that if the course ever changes for that race, you’ll be starting over. Essentially you have to have run the exact course at least one time to try to earn a Course PR.

It might not sound as exciting as a regular Personal Record, however, if you’ve ever run a very difficult, hilly course you know that a Course PR is still quite exhilarating.

What is a Good 5k PR in Running?

You’re looking for a specific race PR to know what’s reasonable or what’s considered “good.” Sports like running require so much effort and time that any time you get a little better should be counted as a win.

If you’re looking to PR during a marathon it’s not unheard of for some runners to shed 15 or 20 minutes off their race time. This is especially true for runners who have previously run marathons with a time of more than 4 hours. Although this is the case, taking off even one minute is considered a good PR.

If you’re more into short-distance races such as 5ks, the gap between your current PR and your next PR is likely pretty narrow.

The 5k distance requires a pretty quick pace for any competing runner. This means that if a PR is earned it could be as small as just one second. Is this a good 5k PR?

Heck yes, it is!

Seriously, when it comes to running and becoming slightly better with each race, this is forward progress and you should feel delighted with your achievement.

Final Thought: What is a PR in Running?

Now that you understand a few abbreviations within the running community you can seamlessly discuss your running besties’ PRs and PBs with confidence. If you’re not yet a runner yourself, maybe you’re feeling a little motivated now to start training for your first race. As soon as you cross that finish line you’ll have earned your very first PR.

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