Wood's Words: What's In A PR?

What's In A PR?

What's in a PR? For those unfamiliar with the acronym, a PR is a personal record. It is the hallowed goal of nearly every runner. We all strive to get faster so that we can get that PR when the time is right. When we don't get a PR after a race, we get angry or sad. A PR is a great thing that fills you with joy and can bring you up. Not getting one can shake your confidence and have a negative effect on the rest of your season as well. They hold so much power over us and yet they are an average metric of accomplishment at best. For many runners, our speeds come in phases. In the off season, we may be getting faster but we're not at our peak. In these times, we slow down from the speeds we could hit in competition season. Coming back after a break has this same effect. In those times, when we're not at our top speeds, it's common to not get a PR. I've had races where I feel as if I gave it my all and I still didn't get a PR. For a while, it angered me and pushed me to train harder and better. But what really stood out to me was that I did go as hard as I could. I did give it my all and I was still disappointed because I wasn't as good as I used to be.

Whether you're the fastest runner on your team, or the slowest, you know how hard you try.
Andersen Wood, Marcus High School

While PRs are an important metric of speed and progress, they don't account for the effort involved with running a race. For example, people coming off of an injury may not run their best race coming off the bench, but they might have put everything out there on the track. Yet, oftentimes people are discouraged by their lack of a PR. This doesn't make sense to me. Effort should be the most important metric in running, not time. Some people born with natural talent can run incredible times without even breaking a sweat. That doesn't make them incredible, it makes them lazy. On the other hand, some people can run their hearts out and still come in at a ten minute mile. That doesn't make them worse than the fast runners. The only problem is that there is no real way to measure effort. While heart rates could be a good metric, they don't account for grit and determination. There's no real way to measure those. The only person who can measure effort is you. Only you know how hard you tried. You can't show anyone else how hard you ran and they can't see when you've given it your all. Only you can know this. That means that you have to keep yourself accountable. 

Whether you're the fastest runner on your team, or the slowest, you know how hard you try. You can feel it when you put in more effort and you know when you give up. It may not be so obvious to the rest of the world - many runners have excellent poker faces - but you know. It's possible to run a PR without putting in any effort. It's possible to have the best race of your life and still get an average time. The hardest race I ever ran was a mile that I poured my heart and soul into. Then, at the end of the day, I was five seconds slower than my PR. It wasn't the fastest race I ever ran but it was the hardest I'd ever pushed myself. After the race, when I was feeling down that I didn't PR, I had to stop myself and realign my mindset. There was nothing more I could have done. It was a good race and I gave it my all. There was no reason to be disappointed in it. I know for a fact that I'm not the only person who's done this. We've all had races where our times were okay but our effort was through the roof. So, what's in a PR? While a PR is great and helps your team and looks great on a resume, it's not all that defines a runner. I've known kids who were notoriously slow their entire high school careers but it definitely wasn't due to a lack of effort. They worked tirelessly every day to improve and they did, but they never reached the top. That doesn't make them any worse runners than anyone else. At the end of the day, I respected them more than I did the fast runners who never tried. While a PR is wonderful, don't let that be the only unit of measurement. Measure yourself based on effort because you're the only one who can. By holding back, you're only hurting yourself. Running is a great sport because it pushes you to the limit more than most sports. It requires all that you have and, if you give it your all, you can achieve greatness, even if it doesn't come in the form of a PR.