The first few years of racing are, in my opinion, the best. At least for me they were.
When I ran my first race — the FITNESS Mind, Body & Spirit Games 4-mile race in Central Park in 2008 — I was clueless about running and had no idea what to expect from this thing called a “race.” I hadn’t even known “racing” was a thing. I thought you just ran for fun and exercise.
I toed the start line (false — I was in something like Corral 46, and nowhere near the front of the all-women’s pack) and ran my little heart out.
I finished that race in 40:46, which is a 10:11/mile pace. I was so psyched, and I spent the rest of that day stuffing my face with food and drinking. I’ve always been really good at post-race celebrating. Some things never change.
The 4-mile distance is never one I specifically trained in, but as I ran more and trained for longer races, my 4-mile time improved. The next time I ran a 4-miler, the Gridiron Classic in February 2011, I finished in 31:12 — a 7:48 pace.
Now, my 4-mile personal record stands at 30:24, a 7:36 pace from the Race to Deliver this fall.
A PR in the 4-mile distance has never been my goal. I only raced 4-milers last year to get my 9+1 credit for guaranteed entry to the New York City Marathon.
See you November 4, by the way.
A PR in the half marathon? Now that is something I always strived for, and something that came naturally to me in the first few years of running.
Why am I talking about this today?
Well, because I woke up this morning so desperately wanting to run. I’m starting to miss it. I hopped out of bed at 5 AM, thinking that would give me plenty of time for my stomach to settle and for me to run before work.
But now it’s 7:30 AM, my stomach still hasn’t settled, and so in lieu of running, I’m writing about running. And a question I’ve been asked a lot is, “How did you get faster?”
Back in the early running years (um…2009–2011), I shaved half an hour off my half marathon time over the course of a year and a half. No, I don’t have brilliant advice for how you can do the same thing. But let’s talk it out.
I ran my first half (the Napa to Sonoma Half Marathon) in July 2009. It was a brutally hot day — something like 90 degrees — and the course was, from what I recall, the hilliest bitch I had ever seen. (I would later run the Fairfield Half Marathon and say the same thing.)
I had trained for this race with Team Challenge, but I didn’t follow the weekday training plan we received, and I just showed up for the long runs on the weekend. During the week I ran whatever I wanted, I didn’t own a pacing watch and I had no idea how far I ran or how long it took me.
So on race day, I didn’t have a finish time goal. I just wanted to finish. And I did!
My official finish time was 2:14:47, a 10:17 pace, and I drank something like 10.17 glasses of wine at the finish line. That’s why you run a race in Napa, people. Go ahead and sign up. I’ll wait here.
My goal for my next half marathon — the Rock N Roll Las Vegas Half Marathon, which wasn’t a night race at the time and was way smaller than it is now — was to run faster than I did in Napa. I would have been fine with 2:14:46. Again, I trained watchlessly and cluelessly, but it worked for me, because I ran that half five months later in 2:07:12 (9:43 pace).
For my third half (I know, this is getting long — I’m almost to my point, promise!), just three months after that, my goal was again to simply PR, and I ran the New York City Half Marathon in 2:00:03 (9:10 pace). Apparently running 7-minute PRs was my thing. At least I was consistent.
After the NYC Half, I stopped racing for an entire year. I’m not sure why. I just didn’t sign up for any more events. But in 2011, I got the racing bug, and I went race signup crazy. That’s how, one year after NYC, I found myself in Washington, DC, for the National Half Marathon.
This remains my favorite race ever. It was one of those races where I went into it with a clear head and everything just felt right. Everything aligned perfectly for me that day. My legs were loose and fast (for me — compare me to Shalane Flanagan and I may as well have walked the thing), I ran happy and I enjoyed every single second of every single mile. It was a perfect race.
My goal was to break 2 hours. I didn’t have a pacing plan for how to make this happen and I hadn’t trained according to time. I had just started to run more every day.
I ended up finishing in 1:44:48. I shattered my goal time and believe me, no one was more surprised than I was.
That race was a year ago.
So let’s analyze:
- In my first year and a half of racing, I ran four half marathons. Each one was a PR, and cumulatively I shaved roughly 30 minutes off my time.
- Since the National Half Marathon, I have completed three more half marathons. I didn’t PR in a single one. My record from National still holds, even though it was a year ago.
But is a year a long time in Racing Land? I honestly don’t know, and that is why I’m wondering: Does a personal record come with a lifetime guarantee?
I’d like to think that I’m going to get healthy and get back to racing soon, at which point maybe I’ll set my sights on a half marathon PR. Truthfully, of the three half marathons I ran last year, I only tried to PR at one of them, which was in Las Vegas, and that just…didn’t work out. The other two — Brooklyn and Fairfield — were just worked into my marathon training and weren’t PR-specific races.
As a runner — and please chime in if you’ve been doing this for a while — does your PR last forever? Or are you expected to “renew” it over a certain course of time?
That’s the question of the day.
And to answer the people who have asked how I got faster in the half marathon distance, truthfully the only answer I have is that I ran more. When I trained for my first half, I took a lot of rest days and I ran maybe 3 miles most weekdays.
Leading up to the National Half, I was running 3–5 miles every weekday, and sometimes I’d add in a 6.4 mile loop. My weekday runs never got much longer than that. And on the weekend, I kept my long run mileage around 10–12 miles. I didn’t obsess over my pace (I was so chill back then) and I honestly just didn’t think about it too much.
I ran more, and so I got stronger and faster. I cross trained a lot — mostly a weekly strength class and some spinning — and luckily never got sick during that time.
It probably also helps that during that time, thanks to running and a bad breakup, I lost a decent amount of weight. I have no idea how much, but looking at the photos indicates that yeah, I was carrying significantly less weight in D.C. than I was in Napa.
In final news, the way I feel today can best be summed up by Third Grade Ali:
Really, Ali, you were sick for a “hole” week? You poor thing. And you went to the “docter?” Maybe instead of watching all that TV you should have been studying books on how to spell like a smart person.
I realize this post has been a series of ramblings, but that’s what you get when I’m not actually out running. I did make it to a Chisel class at the gym last night, which I loved because we did a lot of laying down exercises. Perfect! Laying down = happy belly.
BUT REALLY LET’S DISCUSS: Do you feel the need to “renew” your race PRs after a certain amount of time? Is it like, “OK, well that PR is from three years ago, so I should race a 4-miler this weekend to update it?” What’s your mentality? Does your PR expire when you switch age groups? I don’t remember my half PR coming with an expiration date, but I will go check the medal to be sure.
I vote too!
Ok good ! I vote too for this!
I vote forever!!!
I vote forever!!!
I’m a little late to the game, but I think PRs last pretty much forever! I love that you got your half PR when you were super chill about running… maybe I should try that. hmm.
I love grade school, spelling-challenged Ali. She is adorable.
I think PRs are a lifetime deal. Sure, its always nice to beat them (I’m gunnin for a 28 minute 5K) but if you run a distance once and never run it again, that PR is yours for sure.
I mean, I plan on destroying my current 5M PR very soon, we’ll see =) Surprisingly, my 10K on Saturday put SO many things in perspective!
Chocolate & Wine
I think PR’s last a lifetime. I do, however, suffer from always wanting to break them! Like you, I started off just wanting to finish a marathon…Now I want to qualify for Boston. Pace matters and if my Garmin loses a satellite I get alittle anxious. (Like going through the tunnel at the end of the NYC half)
My 5K PR will forever be from high school (or, you know, this summer. If I start dedicating my life to training only!) – but I will always be proud of it. And I’m glad it is saved on the Internet (yay for early adopters of tech that posted race results from the late 90s online) so I can Google and find it whenever I forgot, then smile at how fast I was! And try to use it as inspiration to get back there – or get close!
So, ditto to Lindsey above! My fastest time was under 21 in high school, the one race I did in college was around 23, and now I don’t like to admit it.
I would have to say that PRs unfortunately don’t last a lifetime. I was a serious runner in high school and my 5K time was under 21:00. After being away from running for over 5 years, I no longer consider my high school times to be my PRs. I started with a clean PR slate this year when I got back into racing and I’m proud to say that my new 5K PR is 24:44. I don’t think I’ll ever run under 21 again unless I quit my job and hire a professional running coach…and even then it would be questionable!
Since you didn’t run in high school I think that all of your PRs still count:)
I feel the same way. My half marathon PR is from June 2010 and part of me feels like I’m never going to beat it. All the stars aligned that day. And that makes me very very sad! It’s funny you’ve raced 4 miles so many times, I’ve never raced 4 miles one time! So maybe that is the key, I should just start doing 4 milers, 12ks, 15ks, etc. – hello instant PRs! I hope you feel better soon.
My PR’s last a lifetime! I won’t ever place in any age groups and I won’t ever win anything. So when people say that you are only trying to beat yourself, thats really the only option I have! Because this girl ain’t beatin’ nobody! But really, I was never a runner before. I just decided to pick it up to lose some weight and fell in love with racing. So my PRs are just that, mine. I’m super proud of em. And I must say, you’re fast girl!! Inspires me to pick it up!
Darn girl, you got fast, fast! I’m super jealous of how you we’re able to shave off that much time with each half. I just shaved 2 min off my half time. I majorly need to work on speed.
I’ve decided I have more to say on this topic 😛 They wouldn’t reset the world record if it hadn’t been broken for x years.
Also – Ali, your half marathon progression has been amazing!! It’s kind of making me sad and happy at the same time – happy for you, and sad that I can’t seem to ever get faster 🙁 [wah, wah – Debbie Downer…I need to re-read that post on How To Stay Positive :)]
I think a PR lasts as long as you want it to. Does that make sense?
You’re too hard on third-grade Ali.
Feel better and ease up on your younger self. Third-grade Ali was probably just getting used to all this Crohn’s business.
I think a PR lasts a life time too! I also think a lot needs to be said about the course, like the nyc marathon–much tougher than a lot of the races out there, those hills and bridges hurt!
I think a PR lasts a lifetime! It was your PERSONAL best on that race, the best time you’ve run in your lifetime! I PR’d in a 5K in August and then ran 2 5Ks later in the year much slower (I ran them for FUN!) so I don’t think that changes my PR, it just means I wasn’t as fast that day!
If someone asks, what’s the fastest you’ve ever run a half marathon? You can always be truthful, so in my mind, nope it doesn’t expire. That being said, chasing to beat your PR needs to be shifted as you get older. I think there’s a sweet spot for ladies in their 30s (I’m also convinced it’s after having kids) that make you really fast, super peak time. I’m know that I’m going to attempt to run my very fastest until I get to 38, and then I’m going to accept that I’m older and can’t run faster than I did when I was 20 and just go for the age group stats 😉
PRs last forever. No one can take your best performance away from you. When my Dad was younger, he used to put some serious numbers up on the finish clock. He’s in his fifties now, but I’m pretty sure he’d still tell you that his best marathon was 2:41 if you asked him. He would also tell you that his last marathon took him 50 minutes more than that, but 2:41 is still his best marathon. After a certain age, it’s just sort of implied that your best race times happened a few decades ago.
Um, your dad sounds awesome and I want to meet him. 2:41 is amazing. Tell him to absolutely claim that for life.
I can’t lie, I was really hoping your beginning talk of 4-mile races meant that you were signing up for the NYRR 4-miler in April! (And this is purely a selfish wish, as I’m in NYC that weekend and doing the 4-miler then 😉 It’ll be my first time at the distance, so instant PR…right?!)
Also, I wanted to let you know that one of your sweat-shirts made it round the Barcelona marathon this past Sunday (though it only had to make the journey from London, where I live). It didn’t have quite the same effect as when I wore it last month at a half here in England (I have a feeling that was down to the non-English speaking crowd though), but I was surely sweating it up in it as the temperatures soared 😉
YES! I would say it absolutely lasts a lifetime. As others pointed out – it’s a PERSONAL record; AND, it’s just PR – not “Annual PR” or “PR for 3 years”.
I say it’s always whatever your all time best time was – whenever you received it!
I go by current fitness level. If I ran a half marathon in 1:41 a year ago, but I haven’t ran since, then that PR is no longer valid because I would never able to run that pace today. However, as long as I maintain my fitness level or increase it, a PR can last a lifetime. I guess it just feels misleading to call myself a 1:41 half marathoner if I know that if I had to run one today I wouldn’t able to do it….I just feel like I’d be lying to myself and to others by saying that.
That’s how I feel! I truly don’t think I could run a sub-1:44 half right now. I’m super proud of my PR, but with my current fitness level (or lack thereof — stupid Crohn’s), I feel weird claiming it. I still will, hehe, I just feel fraud-like sometimes.
I love the reflection – I did my first half last year and had no training program to speak of (which explains my body hating me from miles 9-13). It shows how much you’ve matured as a runner – and I think you have plenty of PRs to look forward to in the future!
Very interesting… I am probably in the “older” range of your readers (as I just turned 40) and really didn’t start “running” until my mid 30’s but didn’t do my first half until I was 36??? (get all that??? ha!) so I’m in awe at the “fastness” of runners in general. I’ve still become a bit faster in my old age but not super fast or anything. First half was 2:23 and fastest was 2:06 so I have shaved time off BUT my question is if you are running different halves does each course warrant a PR???? Say you run a hilly Seattle half and then run what is considered a “fast and flat” half? Should you technically be able to run the same pace? Or is it whatever the fastest time ever is your PR?
I think a PR should only be kept around as something you’re proud of, and maybe a motivator. But anything else i think can be too easily detrimental. The thing with running is that no course is the same, and some days are inexplicably better than others. Additionally, running is something you can do at so many stages of your life, so you’re never training in a vaccuum. It’s so easy to let an arbitrary measure like time dictate our enjoyment or accomplishments with a sport like running, when really, our accomplishments are so much more than that, and vary immensely throughout different stages of life. You may be a super speedy half marathoner in your 20s, but then, for example, have kids and return to running, but feel so much more accomplished (even at a slower pace) because of the effort and challenges you faced to get there.
For me, a PR stands forever. I haven’t been running for a long time though. Maybe in 20 years I’ll say my PR is X for the marathon, but I currently run Y.
I’m 100% convinced that my first marathon will be my PR for life. Stupid me running the easier of my bucket list races first…rookie mistake?
I LOVE this look back, as it gives me a view into your racing ‘career’ so far, and I didn’t realize you did the Napa race! Always wanted to do, but hilly bitch? Not so much. 10 glasses of wine? yes please! As for PRs, that’s a good question, I think they ought to be lifetime guarantee 😉
great topic. apparently the new york road runners believe there is an expiration on PRs. I started running in 2009 and my fastest pace per mile in a race over 3 miles (nyrr’s thing) was like 8:29. I managed to never beat that over the next two years (impressive, I know). imagine my surprise when a few months ago, they knocked my PR back to 8:30-something (a more recent pace per mile)!
I had joked about getting slower in my old age (of 28…) and apparently NYRR decided my time was too old to be relevant. I guess it motivated me though because I then sped up for an 8:07 (or something like that) pace per mile at the gridiron (yay!) and bumped myself up a coral. now I’m set on getting into 7 minute mile range. soooo, maybe expiring PRs can be a good thing. I’d still like them to last forever, though… 🙂
Whoa! Now I feel pressured to match/beat my fastest 4-mile race pace.
I know, right? who knew! 🙂
I always wondered how long NYRR hung onto your best paces. I wonder what the official policy is. That’s so interesting!
I think PRs are forever. It’s your personal best, time doesn’t change that. Sure your PR from a few years ago might not be telling of the type of runner you are now, but I still think it counts as your PR.
Hmm.. I plan to proudly claim my PRs FOR-EV-ER, but I guess if I fall off the I Love Sweat wagon, what I could do in my prime wouldn’t really be relevant. I still think they’re forever, so us runners can say braggy things like, “I can run a half-marathon in xx:xx” but if you feel like a liar, maybe mention that’s the fastest you’ve ever run and currently you’re more of a xx:xx pace.
Thanks for the glimpse at how you improved your times, sounds simple enough and I like the chill approach!
I hope PR’s don’t expire after only a year! I’m still trying to beat my PR from 2 years ago and it kills me that I haven’t done it yet.
I’ve been thinking a lot about the whole PR expiration thing also. A year is definitely not long though!
I’ve only been running for a few years myself, so I’m certainly no expert, but I agree with a lot of what’s been said in previous comments – mainly that there’s no expiration date on PRs, and that there’s value in having both an all-time PR and a current PR. I think really, whatever keeps you motivated and enjoying the art of running. =)
And I can totally empathize with the whole getting faster without really trying, then hitting a PR-wall of sorts. I think in my first year of running I hit the majority of my PRs. Then you come to this plateau point which is where your natural peak running ability is, and PRing after that takes a lot more effort…
I think the PR’s stay around forever. However, I don’t think you should beat yourself up over PR’s if sufficient time has passed or there’s been a big event in between.
Not all of us can be like Paula Radcliffe and win the NY Marathon, 9 months after having a baby. But hey, a girl can try.
I think PRs never really expire. Sure, in ten years if someone asks you what your PR is for a race, you should give them a current (3-ish years) PR time, but YOU can always remember your super awesome PR from however long ago. That never expires!
I think you can have 2 PRs – your all-time PR, and then as you get older, or train less, a “Right Now” PR. That way you always have your glory, but also a goal to beat the next race.
Technically, PRs are life PRs. I think the real message here is you are really just a 4 mile specialist 🙂
I agree. Although you can add qualifiers – like, a post-college PR, a pre-injury PR, a non-sober PR.
Haha you’re probably right. Here I am killing myself to conquer 26.2, when really the 4-mile distance, without any formal training, is where I truly shine. Dang it.
I don’t think they ever expire. A PR is something you work hard for, and rightfully earn. My 5KPR was set a year ago, but it’s still a PR. If it gets to be several years old, I might say something like “My 5K PR is so-and-so, but I ran that years ago!”. But really, they never expire! Not to me anyways.
I tend to think you can have both. Runners world and the runners handbook say a few years, which I agree with if someone asks for a current PR. However, I think you can also have a lifetime PR saying, “well, in current races, my PR is X, but my lifetime PR is Y”. Totally fine to brag about past accomplishments if your recent ones aren’t quite as “good” in your mind :).
I feel like you can have multiple prs: lifetime prs, age group prs, prs since having a coach, prs pre and post baby, ect ect.
Also, I feel like lots of people go through a time where they improve constantly then they plateau for awhile and suddenly have a breakthrough and start improving again. Don’t worry lifetime prs aren’t behind you. I’ve been running competitively 15 years, last year I ran prs in every distance but a couple years before that my times were not competitive with the times a couple years before that.
Well said!! I completely agree, just because you get older or time has passed doesn’t take away from your personal best times!
I think they last for as long as you want them to – I say for life! Or if you want them to expire, you can. There are no rules in this running house! I’m a cool mom.
I’d say your PR still stands and you should be proud of it! As you said, the other half marathons you’ve run this year were either a) during marathon training or b) in the midst of some sickness (if my memory serves me correctly). A year isn’t that long – it shouldn’t expire!!!
Spelling issues? Yeah, I used to spell “have to” as “half to” because that’s what it sounded like when people said it…
My first ever 5k was just over 3 years ago and it’s still my fasest PR! I don’t know if it was the nerves, the good amount of training, or the fact that I was running that race with a guy I was dating at the time but I ran my little heart out. Since then I don’t know if my head gets in the way (or a combo of not enough sleep, food, wine, etc) but my times come close but never beat it. So my PR holds for 3 years! 🙂
I hope PRs last forever…as we get older, can we get faster is the question.
🙁 I am sad for 3rd grade Ali. In my non-running world PR’s should last forever!
In Runners World last year they answered that exact question. Of course I can’t remember exactly what they said, but I think it was along the lines of a PR lasting for 3 years. I am so impressed by how much faster you’ve gotten — you started at around my pace which gives me hope for myself! I’ll never be as fast as you but I do think I can improve by running more. I am sure you will PR again soon!
Only 3 years?! I am sad now.
I found it:
A friend ran his fastest marathon six years ago and still claims it as his personal record. So do PRs expire?
–MONICA B., Tulsa, Okla.
No, but old ones should be noted as such. Truth in advertising, and all. As our own Mark Remy says in The Runner’s Rule Book, Rule 1.51: “A PR has a shelf life of two years. After that, it’s still a PR–just with an asterisk.” That asterisk means adding a disclaimer, such as “My PR is 3:05, but that was at Yonkers in 1980” or “. . . I ran that at Big Sur in 2003.” Two years is an arbitrary cutoff, obviously, but the larger point remains: It’s disingenuous to imply that you’re still capable of running that PR, or something close to it, if you clearly are not.
Yup, I read the same thing in Runner’s World. I think it’s fair. I think you’d also appreciate it when you’re older. For example a 65 year-old runner should be able to have a PR that is something they can still beat instead of trying to compete against herself from when she was a 25 year-old runner. Even if an ultimate lifetime PR needs to be qualified for clarity, I think it would still be pretty cool for 90 year-old MEB to say I ran a 1:01 Half when I was in my 30’s.
This is my thought process as well! I could have written that response. RW hire me! 😉
As much as I generally love RW, I think that’s cr@p! You wouldn’t say that you’ve never run a marathon 3 years from now if you didn’t do another one between now and then, would you? So why would you “erase” your PR? Isn’t the whole point of your PERSONAL RECORD the fastest you have personally recorded for that distance, ever?
I wouldn’t say I’ve never run a marathon, but if I hadn’t run a marathon in a year or so, I wouldn’t call myself (in the present) “a marathoner.” I would say “I did a marathon once.” I think that’s what the RW article gets at.
I’ve done relatively the same thing with my half marathon PR. My first was back November 2009, and since then with my new PR from the RNR DC Half 2 weeks ago, I have knocked off almost 30 minutes off my time! I think I actually just got serious about running and properly trained.
I read a few months back in Runner’s World that your PR at age 25 doesn’t have to remain your PR for your entire life. They suggested designating PRs for age groups like 25-30, 30-25, etc. Or even in 10 year increments. I think that makes complete sense since your body is constantly changing over time.
You are SO HARD on your 3rd grade self! I couldn’t spell back then, either, but WE CAN NOW. YEAH.
And … see YOU November 4th!
I AM A FAN OF TOUGH LOVE. Young Ali was great, she tried really hard and I respect her. She just needs some spelling corrections. No big deal.
Um. You shaved a full half hour off your PR? Girl, I need to be running with you!
I say it lasts forever. And I’m obviously an expert. Or something.
First of all, I think you are going to beat your half PR. A PR is always there to beat but it’s also something you should be proud of and brag about for as long as you want. Before running I was a swimmer for like 12 years and even though it’s very unlikely I’ll ever find myself competing in swimming again, I will always be proud of my PRs.
Also think of it like running a marathon…I ran my first marathon when I was 19 and I then had to take 2 years off during which I barely ran at all due to a knee injury. There was no way in HELL I could have run more than 4 miles at once during most of that time, let alone double digits or another marathon, but that didn’t make me any less of a marathoner. You’re a 1:44 half marathoner as long as you want to call yourself one because you earned it and you WILL do it again.
i don’t care what anyone says, i’m keeping my PRs (not that any of mine are as impressive as yours!!). I have a similar experience of getting faster and faster each race while not following a “plan”, but then all of a sudden, as soon as I started incorporating these technical things like “speedwork” and “tempo runs”, my times started getting slower again. What’s up with that?!
While PRs may not last a lifetime you can certainly hang on to them for a while. In my mind, and that can be a scary place to be, I say no longer than five years, You don’t want be in your 40s and still brag about your PR that you got in your 20s.
See, this is why I ran an impossibly slow first half marathon. No where to go but up! And also why I still run pretty slow. I need the constant PRs and by barely running I can acheive them over a long period of time.
Yeah – that’s why I’m so slow.
Anyway I have a question for you – you seem to have traveled a lot for races which I really like. Maybe you could post about how to do that someday…logistics, joining a group like team challenge, financing, etc. Specifically Vegas cause I had my heart set on that one but heard the full marathon was a disaster, but still want to run for CCFA! Anyway I’d appreciate any tips you could give!
You got it! Team Challenge/charity/traveling for races posts all on the “To Blog About” list as of now! Stay tuned!
I think it’s called a PR because it’s just that – personal. It lasts as long as you value it and are poud of it – and you should be! 🙂
I love this mentality! 😀
I love it, too! Your race, your results, your choice for how long you claim it.