Are your PRs in the past?

I’m not this runner anymore. But that’s OK.

A couple of weeks ago, I ran my first half marathon in 14 years.

Why did I go 14 years without running a half marathon? After the race, I was thinking out loud about that while talking with some people and I think I came upon the most likely reason: I’m having trouble adjusting to getting slower.

Take a lesson from me: when your PRs are in the past, don’t do what I did. As hard as it is, accept that and keep challenging yourself.

I fully admit I did a terrible job of this. For far too long, I hid out. It was easier for me to swallow getting a minute or two slower in the 5K to 10K distances so I stuck with those. I had real trouble getting my head around the idea of putting in the investment it takes to run a marathon or even a half marathon only to end up several minutes slower than I remember running in the past.

All that happens when you take the path I did is that you miss many opportunities to have great experiences and you miss opportunities to grow as a runner and as a person, to learn to accept your limitations and embrace who you are in the moment.

It can be incredibly hard to come to grips with the fact that you are getting slower and there is little or nothing you can do about it. However, we all are going to have to do this at some point. When the time comes, the sooner you begin learning to handle this, the sooner you can overcome the challenges and enjoy all the challenges that remain.

It won’t take me another 14 years to run my next half marathon. I learned my lesson. I’m still getting used to the idea of being happy with a time that is 10 minutes slower than I used to run but I am getting there. I will return to the half marathon and enjoy the process.

6 Replies to “Are your PRs in the past?”

  1. Interesting post. I think that at some distances, my PRs are soft enough that it may still be possible to set a PR or two. I never ran many 10K races (and don’t even know my PR) and my half marathons have been mostly on hilly courses so if I ever run another half marathon with a flatter course, good conditions, and good fitness, a PR might be possible. If I ever run a third marathon, I would certainly hope to PR, but I have no plans for that. For some distances, I have more age adjusted goals. (I’d like to run a sub-5 mile.) Whatever my goals are, the first step is getting consistent and building fitness. To some degree, my race goals are on hold until after we move, but I am working on building consistency now so that it is easier to maintain the routine after the move.

    1. That’s great that you still have some PRs to chase. I would encourage you to go after them while you can. I wouldn’t call it a regret but one of the things I would do differently if I could go back would be to go after some of my PRs more aggressively. I know I left something on the table in some distances and sometimes I do think about that.

      I definitely get your take on the marathon. While I won’t shy away from another half, I’m not making the major commitment that a marathon requires at this point in my life. Some day I’ll find my way back there but that day isn’t now or, from what I anticipate, any time particularly soon.

      The age adjusted goals are interesting. I’m also becoming a fan of just looking to improve upon what I’ve done recently. Sometimes that might mean getting faster, such as the fact that I see the potential to get back under 30 minutes in a 5 mile or 8K. In other cases, I could see things like maintaining pace or staying close to where I was in the past, such as staying in the 1:23 range in the half. I’m not a fan of age grading charts but I also do wonder if they might have a role to play in setting some goals and comparing my current self to my younger self (just give me a good slap to the side of the head if I ever compare myself to someone who’s currently 20 years younger based on some age grading chart – I never want to turn into that guy).

  2. I too have been reluctant to turn to age-grading charts, but I have used them a bit to compare performances at different distances to see which ranked higher. (Though I only ran 3 800m races in high school, my 800m time was superior to my mile and 2 mile times according to those charts.) I always hate being “beaten” in a race because of age-grading. It seems to turn age group racing into a time-trial rather than a race and I have never been a time trialer.

    As for aggressively chasing PRs, I have to be patient. I find that in recent years if I start getting excited about training, I get greedy and wind up injured very easily. I’m trying to focus on slow, steady progress. It may be 12 months before I’m ready to get after it in races and start pushing my potential.

    As I prepare to move, I have also thought that I might have “Florida PRs”. They could also be considered my “over-50 PRs” since I turned 50 a few months ago. I do regret not having run faster at a few of the races that I have run near my current home, but I look forward to future races as well. I will keep my half marathon PR in mind, but training would have to go well for an extended period. I need to value patience and consistency as I progress.

    1. Sorry for the late response. Was visiting family for spring break.

      “I always hate being “beaten” in a race because of age-grading. It seems to turn age group racing into a time-trial rather than a race and I have never been a time trialer.”

      That’s what irks me. I wouldn’t want to be beaten or beat someone else that way. When you’re running the race, it’s a head to head competition. That said, I could see myself looking at the age group charts maybe to compare my current self to my past self. I would suspect my current self doesn’t stack up all that well against my 25 year old self but it might be interesting to see how close I come. I don’t know, still trying to figure it out.

      Yes, of course, aggressively chasing PRs needs to be done at a relative level. Sometimes aggressively chasing good performances, whatever they may be, means practicing more patience in order to stay healthy and strong. That’s a lesson I’ve been learning over the past few years. I don’t think I’ve mastered it yet but I think I’m taking an important step this year in accepting that aggressively chasing top performance can mean patiently training at 90% capacity in order to keep it going.

      “Florida PRs”. Interesting idea, much like the age group PRs so many people keep and some have encouraged me to consider.

      Patience and consistency: I’ve been stating those things as keys to success in running for a long time. I’m apparently finally taking that lesson to heart, I hope you also can.

  3. You mentioned “patiently training at 90% capacity”. I read recently that Eliud Kipchoge has been training at 80%. Still, it is hard to know what is 80% or 90%. I think it just means that you finish feeling that you could do more. I’m thinking that maybe I should start at 60% and work toward 80%.

    1. Yes, I read that one also (and linked to it in the forum 🙂 ). 80%, 90%. I think the key is less than 100%. Don’t bury yourself in training. Even on hard days, you should feel like you had something left.

      I’m sure one could even argue that those percentages, once short of 100%, are all relative. What I call 90%, someone else might call 80% or 85%.

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