You might have seen that after running the Eau Claire half marathon a few weeks ago, I created a little social media buzz surrounding my “PR” at the distance. 

The race was truly an amazing experience for me, complete with what endurance athletes call a “personal record” (PR), or what some refer to as a “personal best” time (PB). **I will use these interchangeably for today’s message.

I was thrilled about running my fastest half marathon yet— especially when it happened with joy, and while remaining curious about what I can do—in a time that my body feels more like a mystery to me. But, after a couple posts and many thoughtful congratulatory comments, I started to feel a bit silly about scope of the celebration over this insignifigant-in-the-big-picture-of-life accomplishment.

I love to shower my athletes and friends with praise and sincere awe and excitement over every single minor and major accomplishment, so why did I feel like for me it just wasn’t that important? Did I feel guilty that it was unexpected? That it happened organically? That I hadn’t tallied and chronicled hours of suffering to show up to my best? I also noticed that my PR posts got less than half the “likes” on Facebook than those of any of the accomplishments I share about my kids. (I think I wrote a blog about that already, but I might write a follow-up.) For the record, I can promise you that I didn’t take this personally. I love celebrating my kids and the amazingness of others’ kids. I think they deserve all of the likes. But, I think we can all also do better on encouraging and supporting the realness of each other– as living, breathing humans, who are not appendages of our kids (or vice versa).

After a short amount of time I started to wonder… is a PR, or PB, even a big deal? 

The short answer? Yes!

I am a firm believer in celebrations. Every birthday is an accomplishment of holding on for another lap on the roller coaster that is life. Anniversaries are hopefully a celebrations of overcoming obstacles and moving forward with more wisdom. And we don’t have to wait for milestones to celebrate. Simply showing up to the demands of your daily life matter, even if the only thing on your to-do list is to take the time to intentionally rest. 

So, accomplishing anything that can be defined as your personal best? Of course it is worth celebrating.

Although I do race often, I have only had four personal records at the half marathon distance since I ran my first one in April of 2007. That was not only my first ever half marathon, but also my first race, and that PB held for many years. My most recent one before the Eau Claire half a couple weeks ago was at the Madison half marathon—almost five years ago. Only four times. In sixteen years of racing the distance over 15 times (open half marathons— not counting those in a half ironman triathlon). 

Even if this specific one wasn’t expected, it still required a lot of discipline in training. I consistently showed up–working hard when needed, and recovered well too. I listened to my body while still honoring the belief that it is important to continue to step out of my comfort zone. I didn’t specifically set a specific PR goal, but I did set the intention to show up to my best.

How can you reach your personal best?

Most of us know that it is smart to have a “why,” and a plan to be able to actualize our potential, in any task or goal. Some of us may think chasing a physical PB is only possible with consistent grueling, miserable sessions. And, I won’t lie, it does require some hard work to dig down to find what you are fully made of. But, there is more to it than constant, teeth gritting torture. 

What else?

  • The obvious: have a plan. Show up to said plan with intentional consistency. If you can, hire a coach who can help alter the plan when needed. Communicate. And, this applies to all things in life. You do your best with consistent work over time, with a purpose for each action, including how you support your progress toward your goals (sleep, nutrition, relationships, etc).
  • Do not try to PR each training session! This is probably the biggest mistake I see in athletes who have struggled to perform at their best. A well thought out plan will include a lot of truly easy training; some very, very hard work; and thoughtful recovery. Chasing PRs in either speed or distance (or both), day in and day out will not yield your best results.
  • Take risks in training. Grab that heavier weight, go for a new pace, or try a new hydration or nutrition method. This is the time to see what works (and what doesn’t).  
  • Share your goals with people you trust. Tell them how they can best support you. They cannot read your mind!
  • Remain open and curious through the process—including, but not only, on race day. Do not treat your body as a programmed robot. Do establish some parameters based on the capabilities you discovered in training. But, then continue to check in, without judgement. Adjust when needed to truly show up at your best. 
  • Surrender control. Does this surprise you? I think many of us think we must strong-arm every part of our process in order to be able to get what we want. In my coaching and personal athletic career, I have found a combination of intentionality (controlling some of the controllables), and surrender to work the best. When we try to over-control everything we start to believe that if we just do more then we cannot fail. In addition to overtraining, this often leads to rigidity, stress, and fear–which can hold us back from our best. 
  • Look at your competitors as for you, rather than against you. I love competition, and believe that it is important. Shift your mindset from wanting to beat them, to basking in the amazingness that can happen when you all perform at your best. Win or lose, your competitors can help you earn that PB. 
  • Lean on community. I mentioned this in a few places above, but it is worth summing up in its own bullet point. Share your goals, and surround yourself with people who push themselves, and challenge you to your best. Hire a coach and communicate honestly with them.
  • Smile. Even when it hurts. Thank your body for all it has done and is doing. 
  • When you fall short— feel the disappointment. Learn something, Reevaluate. And then do it all again. 

When you get there… celebrate!

This concept doesn’t only have to apply to racing, or even goal setting for that matter. And please don’t confuse this with any kind of bullshit message telling you to strive for PBs and PRs in everything, every day. There are plenty of days, months, or seasons of life that good enough is good enough. You can still choose to race for the fun of it, regardless of fitness. 

But also, please don’t get stuck there. Growth does happen out of your comfort zone. So, don’t start to tell yourself that PRs are unimportant, or maybe not possible for you anymore. They can still happen—maybe with a little more intentionality, or possibly even organically. 

Need someone to celebrate your PRs? Maybe it is loads of laundry done in one day. Or, your number of consecutive phone calls made for appointments. It could be any accomplishment in sport, or in anything unrelated. Message, text, or email ME! I want to celebrate you. (And, as a bonus– I happen to love champagne) 😉

Lets normalize hyping each other up for ALL things in life. Share and celebrate your personal bests.