Personal Records (PR) or Personal Bests (PB) are the best you have ever run at a particular distance, race, or course. Here’s your question:
When did you realize that you would never run faster than your PR?
Logic, physiology and statistics all clearly indicate that humans cannot continue to improve indefinitely. Somewhere along the way we stop improving. Many age group runners when faced with this prospect move to new distances and for awhile may set some PRs in the new distances. Data and common belief suggests that most runners will not continue to improve after about 7 years of dedicated training. [My perspective is to only start counting those years during college age.] Take some years off and maybe you skew the time frame. The basic question remains.
Of course we can set age group PRs. But, if you think about it, you’re never the same age as you once were so every single day and every single run could be a PR. Good for motivation perhaps but it avoids the core question.
When did you realize you were never going to run faster?
Whenever we run a PR it is faster than we have ever gone before. Most runners will tell you in the wake of these performances that they think they can run faster yet. Even runners who set world records (their own PR of course) commonly state that they can go faster. And so the cycle is set. Higher goals. Better training. Improved consistency. Optimal cross-training. We just know we can go faster.
And then it happens. Somewhere along the way we look back and realize, that was it. That was the day we ran our fastest. We are never going to run faster.
As I look back at my PRs I never thought those would be it. I have all my races and running logs (57134 miles now documented since high school.) I always thought I could go faster. I see workouts and patterns that indicate I could’ve run faster yet; but never did. Throughout my 30s I believed I could run faster than in college. Even at 40 years old I was pursuing PRs. In my early 40s I was not pursuing age group wins but outright victories. (I have just a little bit of a competitive streak.) I clung to the belief that I could do it. I could still set records. It is only in retrospect that I can see and know what I do now.
For me, the essence of life is in the pursuit of something (AKA the journey). I love great outcomes (PRs) but the excitement, self limit testing, and thrill of competition were the payoff. PRs are a bonus.
Had you known at the time that you would never run that fast again – how would you react? What would you do next? Would you change anything?