The five stages of PRs

November 11, 2008

1. You set PRs because, by definition, your first race at each distance is a personal record.

2. You frequently set PRs by large amounts because you’re still growing and maturing, and/or because you started training relatively recently, and/or because you’re in the middle of a successful weight-loss program, and/or because you’re now training much more sensibly than ever before.

3. You set PRs less frequently and by smaller amounts, and you find these modest improvements disappointing because you’ve become accustomed to stage #2.

4. As PRs continue to become more elusive, you learn to savor each new one.

5. You are now too old, too injured, and/or too unfit to set PRs. To compensate, you either invent new categories of achievement (such as “seasonal bests” and “age-group PRs”), try events that you’ve never done before (and thus return to stage #1), or stop racing altogether.

Congratulations to my World Cup 100K teammates Kami Semick, Meghan Arbogast, and Devon Crosby-Helms on their PRs in Italy this past weekend (7:33, 7:52, and 8:01, respectively). Congratulations also to fellow running bloggers Mike Salkowski and Michael Kanning on their recent PRs (a 2:37:08 marathon and a ~6:50 50-miler, respectively).

I’ll leave it to each of these people to tell you which stage they think they’re in.


  1. Crowther,This is a great list! The only thing I'd add would be that changing one's focus to a new distance falls into stage 2. I know my 200 and 400 meter PRs came easy when I became a sprinter. I'm holding off on running 10 milers and half marathons, so I can still set some PRs when I start to head towards stage 5.

  2. I'm not sure I belong in the same list as a 2:37 marathoner and the US women's 100K team, but thanks! Obviously owing to my age I would consider myself to be in stage 2.And Greg I know you probably think you are in stage 4 or 5 right now but just race some 5K's and 10K's before going back to the ultras like you plan. I know it can be frustrating to deliver sub-optimal performances and be unable to diagnose why, but perhaps if you take a short hiatus from ultrarunning in favor of the short stuff you'll come back revitalized and get some new PR's again. I know the ultrarunning world has not seen the last of you!-Michael

  3. rhetorical conundrum:Would you have preferred 1) a better showing at the 100K championship or 2)McCain/Palin to win the elections or 3) WonderPhil to suddenly timewarped to gradeschool age and missed on all that fatherly attention ?Prof Crowther: you do a lot of stuff that consumes a lot of energy, mental and physical…and you know that thing about it being hard to create energy…Health to you and family. Take care.

  4. I guess that is why I like trail ultras. They are just like XC. Every course is different and different years on the same course can bring dramatically different weather/conditions. So its always new and each race is satisfying. Get away from the road and track and you will find the clock is not as harsh on the psyche

  5. Corrado: I'm not sure I understand your conundrum, but if the choice was between (A) a lousy 100K and an Obama victory or (B) a great 100K and a McCain victory, I'd take the former every time. I expect that the country and I will both be in great shape in another year or two!

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