WHAT MAKES A PR?
This weekend, many of you went through the grueling “longest long run” weekend for the Manila Milo Eliminations. Others are sharpening their legs for the Dagupan 21KM Eliminations. Another heavy training to add to the days, weeks, and months sacrificed to achieve a PR. Sometimes, we would even forget why we signed up for these races. So I am writing about some learnings about getting a personal best. What does a PR feel like?
A PR is never about the result.
Yes, we are training for a cut in our race time. But in the actual moments of the race, a PR is all about doing your best in every single kilometer of your run. It is about focusing your energy on whether you are meeting your pace, if your body is feeling as it should, if your performance is correct at that point in the route. A PR is about excellence in every moment. The result will follow.
If you are truly aiming for a PR, then the race becomes a concentrated, moment-by-moment push towards your goal. Your mind must be in making the best in the present kilometer. Is your form correct, is your breathing steady, is your stride consistent, is your mind relaxed. The moment your concentration goes to the end result, then your focus is broken. So, forget what others think and focus on the run. Remove the anxiety of the time you committed to yourself or to others, to what your friends will say, or to the number of “Likes” you will get in Facebook. You have to bring your mind and body to the present goal. You will have to be “in the zone”.
A PR is painful.
Accept it. Prepare for it. A PR is not a race with smiles and conversations with your running buddies. A PR hurts and you need to hold your ground. Note that this is a disciplined kind of pain, one that puts you in the brink of your capacity. This is not putting your body into the point of injury, especially for those who are undertrained.
For a 21KM race, you need to be comfortably tired at halfway point. You need to be breathing hard at 14-16K. Your quads and calves will hurt. You will feel like you are in a never-ending tempo run. And you need to dig deep starting 17-18K, so that you can pour your heart and soul into making your legs go faster until you cross that finish line.
For a 42KM race, you will hit the wall and most likely earlier than what you expected. Accept it. No matter how experienced you are, at KM 37-38, you will want to give up. You will feel intense pain, inexplainable exhaustion, and a great loss of willpower. So how will you prepare for this moment?
You see, if we pretend that intense pain will not happen in a PR race, we complain about it and act surprised when the pain comes. But that is a delusion. Pain is part of the game. When you accept it, then you can proactively plan for it. After all, while pain is inevitable, suffering is optional.
A PR is a smart race.
You will only excel if you execute a well-planned strategy, in line with your training and your fitness level. Warm up properly, start slow, keep to your planned pace, know your uphill/downhill approach, get ready with managing body temperature, etc.
A good PR shows even split times with just differences between the splits, preferably a slightly negative split. Having a very fast first half means you went out too fast at the start and then “crash and burned” in the second half. Having a “super negative” split also means you failed to exert the appropriate effort in the first half. That you could have done better.
My favorite example here is in the marathon. Almost all runners I know, including the experienced ones, run faster than expected in the first 10K as if the next 32K does not exist. Of course you feel wonderful at the first 10K! After all, you are at the healthiest and fittest in your life. But trust me, your legs will pay for it at 30K. Remember, the marathon is not won in the first 10K. It is won in the last 10K.
A PR is a well prepared race.
It is a product of months of effort, not just of “heart” and “courage”. No one can “wing” a good PR. It comes with good training, enough recovery, a proper diet and a planned strategy. You achieve the PR not on the day of the race, but the months leading to it.
A PR, as with anything worthwhile in our lives, is the result of positive and consistent “deposits” towards a goal. And I guess this is now a shout out to everyone bearing the heat of summertime training, or training in the rain because you have to, or eating properly despite temptations from friends and family: you are doing the right thing. Keep pushing. Don’t give up. Your efforts will give you immense joy, but not today. Wait for it, because it’s worth it.
A PR respects the race course.
Always remember that you are at the mercy of the race course, and the conditions of the day. You cannot remove the flyovers or the hills, nor can you reroute the course to avoid buses or pollution. These are all part of the game. You cannot change it if it rains, or storms, or if the sky is mercilessly cloudless.
If you can, prepare for it by studying the course. Read information online, or consult with those who have the run the course in the past. It is about taking the “arena” of the game more seriously, rather than just coming unprepared. But for things that we cannot control (like the weather), you will just need to accept the conditions of the game, and play it well.
Lastly, a PR is a positive expression of excellence.
A PR is a happy and joyous experience, where you pit the best of yourself into a run. A race born out of pressure and fear will never be your best one. A PR comes from the inner confidence achieved even before you show up at the starting line. It is a game which you want to win for its own sake.
In my experience, a PR always comes from a desire that is deeper than a faster finish time. That desire is the reason why we can push on despite pain and discomfort. Sometimes our reason for a PR is for the sheer pleasure of competition. But most of the time, a PR is about proving something to yourself. Even more powerful is if the race is run for others, for a loved one, or for a higher purpose.
A PR is all about showing the best of yourself in a race, regardless of result. There are a few weeks left for Milo, and I sincerely wish you all the SPIRIT to achieve your PR.