Chasing the Personal Best

The “Personal Best”, the constant quest to obtain a PB can be rather stressful, frustrating and challenging.

As many of my previous posts have detailed, I hold my hands up and say I am constantly hoping for a personal best on a daily basis, whether it is during training or during a race itself. The ability to improve on your previous performance is not only rewarding but also extremely motivating, for anyone – not just runners.

But, as many like minded runners would relate to, as soon as I hit a new PB I am constantly attempting to compete with myself and, as such, often find myself frustrated with my ability to push myself further. When in fact, I should be looking at my progress and how far I have come.

Six years ago today, I took part in my first ever race. Taking part in the Willow 10K was rather daunting and the furthest I have ever run. I completed the undulating course in 64 minutes and whilst I was ecstatic with the result I declared I would never run a race again.

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Though, the next year I was back again – in attempt to beat my previous years time. However, on my return I immediately felt the pressure to improve on the year before and, subsequently failed.

Again I vowed to never run again. But went on to join a local boot camp several months later which opened up a whole new world and level fitness, and the addiction to running races continued to the point that I have now lost count of the number of 10K races I have taken part in, along with half marathons and the London Marathon to boot. So much for never running again.

Despite now being a “seasoned runner,” someone who is extremely capable of running for miles without issue – I am constantly doubting my ability, chasing the PB and getting frustrated or wanting to give up when I don’t get it.

But what we all fail to understand is that the “Personal Best” we all crave for every time we don the running shoes doesn’t always have to be about time. The personal best can also be a distance you set yourself, a goal you have overcome whilst running or even just how you feel during a run or race.

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My local parkrun is a prime example of this. It is one run that stresses me out each week. The pressure to improve, to do my best often causes a panic within and makes the run one I tend to not enjoy. When I first started taking part, week after week I would get a PB until I found myself no longer improving. I took a long break, whilst training for the Isle of Wight challenge and returned in June to again see a succession of PB’s. But for the last six weeks there has been no PB, and I find myself frustrated before I start every Saturday.

The course itself is not an easy one. Two and a half loops of the local town park, which includes a grassy up hill section – that I have never been able to conquer until a few weeks ago. On the second loop I was determined that no matter how slow my pace was, I was going to get to the top without stopping. And I did. I did not have a PB time wise that Saturday morning. But, I was ecstatic – my personal best for that day was conquering that nasty hill.

And some further PB’s followed after, with a sub 30 minute 5K personal best during a session with Harlow Running Club. It was flat and it was on a track – but nonetheless – it was still a personal best.

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So we need to take the achievements where we can. It doesn’t matter what your minute/ mile pacing is. It matters that you are moving, it matters that you understand that a personal best can be found in other places too.

We all put far too much pressure on time forgetting that in doing so you can bring stress and pressure to the body. Instead we should relax, enjoy the activities we are doing and take the PB’s, in what ever form they come.

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