The sport of running has its own unique lexicon such that a specialized glossary of running terms would probably take up both sides of a full sheet of paper. Terms like “bonking,” “pace,” “threshold run,” and “tempo run” are just a few of the many words runners quickly adopt into their vernacular before they’ve worn through their first pair of running shoes.
Running acronyms could be their own entire section of the glossary. There’s BQ, DNF, LSD, and XT to name a few. But what about PR vs PB?
What does PR stand for? What does PB stand for? What is the difference between PR vs PB? Ensure you’re a running lingo buff with our brief primer on PR vs PB and how to snag one in your next race.
In this fun article, we’re going to look at:
- What Does PR Stand For?
- What Does PB Stand For?
- PR vs PB: What’s The Difference Between Personal Record and Personal Best?
- Should Runners Care About PRs and PBs?
Let’s dive in!
What Does PR Stand For?
In running, PR stands for Personal Record. It refers to your fastest time for a specific distance or timed running event. For example, if you’ve run three marathons and your finish times were 3:43:19, 3:37:27, and 3:38:12, your marathon PR is 3:37:27.
In most cases, runners only keep track of one PR per distance. In other words, your single fastest 5k race time is your 5k PR. However, there’s one caveat: some runners keep track of separate PRs for different terrain or styles of racing to accommodate the distinct degrees of difficulty.
For example, you might have a road 5k PR and a different—likely faster—track 5,000 meter PR. You might even have a different cross-country 5k PR. Similarly, if you run road races and trail races, you might record a marathon PR for your road races and a separate one for trail marathons.
What Does PB Stand For?
A PB in running stands for Personal Best. It refers to the fastest time you’ve clocked for a certain race, distance, or run.
PR vs PB: What’s The Difference Between Personal Record and Personal Best?
If you read running articles published in different English-speaking countries or toe the line on an international race, you might hear runners using the terms PR and PB somewhat interchangeably.
After covering what PR and PB each stand for, it’s not surprising, as both acronyms seem to refer to nearly the same thing.
With that said, there are subtle nuances between PR and PB, and you’ll find them being used somewhat differently.
PR Vs PB: Regional Differences
If you live in Canada or the UK, you’ll probably have running mates who ask you, “What is your PB in the 5k?”
Or, perhaps you just finished a marathon and you regale the triumphant story of your race to your partner, noting that you got a huge PB.
On the other hand, if you live in the United States, the same two scenarios could play out identically with the sole exception that your running buddies would ask you, “What is your PR in the 5k?” and you’d excitedly tell your partner you smashed your PR.
Indeed, one of the primary differences between PR and PB in running simply comes down to regional usage. PR is the common term to refer to your best time in the United States and PB is common among runners in Canada and the United Kingdom.
For this reason, some people mistakenly think PR is only associated with Imperial measurement units (miles) whereas PB is associated with metric distances.
However, runners in the United States still keep track of their best performances over metric distances (such as the 5k) with the term PR, and Canadians use PB to report their fastest marathon times.
PR vs PB: Differences In Meaning
Aside from regional usage, there is actually a small but distinct difference in the meaning of personal record versus personal best. A PR should really only refer to your fastest time in an actual race or officially-timed event whereas a PB can also be ascribed to your best performance in an unofficial running event.
Essentially, you can have a PR for any sanctioned 5k race or time trial, but you would not use the term PR to refer to the fastest time you’ve covered 5k in training according to your GPS watch.
In contrast, the term PB can be used to express your fastest official race time or your best performance on a run. For example, if you keep track of how long it takes you to run all your favorite training loops, you might note your PB on that training course.
Most of the time, it takes you about 38 minutes to run the course, but one morning, you go out there and smash it in your threshold run and clock a time of 36:12. This is now your PB for that run.
In a nutshell, the difference between Personal Record and Personal Best is that a PR should be for an official race or event, and usually an official distance, and a PB can be used more liberally to also denote your fastest times over any sort of running event or distance.
Should Runners Care About PRs and PBs?
Runners tend to like to geek out on numbers and stats, but are there benefits to keeping track of your PRs or PBs? Should you bother keeping track of a PR or a PB?
Although it’s a matter of personal preference, of course, most runners find that keeping either a mental or written record of their PRs and PBs is a great motivational tool for training.
A PR or PB can be used as a benchmark of your progress as a runner and can help you set appropriate running goals and ensure you’re getting faster over time.
If you are continually setting new PRs, you can be confident that your training is working. On the other hand, if you’ve run several races to the best of your ability over the past year and have come nowhere near your PRs set last year, it is a good idea to re-examine your training.
A PR or PB can also be used as a guide to help you estimate an appropriate finish time in an upcoming race in a new distance. For example, you can use your half marathon PR to gauge what a reasonable goal time for your first marathon might be.
You can use this running calculator to plug in your previous race PRs and calculate an estimated finish time for an upcoming race.
Lastly, it’s fun to celebrate your accomplishments as a runner, and a PR or PB is a perfect way to encapsulate the payoff for the hard work you’ve done in your workouts!