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What Counts as a PB?

Jul 23, 2018 | Running, Running Advice | 10 comments

Personal Best.

Personal Record.

Whatever you call it, a PR/PB is your best time over a certain distance. Most runners know their marathon/half marathon/10K/5K PBs off the top of their head – or in particular the one they are working towards currently.

Before ‘racing’ a race, ie not using it as just a training run, I’ll usually look up what my best time is and see if I can beat it…

But what counts as beating your PB?

I put it out on Instagram that I’d seen a few people call their PB’s before a race actually finished. Ie. they said their PB was the time on the clock when they hit the distance marker. For a 10K, that would be at 6.2 miles according to the watch, rather than the race finish line.

You would hope that they would be similar, because a race course should have been accurately measured, however oftentimes we don’t run the exact tangents and end up running a little long/weaving around people. Here’s a great blog about ‘Racing the Line’ during a race. 

Most people agreed with me…your race time is the time that you crossed the timing mat at the end of the race, and even then, the time on the watch isn’t your official time… the time the race texts/emails you is your OFFICIAL time, and therefore counts as the PB.

Interestingly, and I’m on the same page, most of you said that if a course was long, you would count that as your PB, but if the course was was short, you wouldn’t! Courses have to be at least the race distance in length to be an official race, however if it’s even a few inches/cm under, then it doesn’t count, so apparently some races build in a tiny bit of ‘breathing space’ to ensure their race is not short.

A couple of people did respond to my question though, which i totally appreciated them getting back to me and sharing their point of view.

If it’s a PB in training, does it count? For me, it doesn’t but a couple of you do count your training logged PBs as your official ones.

I loved one lady’s response saying that the 10K is the race she’s working on in particular, and she uses the watch time to mark her progress, noting down the time that her watch hits 10K for reference because she’s run a number of races that are the courses have come out longer than 6.2 miles, like 6.6/6.7 miles. She explained that she uses her watch time on her Strava but also includes the official chip time in the title. I can totally understand this want to progress on a certain time.

How about the 5K/10K markers during a longer race? I can get on board with people using those as their PBs (only if they’re officially time with a timing mat!), however I don’t have that issue as during a longer race I’m usually running slower!

Another runner explained that she stops the watch because she doesn’t feel like a long course reflects an accurate half marathon and then she can pause for bathroom breaks if needed.

Bathroom breaks… I count mine within my finish time and don’t pause my watch in the portaloo during races (although i definitely do on training runs!) Its why I peed my shorts during the Boston Marathon (read my race recap here).

For elites and according to sports governing bodies, it’s actually the gun time that should count. Although for most this will be signifincatly over their chip time, given that most of us don’t start a race as soon as the gun goes off (and in some cases, it’s takes the back wave an hour or so to begin!). Chip times were actually only introduced in 1994!

One of the problems with using GPS is that watches can be off…tall buildings, trees, tunnels – they can all interfere with the GPS. In fact, it seems like this summer a lot of GPS watches have been all over the place – miscalculating distances and throwing out paces from 3.45-18 min miles. Or you can accidentally switch the distance to KM like I did yesterday!

What about parkrun?

For those unfamiliar with parkrun, they don’t use chips, rather they use a start gun and a barcode to give you a time. I am very rarely right at the front of our parkrun (our local one is basically single file to start with), and since I usually start a few seconds after the gun, I have my own ‘parkrun PB’ category. For me, the parkrun doesn’t count as my 5K PB as it does in an official 5K race. But I could be alone on that one…

Personally, a PB for me only counts as my chip time in an official race, without pausing or stopping my watch early. No bathroom breaks, no cutting the course.

Would love to know your thoughts on this… 


  1. Gabbie C (@gabbiec)

    Official race time is the only thing I count as a PB – if I was running fast and trying to use my PB for a GFA entry for races etc.I very much doubt those races would accept my watch time! Especially as sometimes even Strava doesn’t recognise PBs due to “bad GPS data” (or so they’ve told me)!
    I ran the Vitality 10000 in May and my chip time was 3 minutes slower than my watch time – instead of being disappointed, I chose to celebrate my pace PB. Absolutely use the watch to monitor your progress, they’re great for that, but official race times are what counts for official PBs!

  2. rachaelbruford

    I completely agree with your definition of a PB! My 10km PB is very old, and apparently I got a new one at the end of a half marathon; however, I will still use my ‘old’ 10km PB until I actually do a 10km race! GPS and Strava are not always accurate and cannot be relied upon.

    I recently did Comrades ultra marathon in South Africa and it is gun to gun…I started in Pen C and it took me over 2 minutes to cross the start line, which was included in my overall time. It’s just one of those things but I felt sorry for those in H Pen who were already slower runners and had a longer wait to start!

  3. Clay

    Chip time. Start line to finish line. That’s it. No split times or personal watch times. Use your watch as a tool for tracking splits but the finish chip time is what counts.

  4. San

    GPS and apps are constantly off – between each other and probably from the actual distance, so while I use them to get a good idea of where my pace is at, I only count official race times as PRs (although as we have learned, they can be “off” too).

  5. Zoe

    I would use chip time over gun time as the PB (assuming there was a chip time – if only gun time c’est la vie). I do count parkrun as my 5k PB but I think you have to be careful that the course is long enough, ran Rickmansworth recently and it was definitely short, if I’d been going for a 5k PB there I would have been annoyed (and not counted it as a 5k PB)

    I don’t understand using watch time over official time as although you get courses which are inaccurate watches can also be prone to error!

    I also don’t bother pausing my watch in training runs any more (used to) because I find the total elapsed time gives me a better idea of my fitness.I think there is a lot of pressure particularly in the insta running community and on Strava to post both races and training runs that look as fast as possible – absolutely not saying that you do this as your training seems very sensible!!

    • charlotte

      Thanks, i totally forgot to pause my Strava today and it included both my waitrose shop and my drive home! (I had to use Strava for my final 2 800m repeats as my Garmin died!)

  6. Cari

    It’s a little of both for me. I was tracking my runs in RunKeeper long before I entered an NYRR race so if it’s better than my RunKeeper time, I count it as a PR even if it’s not a race PR. That said, I tend to track only the typocal race distances not a training run of every single distance. I’m currently chasing a 5K PR but it likely won’t be set in a race as there are so relatively few of them.

    Watch v official is less of an issue for me as my NYRR runs tend to be equally over by a similar amount (thanks for that link!) so a 6.25 PR might also be a 6.2 PR.

  7. Heidi

    I agree that only chip time in official races should be counted as a PB / PR. What no one has mentioned is that most (all?) races are measured using actual physical measurements like a wheel or whatever the modern equivalent is, not an off the shelf random GPS watch. I can’t believe how people are so hung up on their watch times, they are not always 100% accurate and they should be used as a handy training tool and guide, not as gospel. I was quite shocked when I saw the results of your IG poll!

  8. Lina @ the Mind/Matter project

    Never stop your watch during a race or before the official finish line. That just doesn’t make sense. If a race is shorter by over 200m than it’s meant to be and I got a barely-PB, in my head I don’t really consider it a PB.


    I only go by the chip time in races! Just because it does feel more official. Like you say, GPS watches are not always 100% accurate either. Whenever I go into woodland areas my watch has started to struggle! It always whacks my pace right up as if I’m walking when I haven’t changed pace at all haha.


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