How to Structure Running Goals Using Personal Bests

My motivation drips out in small bursts.  Sometimes my brain is swimming with adrenaline at 6am. Other days it takes until 8pm to lace up and get out. Creating a fitness plan or running schedule is all well and good, but I know my body and mind will render it void immediately.  I work solely on spontaneity.  So, where running is concerned, I am trying something new.  Instead of focusing on milage or volume – this month I am focusing on becoming a better runner by utilising my personal bests.  

Your PB’s are a bench mark.  No matter how brilliantly bad or crazily good you are at running – you still have best efforts.  They are your fastest times and an indication of how your stamina and fitness levels are improving.  Each run is an opportunity to better yourself when you focus on your PB’s. 

I measure my PB’s automatically via Strava – a service designed by athletes for athletes (pffft, me?)  Strava records your exercise while tracking your GPS location during your run, walk or cycle.  You can clock into the App during the course of your exercise to analyse split times and track your distance.  Post-exercise, you can see your average pace, total distance and your ‘achievements’.  These achievements are usually split into two different areas – Best Efforts and Segments. These two PB options in Strava allow me to stay on top of progress and push for better.  

Best Efforts

Best Efforts are your fastest times doing a certain distance.  The distances that are often measured include 1 mile, 1K, 5K, 10K.  For example, in May I ran a route which seen me achieving my PB 1 mile time (9:41) – a best effort.

My Best Effort PB’s currently stand at: 

1K: 5:19
1 Mile: 9:11
5K: 32:32
10K: 1:08:09


A PB segment is the fastest time during a certain part of your distance run.  In another May run, I achieved a 3:54 PB for a segment called Boaty McBoatface.  Strava tells me that I have previously ran this bit nine times, and that the 3:54 was my fastest on the segment. 

Before a run, I often map out my route via the app to check whether there are any segments I can race myself on. I also use my collated best effort results to determine a running goal.  Currently, I am trying to better my 5K PB (32:32) achieved on May 10.  As it has been over a month, I am hoping my fitness and stamina levels have risen to a point where beating this PB will be achievable next week.  

I am still a relatively new runner – I am only 4 months into my lifelong journey.  I still often stop as I feel like my lungs are going to burst.  My stamina still isn’t great and nor is my ability to keep the voice of doom at bay.  But having different, small goals every run makes me more determined and more motivated.  Whether I want to run ‘Boaty McBoatface’ 10 seconds quicker than before, or run a 10K in just under an hour – A PB focus is allowing me to literally go for gold.  

Running can be scary.  The idea of wheezing around town, hot sweaty and red isn’t exactly my idea of fun… But the adrenaline rush after is what makes this hobby amazing.  Below are my tips for formulating running goals using PB’s:

Start small: start achievable 

The best thing about running is that you can never ‘complete it’.  Whether you are new or have been riding the bandwagon for half a decade – there is always room for improvement.  If you don’t have a current correlation of PB’s – start making one!  I use the Strava Website rather than the mobile App to find my PB’s.  

Now – how much time can you realistically shave off of these efforts within the next week/month? Go for seconds rather than minutes to make them more achievable short-term goals.  Whether it is one second or five – celebrate every small achievement! 

For example, my aims: 

My GOAL BEST EFFORT PB’s (by July 14, 2020)

1K – 5:14 (5 second faster than PB)
1 Mile – 9:01 (10 seconds faster than PB)
5K – 32:00 (32 seconds faster than PB)
10K – 1:07:00 (1 minute and 9 seconds faster than PB)


Challenge your friends with a virtual running club

If smashing your PB’s alone doesn’t fill you with motivation, try challenging your friends.  While running with brunch at the end may have to wait until lockdown has been lifted, you can start your virtual running club now.  Give it a name, create a weekly goal, add your friends and GO.  Maybe its a virtual relay, a 1K sprint or a time-trail extravaganza.  Smashing PB’s doesn’t have to be a solitary activity.  Feel smug as you beat your friends, and be proud when they beat you.

Have an incentive reward 

In general, a reward incentive can be a big mood and motivation booster.  Sell five cocktails, get one for yourself.  Up-sell ten sauces get a free main meal.  That kinda thing.

The same reward scheme can be applied to running.  You ran 2K further than your longest run?  Treat yourself to a new flavour of Monster you are yet to try.  Ran solidly for an hour?  Get yourself into a steaming bubble bath.  Rewards don’t have to directly cost any money; it’s all about being kind to yourself.  Reward your efforts! 

You can always beat your PB tomorrow 

So you embarked on a time-trial, in an attempt to beat your 1K time.  You ran the 1K six times.  You never beat your PB.  Should you be discouraged?  NO.  The idea of splintering your PB gave you the springboard to get up and go.  You didn’t beat your best effort but what you did do was increase your stamina, raise your heart rate, burned some energy and gained some endorphins.  You didn’t quite reach your goal today – but the opportunity is greater tomorrow.  

Follow my Strava profile here |

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