Writer and Director Robert Towne researched the project by hanging out with many track stars of both genders. The original plan was to show runners training for the 1980 Moscow Olympics. When the U.S. boycotted those games, some lines in the script had to be altered.
The film was part of a breakthrough cycle of mainstream Hollywood studio movies featuring gay/bisexual partnerships and drag characters. Others included Making Love (1982), Cruising (1980), Victor Victoria (1982), Tootsie (1982), and Partners (1982).
While in post-production, the sound engineers could not quite capture the sound they needed to simulate when a runner's foot hit the track during a race. They finally created the right sound by taking pieces of bundled audio tape and hitting the floor of the sound booth with the tape bundles.
One of two adult dramas with eroticism starring Mariel Hemingway that were made and released during the early 1980s. The movies are Star 80 (1983) and this movie. Hemingway had also previously appeared in the controversial rape movie Lipstick (1976) and had portrayed a seventeen-year-old high school student who has a liaison with a twice-divorced forty-two-year-old man in Woody Allen's Manhattan (1979), in which Hemingway was Oscar nominated for the Best Actress in a Supporting Role Academy Award.
The film co-starred a real-life Olympic athlete. Maren Seidler competed at the 1976 Montreal Olympics. Donnelly was once ranked fourth in the world for hurdles and third in the world for the pentathlon. This film was her movie debut.
Real-life marathon runner Kenny Moore ran the marathon at the 1968 and 1972 Olympics where he finished fourth in the latter. Moore does not play a marathon runner though in this sports movie, Moore plays an Olympic swimmer and water polo player.
The film's title is a sporting term meaning the best achievement in a competition or race by a competitor that is the highest achievement bettering any prior recorded result for that competitor. The term is commonly abbreviated as a "PB".