In most road races these days there are pacers for specific time goals to help runners get themselves to the finish inside their goal time. But do these pacers help and should you run with a pacer?
Pacing in running is an important racing skill, being able to hit a consistent pace throughout a race of any distance is often the difference between success and failure in meeting a runners goal times.
It comes down to matter of choice and whether you want to run with the pacer or run your own race. With GPS watches now most runners should be able to understand their goal pace, and hopefully hit this pace through their race.
Advantages and Disadvantages of running with a pace runner
- Consistent km/mile splits
- Pace runner will ensure you don’t go too fast too early
- You will always be in sight of your goal pace
- Motivational assistance
- You don’t run your own race
- The pace may be too fast or too slow for you
- Your destiny is not completely in your control
Personally I don’t like using a pace runner particularly for a long race such as a marathon. The reason being when you decide to stay with a pace runner for 42.2 km you run the pacers race and not your own. A marathon is a long and arduous journey and the body and mind goes through ups and downs throughout the race. Through these moments it is best to run your own race take each challenge as it comes.
If you get to the 25km mark of a marathon and go through a tough period, slowing down by 10-15 sec per km for 1-2 km may allow you to come through this tough period. In doing so you would likely lose touch with your pacer. Staying at the pacers pace may cause you to struggle more later on. Alternatively if you feel good later in the race you may be able to use that time to push 5-10 sec per km harder and give yourself a buffer for when the tough times come.
I am a firm believer in consistent running being the key to reaching your goal times. Trying to bank time in the first 10-15km of a marathon is a strategy that rarely works and running with a pacer will help you avoid this. However if you can be patient early and run your own race, as the race unfolds I believe you will give yourself the best chance at success overall.
There is also a chance that by running with a pacer you bite off more than you can handle and the goal pace is too fast. For example if you have a marathon PB of 3:10 and are capable of a 3:05 and try and stay with the 3 hour pacer you may be able to do this for 30km but when the marathon gets tough you may drop away and not reach your true potential of a 3:05. Sometimes our ambition is greater than our potential.
Selecting whether to run with the pacer is a personal choice. There are obvious advantages to them and they are very popular at large city races. Whatever you choose listen to your body and mind throughout the race and make adjustments on how you feel through the race.
What are you thoughts on running with a pace runner?
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