an amazing likeness
I'm going to "pace" (accompany might be the better word) a co-worker through a half-marathon shortly. This is new to me, I've never actually done any sort of run with another person.
This person is a solid runner and will have no problem with the distance. What happened was that they had a great 10K recently, setting a PR and was really happy when someone ran with them during that 10K. Then they were waffling about doing the half, and I said..."if you want to do the half, but just are uncomfortable tackling it alone, I'll be glad to pace you and get you to the end at your goal time".
Share your advice -- how would you like to be paced? Should I be a task-master about the pace? Should I push them when they seem to be fading? Just run along with them and keep company? Help with tactics? How often to ask how they're feeling? I'm concerned about imposing what I would do, making them do it "my way".
I'm thinking to have them set three time goals (the !wow! goal, the challenging goal, and the I'll-be-happy-with-that time goal), and then saying not to worry at all about pace and just guide them through even effort towards the middle goal and see where they are mentally near the end to push it or not.
Its a win-win...I know the course well, its a day where I should be doing a 12 mile training run, I get to test out last minute equipment for my fall marathon, and do a "buddy" run for the first time. Should be fun....I hope.
If we lived in a world without tears...how would scars find skin to etch themselves into
Well I just had my first pacing experience last week, helping a friend run the 2nd half of a full marathon after I ran the Half Marathon as a race. Like you, hoped to kill 2 birds with 1 stone of getting extra training miles while helping someone out .. hopefully.
I must say pacing was a little more of a challenge then I expected. Not the running part but mentally sort of being responsible for another runner. When we first started running I tried to keep the pace strategy that the runner wanted to execute, I figured I was just helping drive the boat but the runner was the captain.
As the race preceeded I did try to guage my runner without constantly asking "How do you feel", " Are you getting tired, etc. as did not want to plant negative seeds. After about 4 - 5 miles of what the runner wanted for negative splits I could pick up on elavated breathing and early signs of fatigue. So suggested we easily back it down a bit .. maybe 15 secs per mile to see if that is a comfortable pace. At this point I figured if i just stuck with the planned pace I would run my runner into the ground and not have a successful finish.
Towards the end when I could tell the runner was having difficulties I tried to take over a little more and have the runner just keep following and not to worry about pace, etc. Hopefully after a few hours you get to know what works or not etween the pacer and runner.
In general I found it pretty tough, and would say pacing an individual is much harder than pacing a group. A group pacers job is pretty much to run even splits and a few words of encouragment, where as an individual pacer has to consitently respond to the current condition of your runner and adjust on the fly to get them home in the most efficient manner possible. A group pacer cant stop if someone slows and just lets them go because they have the rest of the group.
Like anything I am sure a learning experience, but I think I did OK in my first pacer gig and really enjoyed the experience of getting to see the race from another perspective as well as helping a friend.
In case I missed some questions:
Should I be a task-master about the pace?
I would not, if all is going well and you feel they are strong then yes, but if you sense fatigue back down a bit as no sense pushing an unreasonable pace
Should I push them when they seem to be fading?
Towards the end if you feel they are physically capable but fading due to a little fatigue ... then yes your push will help as you take on the mental push of the race and the runner just needs to respond ... push as hard as you can without breaking them.
Just run along with them and keep company?
If that is what they want, discuss before hand of what they want you to do. So if its their race and your there along for the ride then you will always just run with them.
Help with tactics? How often to ask how they're feeling? I'm concerned about imposing what I would do, making them do it "my way".
Tried to limit direct questioning as would not want to be nagging me. But you can see over time if a pace is getting too hard and course correct on the fly.
Last mile I did it my way more than the rest of race when i felt they really needed that mental push.
Prince of Fatness
The first thing I would do is sit down and have a conversation with the person. I would ask them the questions that you are asking here, and them some. Be clear after the conversation as to what their goals are and what they expect from you. You may get a lot of good answers here but those answers might not jibe with your friend's expectations.
I was coming off the DL last year and paced a buddy of mine in a 5K. It was a different experience than racing but it was a blast. We both had a great time.
Turned out to be more challenging than I expected...
Did a mix of just running with her, sometimes encouraging, some just telling her a little race story to distract, sometimes just pulling ahead to lead her a bit, some coaching on what was coming (let's stay left...let's give up some pace here...let's push until xyz street...let's see if we can slowly reel in that person up there...). I don't know if any of these helped her more than others. I think it was just having a companion at the start and through the distance that did the most for her.
But reflecting back to the person who got skewered in the general forum about talking, I now have a better understanding of his perspective on the question of race versus social event. Not that I agree or disagree, just that my empathy level has improved.
Result, missed overall time goal (partly because it was gun timed and we loligaged at the start thinking it would be net time..but we were off goal regardless), but she still ran her fastest race pace in years in her longest event, which wasn't me, she used all her training.