Im on the pace team for our local marathon this Sunday. Roughly 600-700 marathoners. I’m pacing the back half for the 3:30 group. This is my first official pacing and had some questions if anyone has opinions or experience.
The pace shouldn’t be a problem. It’s right at my easy run pace. I am very familiar with the course. I’ve raced it twice and train on it almost weekly including 2 practice runs recently where pace was right on the mark with minimal variability from mile to mile. It’s a rolling course with about 700’ of gain on the back half.
1. On a hilly course, as a pacer, is it better to aim at keeping the goal pace stable or having some variability with terrain? If racing, I let my pace vary with terrain, but could see this frustrating racers.
2. Do you ever carry extra gu or electrolytes just in case someone needs it?
3. I plan on talking some to give course advice and encouragement along the way. I’m assuming goal racers won’t be too conversational. How do you feel about talking throughout the race as a pacer?
4. Any other tips or advice is appreciated. I’m looking forward to it.
Road Mile: 5:19 (2017), 5k: 18:10 (2017), 10k: 38:25 (2017, course was 6.1), HM: 1:25:16 (2018), M: 2:57:18 (2018)
an amazing likeness
1. the risk of running even effort over even pace is some runners wig out over each mile split, and get pretty annoyed. I've seen times where pacers invest a good amount of effort into sharing info before the race, and then during about their approach to the coming miles to alleviate the feedback. But even pace seems to way more common.
2. Don't do it. Let the runners take care of themselves. Everyone should have equal access to the same amenities and course support; don't alter that balance.
3. Good idea, some will like it. Many will have their earbuds screwed in so tight they'll never hear it. In the end...you're a pacer, not a coach, however.
4. Do not bank time.
I've done my best to live the right way. I get up every morning and go to work each day.
Even if you drop everyone by 20 miles continue on pace. You may pick up some folks from earlier groups that want to try to hold on.
Figure out what you will do if the first half pacer comes in significantly late or early. I would adjust pace to finish in 3:30 ( rather than run a 1:45 HM).
Definitely run even effort rather than even pace. YOU have the experience and if runners decide to go faster uphill then let them get on with it.
Nothing wrong with grabbing some extra gu/electrolytes between stations and hand out if required.
It seems very strange to me that you switch pacers mid race, especially as 3:30 isn’t a difficult pace to cover. I’ve paced 3:30 a few times and most of the chat is in the starting corral and the first half. Second half you start to hear the heavy breathing as the work rate gets harder. I just play it by ear, give course advice if you want, but don’t expect too much conversation back in the later stages!
5k - 17:53 (2019) 10k - 37:53 (2018) Half - 1:23:18 (2019) Full - 2:50:43 (2019)
I have not used a pacer for full marathon but I have used one for most half marathons. I think even pace (not even effort) is more important. Runners know that there are hills and they can run even effort--you are the one anchoring them to come back to. The even pace assumes you are running as a pack. Some will definitely appreciate that but I feel the pacers job is to running fairly even pace so runners changing pace can move up or back and know you are going to be the anchor.
The only thing is that if there are large or long hills then you could definitely slow down a bit (you are not a clock) but get back to goal pace as soon as feasible.
I think talking is fine. I would not necessarily be listening but it would not bother me at all and it might help.
Mikkey: We are splitting the 3:30 into two pacers for a couple reasons. One is because the pace director waited until 3-4 weeks out to confirm pacers and I had changed training plans to less mileage and another is a lot of local runners are prepping for Boston and don't typically want to run a full this close to their goal race.
Thanks for the advice. Keep it coming if you have more.
I would prefer even effort - while staying close to pace - as a runner. Even pace is easy for you but will tax the runners on the hills. I would also let them know what you are doing and why.
I have had pacers trade off in one marathon and it was a disaster. The second half pacer took off like a bat out of hell, at least 15 seconds under goal pace. The group just splintered. I finished right at the goal pace but never saw the pacer again. Please don't be like that!
I would never expect a pacer to give me anything.
I like a pacer that is encouraging and lets the group know what is going on. I think being a little chatty is a good trait in a pacer as it helps folks have something to attend to as opposed to getting all caught up in the marathon.
It's tricky because you are jumping in the middle, but I would recommend even effort, not even pacing. This is especially true if it allows you to bank time... it may be asking too much however to ask runners to be picking up the pace over the last few miles.
A couple years ago I ran a marathon where the pacer was running even pacing for the 3hr group on a windy day. He flew up a hill into a strong headwind, and he literally droppped all 60 or so runners, we all fractured, and we were all left to battle the wind on our own which made it even harder to regroup as were all scattered about. He permanently lost 2/3 of the group there, and it was only mile 9.
5k- 18:55 (2018) 10K- 39:04 (2017) Marathon- 3:00:10 (2018)
I'm in the camp of sticking with effort versus pure pace, especially if the hills are significant. For minor hills or rolling terrain, probably better to stick closer to pace. But all the advice here is good.
Whatever you do, I'd say two things:
1) Try to coordinate with the pacer doing the first half so you're on the same page. Want the approach to be consistent.
2) Whatever you do, make sure you TELL folks in the group what you're shooting for. I don't think anyone can complain if you communicate the plan and you stick to it. If you're going to take a hill a little slower and keep even effort, give a shout out as you approach it so they know. And remember that you may have people cycling in and out of the group; although probably less so in the back half. So worth reminding people the plan.
Last thing - encouragement in the final few miles is very appreciated by most. Chances are, you'll have a much smaller group at that point so you can focus on helping individuals along.
Thanks for the advice! The pacing went well.
I joined the first half a little early to see how it was going and get in a rhythm. Ended up with even splits other than one downhill mile a little quick. Goal pace was 8:01, averaged 7:58 and pacing partner averaged 7:57.
I enjoyed it and want to do it again sometime. The toughest part was wanting to help pull people along that were fading, but knowing you had to maintain the pace.
The toughest part was wanting to help pull people along that were fading, but knowing you had to maintain the pace.
Truthfully, this is the hardest part and it is one reason I'd rather NOT pace a race a friend is targeting unless I tell my friend ahead of time I can't hang with him because he isn't the only one who needs me to get them to the finish line. Good job on doing well and having fun out there. I'm still a little too scared to pace a marathon for fear of hitting the wall myself.
As for effort vs pace...I stick to pace. I have told runners "I'm sticking to the pace. Dont worry about this hill. You'll catch me on the downhills" because I don't want to make up time at the end, and running a local half marathon with a long downhill will feel easier and is a big reason I think a lot of people miss their goal at that race.
One time I heard a pacer at CIM say "Our job is to get to the finish line on time. We're going to run even splits" it resonated with me. They are a place holder. A physical representation of the deadline. No one likes a deadline moving up, then getting moved back, then moving back to what everyone agreed on in the beginning.
1 mile: 5:38 (September 2018)
5K: 20:23 (March 2018)
10K: 42:11 (May 2018)
Half: 1:31:19.5* (2019 Mt Charleston Marathon)
Marathon 3:05:22.9* (2019 Mt Charleston Marathon)
Annual Miles 1,892.7 miles
*downhill course with 5,126 ft net drop and 30F temp change.
2019 Goal: Get into the 4/19/21 marathon
I paced the Nashville 3:30 group many years ago. Even pace on the relatively flat course -- got some snarky remarks for going faster on the few downhills, but no big deal. First half -- had around fifty people around me, was alot of fun. It was tough to get water as there were so many people around me. Second half -- folks dispersed -- and I crossed the finish line completely alone. That being said, I had about thirty people come up and thank me -- most finished ahead of me -- and were using me as a gauge to beat their target time.