Marathon: Pace Groups? (Read 257 times)

Interval Junkie --Nobby

    Has anyone had success with using a pace-group for their marathon goal?  If so, what time-goal?  And do you normally run your training runs alone?


    I run most of my long runs alone (since I trail the Sub3 guys by 20seconds).  However, in track practices I do intervals with the same guys and a pace group is really enjoyable.  I'm just curious what people see as the trade-offs of letting someone else manage the pace, compared to running your own race.


    Obviously, if the pace-group is mis-managed (goes out too fast, doesn't consider the route, then you're hosed).

    2016 Goals: Lose the 10lbs I gained for not having goals

      Yes, I went with a pace group in my last, and successful marathon.  These were professional pacers, who use a variable-pace strategy that they plan in advance.  The first couple of miles are planned to be slower, to allow for congestion and a warmup period.  Middle miles a bit faster than target pace, with adjustments in each mile for hills and such, and then they allow for some slowing in the final few miles.  In my race, a porta-potty stop at mile 16 let them get away from me a bit, but I had some leeway, and knowing I needed to stay near them, and ahead of the next pace group helped to motivate me to keep going in the last six miles.

      Well at least someone here is making relevance to the subject. - S.J.

        I agree with LL. For the most part, they can be very helpful. I had one that would speed up before the water stops to bank a little time. That was annoying until I figured out why he was doing it. If you're having a bad day, seeing a pace group go by that you thought you would be ahead of can be demoralizing though.






          I ran with pacers during races if they are available, it helped me because mentally I just have to keep up with them. The hard thing for me is to find the right pace group. I followed the 4:00 pacers in my first marathon, it was too aggressive and I fell off after 20 miles due to cramping. No pacers in my 2nd marathon, but I stuck to the 4:00 pace and that's exactly what I got, and I think my time was too soft. This year I ran a 30k and followed what I thought was an aggressive pace with the 3:30 pacers (8 min pace, I expected myself to fall off at some point, it wasn't a goal race), and surprisingly I had my best  and strongest race and finished slightly ahead of the pacers. I don't think I would have run that well without them. My problem is me not knowing myself enough, and having pacers can either hurt or help depending on how right/wrong I am about my capability.


          I normally run alone, except for doing intervals, and I tend to shadow a fellow runner of similar speed and let him pace me. I usually outlast and outrun him a little in the last couple of repeats, but only because he kept me from blowing up early on. I think that was a good balance.

          delicate flower

            I only have three marathons to my credit and have yet to use a pacer.  In my last marathon, I hit my goal of 3:45 sans pacer.  I think using a pacer can be hugely helpful in hitting a goal, but my concern is leaving time on the course.  What if I used a 3:45 pacer but had a 3:41 in me that day?


            In that same marathon, I arrived just in time for the race (12,000 runners) and could not line up any closer than the 5:30 pacer because of how packed it was.  The pacers were helpful in that I was gauging my race by picking off the pacers.  The last one I passed was the 3:50 pacer just after mile 13.  I was looking for the 3:45 pacer and may have caught him if I hadn't started so far back...it took me three minutes to cross the starting line.


            Depending on how training goes and if I think I have it in me, I may use the 3:15 pacer in my May marathon.  3:15 will be a big deal....


              I think it is personal preference.  I usually set very specific goals based on race time predictors and usually there are not pace groups for times say xx:53:00.


              OTOH, I am a pacer for at least one marathon a year and find there are definitely runners that can benefit from having a consistent pace set for them.   Plus if a pacer is doing their job they will be checking in on how you are feeling, giving advice, encouragement, etc.  That said, there are some pacers that go out to fast or just aren't very experienced.   If your pacer doesn't seem like they know what they are doing I would just run on your own.


                I've never run with one officially, but I did latch onto one at the Grand Rapids Marathon a few years back and enjoyed being pulled along for 10 or 12 miles (at which point either I dropped them or they dropped me, I forget which).  It was nice to be with a pack for a bit but generally I'm a solo runner or with one friend.


                Having said that, I'm an official pacer for this year's NYCM so hopefully someone will get something positive from me in my group (4:30).

                HTFU?  Why not!

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                  Baystate Marathon pacers are awesome.


                  Interval Junkie --Nobby

                    I noticed they have a 3:00 and 3:05 pace group for the NYCM.  These are the ones I'm considering.  Annoyingly, neither start in my color (or even on the same level of the bridge -- I'm in green).


                    I'm not sure if either result is possible.  I think 7:00 pace (3:05) should be do-able in good weather.  But I have my eye on the 3:00 guys as well.  I have 10mi at MP this weekend.  Going to see if I can keep 6:55.


                    The reason I'm considering the pace group is that in training, when I go by perceived effort, I find myself running 7:05.  This may be a better indication of what is really possible than my lofty desires.


                    @Joe. -- what was the reasons for the acceleration/banking before water stops?

                    2016 Goals: Lose the 10lbs I gained for not having goals

                    Anonymous Guest

                      I've had good and bad experiences with pacers. I ran with the 1:40 pace group for a half marathon this spring, and the pacer actually encouraged me to run ahead around mile 9 because I was running pretty strong. That was really cool, because I went into the race not knowing if I could hang with the pace group, and I probably would have gotten complacent and just stuck with it without his encouragement.


                      Three marathon pacing experiences. Last fall I didn't start with a pace group (I was targeting 3:55), but ended up next to them at the halfway point. We had gone back and forth a couple of times. I ended up running with them through mile 22. The pacer was running a good, even pace and once I was able to trust that I was able to relax a little about obsessing with my watch - much less stress. I eventually pushed the last few miles to finish a couple minutes ahead of the pace group. He got several people across the line right on time.


                      Then I started with the 3:35 pace group in my spring marathon and he went out too fast. I didn't have confidence in myself to be able to run that pace (even though all my race results said I could), so I stuck with him even though I knew he was ahead of the pace. But the early fast pace did me in, I fell off the back and finished in 3:42.


                      My race this past weekend I started just behind the 3:35 pacer, because I didn't want to go out to fast. I couldn't even see him after the first mile marker, which I passed in 8:09 (3:35 pace is 8:12). No sign of him until mile 11 or 12. I caught the group as he was telling them they were still going to be ahead at the next mile marker. He'd slowed considerably by then and I decided to pass the group. I finished in 3:33:57, and the pacer had lost the entire group and finished by himself. I'm sure his early way-too-fast pace had a lot to do with it.


                      These were all relatively flat races, so that was not the problem with the ones that went out way too fast.


                      So my advice would be to consider but not rely on a pace group. If you think they are going too fast or too slow, make sure to listen to yourself and run your own race. Pacers are only human. Some are amazing, and can make your race so much easier. And some not so much, and you have to trust yourself over some guy/girl with a sign.

                      Since everyone else is blogging: http://karenrunsfar.blogspot.com/
                      Upcoming Marathons: December 2017 - Mississippi Gulf Coast Marathon, March 2018 - The Woodlands, April 2018 - Boston

                      Dream Maker

                        Good pacers (you know, like me Wink  ) can be a huge help.


                        They are volunteers, though, and some are better than others.  I tried to run with more than one group group who celebrated 3-5 minutes in the "bank" at the half. I didn't like that.  When I'm in peak shape that puts me not far from my half race pace.  Ask the plan ahead of time.   I prefer to run consistent splits.  I've always come within a few seconds of my goal (typically aiming for 30 seconds under) and have paced about 12 marathons - but I know some pacers who consider it "success" if they're 3-4 minutes under goal at the end and I think that's not at all acceptable.


                        marathonpacing.com  -- Jim normally takes comments about his pacers seriously and I'd feel good about them.


                        There haven't been pace groups in any marathon I was targeting as a goal.   I would in the future though-- but I'd try to talk to the pacers and find out first.



                          What if I used a 3:45 pacer but had a 3:41 in me that day?


                          OTOH, what if 3:45 had been your appropriate pace, but you went out at 3:40?  It's a judgment call, with or without pacers.

                          Well at least someone here is making relevance to the subject. - S.J.

                            @Joe. -- what was the reasons for the acceleration/banking before water stops?


                            I presume to bank time to walk at the water stop.  It would seem a lot smarter to make a slight adjustment in the 26-mile pace rather than shortly before a stop, however.

                            Well at least someone here is making relevance to the subject. - S.J.

                            King of PhotoShop

                              I just now put this post up on the Dallas Morning News running blog, which asked readers to share what they want from a pace leader, and I got a bit of feedback when it started as a Facebook discussion. See if any of it resonates with you:






                                I presume to bank time to walk at the water stop.  It would seem a lot smarter to make a slight adjustment in the 26-mile pace rather than shortly before a stop, however.


                                This is what I assumed too. I eventually passed him and managed to stay ahead of the group, so I'm not sure how it turned out for them.



                                Nice article Spareribs. I agree with their pacing strategy. I would rather start a tiny bit slower, than pace it for even splits the rest of the way.