What is a pacer in running? Should I be following a pacemaker in my next big race? (2023)

Competing in a marathon for the first time is a major step in a runner's career and should be undertaken following a well-disciplined training plan. A full marathon training cycle can take anywhere from 16 to 24 weeks depending on physical fitness. On marathon race day, new runners (and elite runners, too) need every little extra help they can get to make it to the marathon finish line. One special race-day helper who is a first-time game-changing marathoner is a volunteer pacemaker.

what exactly isMarathon pacemakerand what do you do?

A marathon or half-marathon pacer is a voluntary runner who runs a race at a specific pace for a target time. Pacers are typically experienced runners who have mastered running and pacing strategies that they use throughout the race. Pacers wear some type of signage/item such as a sign, balloon, or t-shirt that states their target finish time.

Runners who need a little extra help during a race can run alongside a marathon pacemaker aimed at their target time.

Should I follow a marathon runner during a race?

The decision to run with or without a marathon or half-marathon pacemaker during a race is a matter of preference. Some runners swear that their marathon paceer is the only reason they were able to finish a marathon on a target time. On the other hand, some runners just want to finish a race and not have any extra pressure on their marathon run. Here are some pros and cons of running with a marathon or half-marathon pacemaker:

Disadvantages of running with Pacer:

Your pacemaker has a different running strategy

This can be a real disappointment and discouragement when you and your pacemaker have different running strategies. Let's say you plan to use a run/walk strategy for most of your marathon. On race day, you speak to the pacemaker assigned to your target time and learn that he plans to drive it non-stop. Well, this can change things drastically once you've been training with a run/walk strategy. Another situation that is hit or miss with pacemakers is when they plan to walk or run through the water supply station. While this isn't a huge difference, it still skews things a bit, which could throw you off mentally as you tackle the marathon.

For a detailed look at the run/walk method of running, check out this post:

How to Use the Run/Walk Method - A Complete Guide

What your pacemaker initially told you wasn't how it actually happened

We are all human, including voluntary pacemakers. Sometimes even 30 and 40 marathon race veterans have to change things up due to a situation with themselves, the weather and/or the racetrack. You must remain flexible when using a marathon or half-marathon pacemaker and trust that they will hopefully get you close to your target time.

Possibility to end up slowing you down

When you're getting into the last few miles of a race, a pacemaker might intentionally slow down a bit to keep up. However, if you have the energy, the last few miles could be a good spot to pick up your feet and pick up your pace slightly. Who knows you could beat your marathon finish time by a few seconds or maybe a minute. Because of this, it's a good idea to keep track of pacing over yoursSmartwatchas you approach the end of the race.

Benefits of running with Pacer:

Less watch control

When you follow an expert like a pacemaker, you don't have to worry as much about checking your watch for your current pace. This will help take some of the strain off your shoulders. Still, make sure to check your pace at least every kilometer just to make sure you hit your target time.

Encourages racers

Most volunteer pacers are there to help others hit their target times, and they love running and the challenges it brings. If this is your first time running a marathon and you plan to use a pacemaker, arrive at the race early enough to talk to the pacemaker. Most love to give advice on their racing strategy for the current race.

The posse effect supports running

Just as a running club can help you achieve your goals by running in grouped running activities, the pacer also has an entourage or group that surrounds them for the duration of the run. While we all lose motivation at some point during a marathon, your team can help you refocus and turn lost motivation into determination.

Volunteer pacemakers usually know the route well

Most likely, your pacemaker volunteer has completed this course before. They know where to turn up the heat and get through certain parts of the race, and they also know when to pull back and swap energy. You will also have some kind of strategy for hills. Not all pace runners have the same strategy for hills as other runners, so remember: what goes up the hill must come down the hill. If you don't agree with their hill strategy, just meet them on the other side.

Do pacers run the whole marathon?

There are two types of marathon pacemakers. The pacers that the elites use, the pro pacers or pacers, and the pacers that the rest of the racing body uses, the graduation pacers.

Pro Pacer

The pro-pacers are typically compensated runners who have a track record of running a specific distance at a specific pace. You start right at the front of the pack of racers and set off quicklyTempoPace until about halfway through the marathon (between 10 and 14 miles depending on the race). The Pro Pacer doesn't finish the race and is eliminated from the race long before it's over.

Progress Pacer

The completion pacer, or just pacers, are usually volunteer racers who can maintain a set pace for the length of the race. Some Completion Pacers are compensated in some way with money or free entry to the respective race. They have proven track records of consistently completing within a tight window of time (i.e. 4 hour 30 minute finish time). They usually range from 3 hours to 6 or even 7 hours end time. The Completion Pacer runs the entire marathon, giving you a chance to come along and finish within the time window that the particular pacer is shooting for.

Are there Marathon Pacer rules?

While there are usually no rules for pacers at the half marathon and marathon level, there are and many of the ultramarathon runs do. Pacemakers are strictly enforced in many 100-mile races. Here are some of the rules for pacemakers (according to theWestern States 100-mile endurance race):

  • Pacers are not allowed to carry water, food, flashlights, shoes, clothing, or other supplies for their runner
  • Pacers are also not allowed to provide any other type of mechanical or physical assistance to their runner on the course.
  • Muling is expressly prohibited. (Muling carries a runner's supplies during a race)
  • Pacers are allowed to carry their own supplies and groceries.

Are there pacers in half marathon races?

I've personally run 6 half marathons and while everyone has had a Pacer, at least 3 of them have. There are usually fewer pacers because it's half the distance of a marathon. Pacer target times typically look like this:

  • 1:30
  • 1:45
  • 2:00
  • 2:15
  • 2:30
  • 2:45
  • 3:00
  • 3:15
  • 3:30

Sometimes they simply mark the pacers at 1:30, 2:00, 2:30 and 3:00 depending on the size of the race and how many pacers they can find to volunteer.

How do you become a running pacer?

Large marathons usually have several people who can ask them to run as pacers. The pacer usually gets free entry to the race and any perks that come with completing the race, such as: the medal, finisher's t-shirt, food and drinks, etc. To volunteer as a pacer, you are usually required to provide some sort of race history/certificates that show you maintained a certain pace over the entire distance of the race. The race committee may also require that the pacer's last race be within a certain time compared to the race he is intending to pace for, e.g. B. within 6 months.

Looking for a great way to display your medals? Check out the post I wrote to check those outThe 9 best medal hangers for runners.

Do pacers get paid to run a marathon?

Completion pacers are usually there to help other runners finish a race at a specified finish time. Rarely do Completion Pacers get paid to attend the event, except for free entry and free post-race swags.

Pro Pacers, or informally "rabbits," receive some form of compensation for entering the race. These Pro Pacers are just that - professional racers who compete for prize money and awards in the race.

How many pacemakers are there in a marathon?

The total number of pacers participating is entirely dependent on the size of the race and how many pacers volunteer for the race. Generally, a marathon has roughly between10 and 16 voluntary pacemakersstarting in different corals. Sometimes the race committee distributes pacers in 15-minute or 30-minute increments. Marathon pacers run at target times such as the following:

  • 2:45
  • 3:00
  • 3:15
  • 3:30
  • 3:45
  • 4:00
  • 4:15
  • 4:30
  • 4:45
  • 5:00
  • 5:15
  • bad 6
  • 5:45
  • 6:00

Some elite races may have pacers aiming for a target time of 2:30 (two hours 30 minutes) to 7:00 (7 hours). Most marathon finish times revolve around theBoston Marathon qualifying timesin 2020. Runners ages 18-34 had to finish under 3:00 (3 hours) in 2020 to qualify for the Boston Marathon.

What do pacers wear for a marathon or half marathon?

Pacers are usually somehow clearly identified with a shirt and/or racing cap of a specific color. They usually have the finish time on their shirts (sometimes in front and gack). I actually saw a pacemaker mark the time on her forehead and neck (at least I hope that wasn't a tattoo).

Some racers and/or race committees require the runner to carry a light shield while racing. Other races will tie a helium balloon to the racer so they can be seen from a great distance.

Do Marathon Pacers Stop for Water?

Depending on what type of pacemaker you have, they may stop to drink water or run through water breaks. If you're using a pacer during your race, you'll need to get to the race early and find your pacer based on your target finish time. Ask the pacer a few key questions like these:

  • Do you walk through water stations or run through them?
  • Run the marathon or wagerrun/walk strategyfor the race?

The pacemaker's answers allow you to determine what you must do to complete the race by following the pacemaker's lead. If you need to go through the water supply stations and the pacer doesn't, all you have to do is accelerate a bit to reach the pacer after the water stations.

For an in-depth article on whether you or notshould carry water for a long distance race click here.

What if I can't keep up with my initial pacing group?

If you are not the last pacing group, you can just continue with the new pacing group. It's not uncommon for marathon runners to use slower pace groups for the first time. During my first marathon, at mile 20, I had to drop from my current pacing group to a slower pacing group. At mile 18 I suffered from severe leg cramps, but still finished the race a bit slower than I wanted. Most first-time marathoners need to focus on finishing the race and nothing else.

What should I do if my half marathon race doesn't have a pacer?

Following a pacemaker during a race should only be used as a running aid. You must be able to maintain a relatively steady pace yourself before attempting to follow a pacemaker in case something goes wrong. If the race does not have specific half marathon pacers for your race and a marathon is being run on the same course, you have these options:

Multiply by 2 and conquer

Let's say your target time for the half marathon is 2:30. You need to find a marathon pacer with a target time of 5:00 or 4:45. Since you have to choose, the longer a distance, the slower your pace will berun ahead of the pacemakerat 5:00 (slower) orchase the pacemakerat 4:45 (faster). The only downside to this method is that the half marathon and marathon will eventually split up, leaving you without a pacemaker. However, you could still get a good pace time ahead of the split.

Bring your running partner to the race

Nothing helps you more than a running buddy you're used to running with. Hopefully your running buddy will give you a little push when you feel your wheels coming up. Buddies are the next best thing to experienced pacemakers. Who knows, maybe your running buddy is a Pacer incognito?

Rely on yourself

That would be my advice for all runners. You put in the weeks and miles of training so you know what to do on race day. You are the best choice when it comes to finding what is best for you.

What is a pacer in running? Should I be following a pacemaker in my next big race? (2)

Ask other runners right before your race

This is an absolute last-ditch effort, but if you're desperate, ask other runners their target times. Some runners are reluctant to be friendly and talkative right before a race, while others are nice and happy to offer encouraging advice. You don't have to tell them you'll be following them, but if you find someone close to your target time, it might be worth a shot.

For a detailed post on race backup plans that provide mountain advice and race strategy, see:

Should I have a race backup plan?

Do pacemakers ruin the marathon?

While most average runners see the real benefit of being able to chase a pacer for a specific marathon finish time, elite and prize-chasing runners think otherwise, and with good reason. in the article,Do Pacers ruin marathon races?, Hueber quotes a famous study suggesting:

"at a pace of 4:30 miles/minute, pulling a meter behind another runneron a quiet daysaves around 80 percent of the energy you would otherwise expend fighting air resistance," which translates to "roughly 1 second at 400 meters."at this rate and more on windy days.”

While essentially only one runner can draft from the pacer after the pacer, this is really fair. For the elite and competitive runners, I would say bluntly that this is not fair. For the rest of the runners out there, it really doesn't make much of a difference.

Are pacemakers allowed in all marathons?

While most marathons allow for pacers, some do not. These are usually your races that require you to pre-qualify to enter the race. Boston, Chicago, and New York City marathons are just a few that don't allow pacers to enter the race events.

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He has published over 20 books includingBeginner's Guide to Half Marathons: An Easy Step-by-Step Solution to Get You There in 12 Weeks! (Beginner to Finisher Book 3),which has become an Amazon International #1 bestseller. Scott specializes in helping new runners become injury-free race finishers. He recently completed his 17th half marathon race.

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