For months, you’ve diligently followed a training to help you crack your newest race goal. As the race approaches, you start seeing notes about the provided race pace group and begin wondering if that’s your golden ticket?
If you’re race nerves have ever kept you from joining in to a marathon pace group or you simple aren’t sure if it’s the right choice here are all the details on how do pace groups work and the pro’s/con’s.
What are Marathon Pace Groups?
Many races now offer pace groups as a free “amenity” for race day. You’ll find them separated by 15-30 minute increments depending upon the size of the race.
The idea is that this guide will help get you to the finish line within a couple minutes of the proposed time. They’re usually holding a sign to ensure you can easily spot them throughout the race. Most pacers have run numerous races faster than the time they’re pacing, which ensures they can easily get you there on time.
Should You Use a Pace Group?
The opinions on this are scattered and while I do have one :) I want to start by laying out the pro’s and con’s so that you can figure out what might be best for you.
Pros of a pace group:
- let go of checking your watch
- engage with others in the group or the leader to help pass the time
- it can hold you back from going out too fast
- pace group leaders are often fabulous cheerleaders
Many times you’ll have a chance to meet your pace group leader at the race expo. A great chance to see if they might be the added boost you need to blaze through that new PR.
Things to ask include their most recent race times, find out this is an easy time for them to hit. Ask if they chat or how they like to encourage the group? Ask what their pacing strategy is and how they handle water stops?
A super common issue for many runners is to find the pace group whizzes through the water stop, while they are used to stopping, walking and sipping. Then they dash off in a sprint to catch the group and a few rounds of this sucks all their energy! Photo from Clifbar
Cons of a pace group:
- can feel crowded in a group that won’t spread out
- not all pacers are equal, some are used to running much faster and have trouble reigning it in
- even pacers have bad days or don’t feel well
- their pacing strategy may not be best for you (i.e starting fast)
- it can feel defeating if you aren’t hitting their pace right away
Personally, I hate the bustle and bump and grind of being tightly packed around someone carrying a stick. Instead, I tend to run on my own, but keep an eye out for the pacers.
This is a good way to notice if I’ve gotten ahead of my goal finish time or if I’m falling off.Considering a race pace group to help hit your next race goal? A must read!! #runchat #marathon Click To Tweet
Marathon Pace Group Etiquette
Once you’ve decided to jump in to the group, there are a few things that will make it more enjoyable for everyone. Consider this a supplement to the race day etiquette guide!Photo from Clifbar
As with all things Mrs Manners related, it comes down to really paying attention to not just what’s good for you, but what’s good for those around you. Yup this is your day to make all those months of marathon training pay off, but they trained just as hard (probably).
- Run your own race!
- Don’t start with a group that’s too fast (no fun for you or them)
- You aren’t required to stay with the group non-stop
- Be a positive force in the group, try to lift others up, it will help you too.
- Try to give everyone enough space. You’ll hit the time even if you aren’t right next to the pacer.
- Chat with those around you or put in your headphones…again it’s your race! But if you notice someone doesn’t feel like chatting back, ask if they prefer quite, rather than continuing to go on.
- Don’t depend 100% on that pacer. Double check your time and ensure you aren’t blazing out of the gates or slowing too much for aid stations and hills.
On the flip side of all of this is what if you want to be a race pace group leader?? Read the above tips and figure out if you’d be a positive force for those who are often aiming for a stretch goal, then reach out to your local races and run clubs. You’ll find there are often plenty of opportunities.
Two of my favorite races over the last 15+ years were pacing a friend through their first marathon and another to her first sub two hour half marathon. I was able to enjoy the day, be the cheerleader and it feels so good watching them accomplish something big!
Last Minute Race Prep
If you’re reading this then training is done and now all you have to do is handle the final taper and race day right! Here are some of the top tips on those areas:
Have you ever run with a pace group?
Have you ever been a pacer?
Other ways to connect with Amanda
Instagram Daily Fun: RunToTheFinish
Facebook Community Chatter: RunToTheFinish
Get more running tips: Pinterest