2 in 1 – Training and competition
Pacemaker / Pacer / Frontrunner – we hear a lot about these terms. It seemed inaccessible earlier for hobby runners to pace running to fellows. Today it is a new community engagement between runners.
What is pacing / pacer?
A short description from the hobby runner’s point of view (the rules for pacing for elite runners are much stricter and often is not allowed, at all):
In longer races – usually half marathon, marathon – but more and more on shorter distances too, practised runners dictate the run at paces which count as a milestone.
Time is given either in absolute time or mostly in pace by kilometers. So, i.e. in a half marathon race you might have to look for a pacer for 2:00 hours / 1:45 / 1:30 or 6:00 minutes (min / km), 5:30, 5:00, 4:30 pacers. These are the most common versions. Usually, two or three people lead a bunch, so if one is out, the runners who have been banded will not be lost. The tempo is usually steady, but depends on the terrain and sometimes there is a slight, almost invisible acceleration in the basic plan. Actually, this is ideal. At the end, the average must be taken, but it is important that the average speed does not develop too hectic, as frequent shifting of the tempo takes a lot away from the runner, especially if he/she runs close to submax.
The frontrunner must be an experienced runner in the given speed.
I would say, he/she must run the pace he/she could undertake quite slightly even when just waking up. This is for ensuring that the runners led by the pacer – for whom this speed is likely beyond the comfort zone – are safely guided: they give a rythm to the run, they can talk to them if necessary, assist them in refreshing, alert them to road conditions, provide windshields in windy weather, and relieve them of watching the clock all the time. It is impossible to do this at a pace outside the comfort zone. So, the racing speed should be 30 sec lower than the race pace of the pacer. It’s like driving. If we go on a regular route (at a comfortable cruising speed), we are able to give our attention to others.
Running has become so popular and there are so many races that organizers invited more and more hobby runners as frontrunners to slower paces. I think this is a good practice and even the pacer can get a lot of extra by this.
The most special thing is that we help others.
It is very uplifting to give up our goals for the sake of a competition to help others achieve their goals. This is an interesting thing, because you almost forget about yourself, you don’t notice if you are tired, or if you have not refreshed, because you focus on the integrity, success and ease of racing of the people around you. I’m switching to a kind of maternal mode.
But there are also some selfish positive aspects.
It is interesting to see the race with the eyes of others, while we are running too. It’s an interesting thing to pay attention to the road, to the happenings.
It’s interesting thing to run in a field where we usually don’t run.
If we have not yet pushed our limits, we can take a look around much better, observe runners, the landscape, refreshing points, fans, and enjoy the race in the classic sense of the word. Personally, this is a plus for me, because if I stand for the race for myself, I’m just focusing on the run and myself and I’m out of the comfort zone soon enough. I know many are racing for joy mainly. This experience is given to me as a pace runner. This is obviously an individual choice.
Another advantage is that people usually run faster than a slower long run, but not at a race pace. So we will not speed up and slow down all too much, it teaches you to keep the pace, which in my oppinion is one of the most difficult things to do in running.
If you do not have the opportunity to run as an official pace runner, I recommend you to help occasionally a slower runner, a friend, runner mate as a “private” rabbit.
You can experience this feeling next to a single runner! There is no need for a pacer bib or a balloon!
Yet, besides the many benefits of pace running, it is the most memorable and wonderful thing to do if we become one of the most important person in individual stories for a few kilometers. It is an incomparable feeling when people hug you in the finish line, when they mention you in their blog or race reports, when you know and feel that you have added a little bit to make this person give his/her all in the race.
The greatest acknowledgment is that someone who has given you the confidence after a long preparation, confirms that you have earned the trust to lead her/him in.
Each time I get something new from running. I just feel like a better person!
The story of LILI:
In the POLAR Kenese race, there were several runners with us at 5:00 pace – which was not so easy, at all on this uphill track, on the top in great heat! However, the most memorable individual story of the current competition for me is Lili.
A 14-year-old girl who ran her first half marathon. Andris Vizi, my POLAR ambassador mate prep her up to the race and since Andris was a 14-kilometer frontrunner, he entrusted her to me for the last 7 kilometers. It was the hardest part for her, as usually for everyone. The end. It was an honor that Andris aksed me this favour and of course I didn’t leave Lili. I entrusted the team who ran with us to Andi, the other pacer (how good we were the two of us), and I encouraged Lili as a private pacer till the end.
There were more difficult stages, breaths, hopes and other dark moments, but she did it without a word. She did it!
With a 1:49 time, this little girl ran an amazing first half marathon.
My Sunday was a miracle! And what the run is like – on Saturday I was a bit disappointed because of the slightly unfortunate outcome of a triathlon team competition, and on Sunday I closed the race in an adrenaline cloud. Running is fair! I overwrite my previous statement for the second time. 😊