It was great to see “Pacers” finally introduced at the recent Run United 1 where 5k, 10k and 21k runners were guided to finish in their particular projected times.
This “Pacer” activity in running is close to my heart as i was the one who introduced and directed the idea of having pacers during the first 4 iterations of the Quezon City International Marathon from 2009 to 2012.
Joining a pacers’ group will help runners not only achieve their goals, but have FUN, whether the goal is a personal record, or simply to cross the finish line! Pacers are extremely experienced runners, dynamic and personable, chosen based upon their previous running and/or pacing performances and know what it takes to hold a steady pace and give their runners a great running experience. They are dedicated to making sure you have a great time on the course!
The job of my pacers then were direct and simple. I had “LEAD” Pacers situated at the front of the pack and the “SWEEPER” pacers at the rear. The Lead Pacers are in charge of setting the pace and the Sweeper Pacer are usually tailing the group to offer support and encouragement to any runner who may be dropping off the pace.
The objective of the Pacers is to be able to comfortably run the pace they have volunteered for and to be prepared to offer encouragement and motivate runners in their respective packs with the following in mind:
- Pacer should be able to lead runners cross the finish line at the same finishing times, achieving their target time goals;
- Lead the group. Pay attention to the overall group goal, not personal/individual goals;
- Look out for the welfare of all;
- Have FUN leading them across the finish line so they remember the race as one great experience.
Important points for the Pacers:
- Pacing duty is a big responsibility. So pacers must be fit and strong to run and pace a group, should have ran the 42K and 21k many times before, and must have a wealth of running experience to lead and pace a group effectively. Running a marathon or half-marathon is hard enough as it is; to run it at a different pace is even harder. And the challenge of pacing is to maintain consistency.
- A pacer is a leader, coach, cheerleader, psychiatrist, clown, one who wags his/her tongue non-stop, etc. A good sense of humor will greatly help.
- Ideal set up: pacer and a back up pacer in the same group.
- Pacers should maintain an “even split,” which means that every kilometer will be run at approximately the same pace. A pace guide shall be provided to all pacers, and even the runners. Pacers must maintain their designated pace.
- Pacers should meet with their group before the actual race so that an assessment of the group’s individual and collective capabilities and personalities can be done as soon as possible. That way the race day strategy can be drawn up. Pacers are encouraged to communicate their strategy as soon as possible and as clearly as possible.
- Hydration and water station strategy must also be drawn up. Walking breaks can be encouraged right after the water stops especially for the slower groups (2:30 and up for the half-marathoners). However the runners must be told that after a walking break, the pace will have to pick up a bit in order to compensate for the walk and so that the time goal can be met. Also pacers should communicate re-grouping instructions.
- Pacers shall be equipped with clearly identifiable time markers in a flag or balloons.
- Pacers shall take up corral starting positions arranged with the faster groups in front and the slower groups taking up the rear positions.
- About ten minutes before the start of the race final instructions shall be issued. This will include any adjustments being made to the pace due to course conditions. This shall also include back up and contingency measures. This is another great opportunity for the pacers to encourage questions from the runners they shall be leading.
- Try to spot as early as possible those who have a difficult time keeping pace. Encourage them to fall back to the next group if they can’t really keep pace, or walk. Do not risk the safety, health or condition of the runner.
Important Points for the Runner:
- Meet up with the Pace Groups on race day, look for them at the start, holding up large signs with the pace group finishing times printed on them. Try to meet up with your group twenty minutes before the start.
- Five or ten minutes before the start, your Pacers will give their “final instructions”. This will include any adjustments being made to the pace due to course conditions, as well as your Pacers’ method of meeting back up and keeping the group together at the fluid stations. This is another great opportunity for you to ask any questions you may have!
- Fluid station philosophy, regarding whether the Pace Group will walk or run through it, is up to the Pacer(s). Each Pace Group will let their team know their strategy for getting back together after a water stop. Traditionally, the pace groups from 4:00 and slower (42k distance) will be walking during fluid stations. Be sure to check with your Pacer while running or prior to the race if this is extremely important to you.
- Pacers would want you to run your own race. If you feel great on race day, and you want to go ahead to catch the next team, they’ll cheer you on. If it’s just not your day, slow down and wait for the next Pace Group behind to catch you. And if you want to just fall in and match strides with your Pacer, they sure will appreciate the company!
Congrats and good luck to the Pacers of the forthcoming Run United 2 (who are mostly my friends) who will once again do the pacing chores of this June 7 event. Keep on motivating!
Unilab Active Health introduces “pacers” in Run United 1 to motivate runners to finish faster and stronger
Maintaining an active lifestyle has always been the advocacy of Unilab Active Health. To elevate Run United’s training component, pacers were introduced in Run United 1 held on March 8 at the Mall of Asia grounds in Pasay City.
Unilab Active head Alex Panlilio says pacers provide in-race training to help runners reach their goal time known as “PR” or personal record. Pacers are seasoned runners who provide that extra push, especially when one’s energy dips. They are identified through their shirts, bibs and the colorful balloons they carry as markers.
One of the Run United 1 pacers is race organizer Jaymie Pizarro who finished 21K with a time of 2:11. She says pacers act as team leaders, and she had fun leading her pack.
“I’m used to focusing on my own time goals, but for Run United 1, I’ve paced runners and it was a fulfilling experience. It felt great reaching the finish line together, and it was heart-warming to know that they have reached their PRs.”
Pizarro gives several tips to runners who want to join a pacer:
• Train for pace. Make sure you’ve trained for your target pace and that you can sustain it. If unsure, sign up with a slower pace group and work your way up.
• Practice variety. Run a mix of interval and tempo runs to build your speed, and long runs to build endurance. Practice running at your goal pace without checking your performance in a watch or an app.
• Run with a group. It is easier to sustain the pace running with group; you can draw energy from each other.
5K pacer CJ Lampad of Runadoboking blog has some tips, too:
• Just join. Some runners are too shy. They secretly follow pacers—which is just okay. Always remember that you can stray from the group if you find the pace too fast, or go ahead if you can run faster.
• Expect a steady pace. There won’t be bursts of fast or slow runs; the target is to maintain a pace of say, seven minutes per kilometer, and finish on time.
• Talk to your pacer for guidance.
Coach Mherlz Lumagbas, Run United 21K first-place winner in the women’s division, has these final reminders: “Start slowly and gradually. Focus on training, not mileage, to avoid injuries. Make time for training and take a supplement such as Unilab Active Health Gel during the race for a boost of energy. Join pacers in races, but train regularly.”
Another pacer was Run United organizer coach Rio de la Cruz who paced 5k runners at 25-30 minutes. For 10K, pacers were triathletes: Peter Gonzalez for 50 minutes, Ed Inocentes for 55 minutes, coach Raul Cuevas and Gino Abano for 60 minutes, Odj Reyes and Joseph de Lara for 65 minutes, Vincent Co Say and Ting Joson for 70 minutes.
Marathon finishers paced for 21K. These are TV host Kim Atienza and FrontRunner magazine editor in chief Jonel Mendoza who paced runners for a 1:55 time. Pinoy Fitness website founder Jeff Lo paced for a 2:37 target, while triathletes Vince Corpus and Bobby Go paced runners to finish at 2:27.