Pace Teams- Yes? No? Maybe so?

Pace Teams- Yes? No? Maybe so?

Everyone has their own opinion of pace teams.  For some reason, I have spent most of my running years being a little intimidated/ annoyed by their mere presence.  Seeing them usually meant I was about to be passed by a mass of people and I wasn’t able to keep up or hit a certain goal time.

I have put together a few of my own Pace Team Tips.  You may have some tips of your own so please feel free to share them!!

Pace Team Tip # 1.  Know your goal pace.  How do you know what your goal pace should be?  I use the McMillan calculator and have found it to be pretty accurate.  There is also a great app if you have an iphone called, “Runner’s Ally” that does the same thing.  I use this app all the time!

When I was running in the St. Judes Half Marathon in December I had a very specific target goal pace in mind.  (I wanted to hit a 7:10 pace.) St. Judes has the half and full marathon start together and they actually stay together until the end of the half.  I considered running with a pace group but was in a bit of a predicament.  The 3:05 pace group would be running a 7:04 avg. pace and the 3:10 pace team would be running a 7:13 avg. pace.  What did I do?  I decided to run my own race and forget about the pace teams.  Two miles into the race I actually caught up to the 3:10 group.  I had run a 7:07 and a 7:01 so obviously they were running a little faster.  I stayed with them for the next five miles (one of which was a 6:40) and everything was going well.  At mile 7 they ran their first 7:13 mile so I decided to leave them since they slowed down.  That was my first experience with a pace group. 

Pace Team Tip # 2. Know your pace team.  Going into the Houston Marathon I did a little research on the pace teams.  How did I find out this information?  On the marathon website there is a whole section on pace teams.  Even though I didn’t know if I would run with one or not, I looked up their stats just in case.  You can never be too prepared… I learned that the woman leading the 3:20 pace group had a 2:55 PR and I read about some of her recent accomplishments.

Pace Team Tip # 3.  Ultimately it is your race.  As mentioned in my race report, I prefer to run even splits.  I may even negative split.  I DO NOT like to start off too fast.  This is why I do not put all my trust in pace groups.  I cannot risk starting with them and going out too fast.  I just can’t do that.  This is why I started and ran the first 13 miles on my own.  When I caught up to the pace group halfway through I knew I was better prepared to pace with them then.  I even stayed right behind them for 2 miles to see how even their pace was.  They passed the test…

Pace Team Tip # 4. Be prepared to run a little faster or slower than planned. In Houston it was never off too much but there were times I looked down at my watch and we might be 20 seconds faster or 15 seconds slower than the goal pace.  My pace team leaders did a great job trying to keep it average but we sure lost quite a few people whenever they “picked  it up” even for a few seconds. To run successfully with a pace group I’d say you have to be a little flexible with your pace time.  This does not work for everyone.  I for one am not very flexible at the beginning of a race but with every mile I have under my belt, I usually get a little more confident in my ability. 

Pace Team Tip # 5.  Running in a pack gives you confidence. Once I caved in and finally “joined the team” I was surprised at the level of support and team spirit I felt. We really were a team with a common goal. When we passed runners I actually felt sorry for them.  Here were were this big group plowing through the course.  It was like we were unstoppable.  (Of course, we did lose team members every mile so we were not that unstoppable!)

All in all, I ran 12 miles with the pace group.  I would say they definitely helped me reach my goal of breaking the 3:20 mark.  I have friends who have tried to run with pace groups and they say the pace group was going too fast.  Again, pace groups are not for everyone.  I would say try it a little and if it isn’t working you are free to leave them.  There is no commitment!

Recently I came across Katie’s blog.  Katie is a marathoner who happens to be a pace team leader as well.  I found it interesting to read things from a pacer’s point of view. 

Do you have any pace team experiences you’d like to share?  Would you ever consider running with a pace group? Why or why not?

6 thoughts on “Pace Teams- Yes? No? Maybe so?

  1. I got caught up with a pace group at the end of the last half marathon that I did and I didn’t love the experience. The man who was leading the group felt like he had to talk every second – very loudly. I’m sure some people found it encouraging but I wasn’t one of them. But I’m sure that each pacer has their own style and there may have been another one that suited me better.

  2. I ran my very first have marathon with a pace team, trying to run 2:00 (this was over 2 years ago, the first time I tried distance running!). However, I realized that the team was WELL behind pace – 5 minutes behind! – when I looked at my watch at mile 6. So I left them. I was walking back to my car by the time they finished! After that I never rana race with a pace team going my intended pace, but I like the idea of camaraderie.
    I’ve actually thought about being a pacer. I run a good number of races and I don’t easily injure, so I could probably do it!

  3. Char- that sounds awful! I would get annoyed too. Especially if I didn’t have music to drown out their voice. It definitely depends on the pace leader and their style!

    Gracie- I’m sure you would make an excellent pace leader! You should definitely look into it. Not sure what all the perks are but I’m sure you get race and maybe travel all paid. You might get to do more races then (and save money)!

  4. Great tips. I’ve never run with a pace group, mostly because (like you) I do not want to go out too fast and be burnt out later, so I usually do my own thing. But I do think there is power in group running, and may try it at some point. I’m glad it was helpful for you to get through 12 miles!

  5. I trained the majority of my longs with my running group and, yes, the pack keeps up your confidence and accountability. It’s much easier to keep pushing in a group when on your own you may want to slow down.
    I really benefited from the Houston pacers because (being in a pretty thick crowd) most people would move aside for our pacers. I was very grateful for that!

  6. Hi Tia! I found your blog through Kathy (above). Congrats on the big PR in Houston. I was there, too, and my plan had been to go with the 3:50 pacers, but they went out way too fast (as did the 4 hour ones–I unexpectedly passed them in miles 3 and 4). I caught the 3:50 guys in the later miles of the marathon and decided to just keep pushing ahead of them. They must have both had a bad day, because my finishing time was 3:53:28 and I was well ahead of both of them.

    That said, I’ve had good experiences with pacers too (notably in NYC 2005). I’m trying to inch toward a Boston qualifying time (3:45 is the upper limit) and would love a reliable pace group on the day I attempt it!

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