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?