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Ok, so diving into a hot topic that is usually on everyone’s minds when talking about a big effort like 100k distance plus. I’ve been writing a bunch lately, mostly for myself to get through these trying injured times, but love writing to give back and educate. So let’s chat guys. Pacing.
A pacer is a person. Cool huh? Hah, almost got you. It is a person who is willing to help a runner out on their path to their destination, whether that be 50 miles, 60 miles, 100 miles, something in between, or beyond. Depends on the race really! Reminder: always check the race website for details! In short, you’re running (maybe walking or hiking even) along and you get to pick up this awesome person who you get to share part of your journey with. This person, or people–more on that later– just runs with you!
Nothing, really. Nothing but the intense satisfaction that they get to help you reach your goals and be along side you. Expectations are weird. As a pacer, you should not expect anything. This goes for anything from being paid, or paid to travel, paid to stay in your tent or hotel, or race goodies and beyond. Nada, nothing.
Pacers should plan on paying their own way, which can be asking a lot. But I promise you, it’s worthwhile and greatly gratifying in the end. Being asked to be a pacer is like a badge of honor. Some runners will offer their pacers more however, but for the sake of this article, it is certainly not expected.
At the event, usually pacers will check in like runners, sign a waiver releasing the race of responsibility of their person being on course, get a bib (sometimes), and can partake in all the aid stations while on course just like the runner.
Although some of these things may not be standard listed above, and a pacer is responsible for checking the rules on the event site just like their runner or if they were running the event themselves.
Although there usually are pacer rules and expectations from the event itself, some events won’t really give you much to go on. So here are some things that, in general, pacers rule by.
Now that we have some of the important stuff out of the way, how can you be the best pacer for your runner?’
You don’t necessarily need to be good at the distance your runner is attempting to be a good pacer. Although knowledge is always useful out there, and experience, your runner might experience a whole different array of stuff than you. Therefore, experience of the runner’s distance is not required. If you are asked to be a pacer, then think about it before committing.
IT IS BETTER TO HAVE NO PACER THAN A PACER WHO WILL HOLD YOU BACK OR IS A RISK TO YOUR RACE. YOU are the runner.
How do you choose a pacer then? Is your race flat, steep, high, technical? Find yourself someone you know who would excel at the things your race has. If your event has a long pace period, say 30 miles or longer, see if you can break it up between multiple pacers. 30+ miles is asking someone to do an ultra with you! Some people would love to do just that, some might be afraid to decline your request, and then end up struggling. Keep your pacer and their skills in mind. How much experience does your pacer have at the distance you want them to do? See the list above and ask your pacer!
Remember, your pacer is doing a lot for you. Just you! It is up to you, but maybe figure out some way to help them or do something nice for them. Invite them to be in your post race pictures. They aren’t getting a finisher medal or shirt. Pacers aren’t getting any race swag. They are there out of the goodness of their hearts for you. Now they may have to put up with a lot from you, but hey, ultras bring out the weird in us all.
Keep in mind that some races do have local pacers available. More popular ones might, but never assume. You should assume if you do not have a designated pacer for your race, that you may go without one in the end. Local pacers are volunteers that show up to a race and offer to pace. You may get a mixed bag which there are pros and cons to.
The major pro is that you get someone new to you and that can be exciting and refreshing. New conversations to pass the time faster even if you are going slower. Perhaps you even make a new friend! The major con is of course getting someone who you do not mix well with, whether that be pace is not what you need, or someone who won’t shut up or conversely won’t talk at all.
However, these people do not expect anything out of it and are usually just good people trying to help. They probably know the course, which is a bonus. Though, there is a possibility of them pacing more than one person in the event, wearing them down. Again, do not assume you will have access to one when you need one, though it is a good option if you can’t find anyone.
There are a few things to consider for yourself, either as a pacer or runner. It rather comes down to what kind of person are you?
In the end, what do you do for your runner?!
A pacer and their runner should be a great harmony of success and an enjoyable experience for both! If you haven’t tried out pacing, it’s a wonderful experience and just a once in a lifetime experience with this person you run with.
Do you like what we do and would like to keep these educational articles coming? Consider donating on Patreon, it mean so much to us. If you’d like to be part of Team BU, go check us out, we’d love to grow our team and it’s a place for everyone. Check out our coaching page too as we accept new clients one the regular, whether it’s shooting for your first or 100th ultra. Every form of support matters. <3