Overheard At The Marathon Expo

Overheard at the marathon expo

Several times a year, I act as a pacer for various marathons and half marathons. When I’m a pacer, I often find myself spending a bunch of time manning the pacer booth at the race expo, answering questions and promoting the race’s pace team.

Some of the questions are about the pace team or running with a pacer. Other questions are about running or racing generally.

Questions Asked At The Pace Team Booth

Many of the questions get asked over and over.

Running With A Pace Group Will Guarantee My Finish Time, Right?

Um… no.

I can’t speak for every pacer, but I take pacing seriously. I’m an experienced runner and marathoner and I’ll do everything I can to hit my goal time.

However, I’m ultimately a girl with a watch running a marathon.

Stuff happens over the course of 26 miles. Injuries, twisted ankles, tummy issues. Any issue that can impact a runner during a race can impact the pacers. Very often, pacers only have our watches to pace by, it’s far from infallible.

If your heart is absolutely set on a specific time, you are ultimately responsible for hitting that time.

Pacers are a great tool, but we are only a guideline.

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Pace Group on Race Day

I’m Inbetween Pace Groups, Which Should I Join?

This is a common issue. If the race has a 4-hour pacer and a 4:30-hour pacer, but the runner wants to do a 4:15 race, what should they do?

The advice I give here requires the runner know a little bit about their running temperament.

Do you tend to go out too fast at a race? If so, I usually recommend starting with the slower pacer group, then speeding up in the second half of the race.

Do you know you won’t have the discipline to speed up mid-race? Start with the faster group and slow down.

Another option is to run behind the faster group – just keeping them in sight. When I run as a pacer, I almost always have runners (who weren’t running in my group) come up to me and thank me for pacing them, explaining their goal was just to keep me in sight.

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Pace Band

My Plan Is To Go Out Faster Than My Goal Time And ‘See What Happens.’ What Do You Think?

‘Seeing what happens’ is a good approach to training. Training runs are a great time to test out different paces and strategies.

‘Seeing what happens’ is rarely a great approach to take on race day.

If you have a goal time or a goal pace, run at that goal time or goal pace.

It’s your goal after all.

Why Don’t You Have A [Insert time] Pacer?

The pacers at the races I pace at are all volunteers.

We need to be willing to not only run a marathon, but run it at a consistent pace. A pace often well slower than we’d run if left to our own devices.

Having the discipline to do that can be surprisingly difficult. Many races have a hard time finding pacers for the fastest and slowest pace groups.

And even if there are pacers willing to run a given pace, there can only be so many pace groups.

When Should I GU?

This is a really great question, however, it’s also a question that should have been asked weeks, if not months, before race day.

While there are general guidelines, knowing what types of fuel will work for you on the run, and how often you should be consuming it, is a question only you can answer for you.

You need to experiment with your fueling during training so you know what strategy is right for you.

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Long Run As Dress Rehearsal

… But I’m So Slow

The last expo I volunteered at was for the Oakland Marathon, where the pacers were from my local running club. We were answering questions about both the race and our club and our activities.

We got many questions about the kinds of runs the club hosts on a regular basis. This year especially, I noticed a lot of anxiety around pace – people afraid to join us for group runs in case they ran too slow.

I understand this concern with group runs. I can’t tell you how many ‘all paces welcome’ events I’ve been to that ran at a pace way too fast for me (and I’m a middle of the pack runner). At some events, all paces may be welcome, but unless you run an 8:00-minute mile or faster you are on your own.

I don’t know if this pace anxiety is a good sign that newer runners (or at least new to group run runners) want to start doing group runs for the first time and simply aren’t sure what to expect, or if it’s a bad sign that I’m not the only runner who has been left behind at ‘all paces’ group runs and are afraid it will happen again.

I can’t speak for all clubs, but if you are in the East Bay, my club (Lake Merritt Joggers and Striders) has groups runs that really are for all experience levels, ages, and paces.

 

What about you? What do you want to know when you go to the marathon expo?

 

Overheard at the marathon expo

Sara is a runner, running coach, writer, blogger, and a lover of all things written.

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