The Art of Pacing

09th November 2016

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Pacing isn't just about finishing at the correct time...

The Art of Pacing

by Claire Senior

The Art of Pacing by Claire Senior

When I first started out as a pacer, I naively thought that it was simply going to be a fun, slower-paced run. After all, all that was required from me was to make sure I crossed the finish line as close to the target time as possible, right? Wrong.

There are many pacers out there who are brilliant at crossing the finish line at the perfect time, but are poor pacers.

When pacing others, your role is to act as a consistent visual goal post throughout the race to allow other runners to monitor their progress. That requires running at a constant pace from the start. As such, you must keep checking your watch!

When you run as a pacer, you will be running much slower than normal. The biggest downfall is setting off too fast, and can cost your followers their PB. Your followers will keep up with you, but will struggle in the second half of the race and end up going slower than they would if they ran at a consistent steadier pace from the start.

That being said, there are some slight variations that you can use, but you must be really careful to gauge it accurately. If you are running a short race (5km or slower), then starting slightly faster (just 3%!) than your target pace is an advantage when aiming for a PB. However, for longer races, such as a marathon, the advice is the complete opposite. Start steadily and 3% slower than the target pace to avoid burning all your glycogen stores too quickly, so as not to “hit the wall”.

So, after years of practise, here are the four key steps to pacing.

  • Firstly, find out the race distance and your target time.
  • Secondly, add the details into one of the many ‘pace finder’ websites to find your running pace.
  • Thirdly, practice running at that pace – a lot!
  • Finally, on race day, set off slowly, and concentrate on maintaining a constant pace throughout the run, crossing the finish line right on cue and bringing in your followers to their new PB.

Thanks for reading this

And thank you Claire for sharing your story with us.

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Jamie Young

Jamie Young

22 Nov 2016 at 08:42 pm

Really good account. I did some pacing at parkrun in the UK (5k) and found it very rewarding (you are the reason for a person's PB that day), but also it helped me pace my own races better.