The Pros and Cons of Following a Pace Group

Pace groups aren't always perfect, but they can keep you motivated and push you to a PR. Photo: PhotoRun.net

How To Use A Pace Group To Hit Your Goal

I’m not saying that all pacers do a terrible job or that pace groups shouldn’t ever be a small component of your race strategy. As a coach, I am grateful that runners offer their services and volunteer to help others achieve their goal. I am simply pointing out that relying 100% on a pace group is not how you should approach and plan your goal race. Instead, you should learn to use the pace group to your advantage – by stalking them.

Stalking a pace group means using the pace group as a marker and for motivation during the race, but relying on your own sense of pace (or watch) and natural strengths and weaknesses when it comes to executing your race strategy. This plan allows you to implement the race strategy you’ve trained for and is optimal for you. Yet, you can still take advantage of the pace group as an opportunity to have a barometer to assess your progress — as well as a group for motivation, should you need one.

I advise the athletes I coach to start the first 4 to 5 miles of a marathon running their own pace that they’ve honed through hours of practice and to forget about any pace group entirely. After 5 miles, they can look around and try to find the pace group and use the mass as an indicator to make sure they don’t lose focus. If they find the pacer pulling away, it’s important that they’re in tune with their time and internal sense of pace to verify they’re still on target.

If you’re a runner who is motivated by a group, run closer to the group to take advantage of the encouragement offered by the pacer and other group members.  If having other runners cheering disrupts your natural rhythm, simply run on the opposite side of the road. Just remember to keep your eye on your own pace and effort and be sure not too get too carried away.

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