The do’s and don’ts of pacer running

By Rikki Suarez | Photo by Chiến Phạm/Unsplash

I am by no means a pro at pacing, but I’ve learned quite a few do’s and don’ts after my pacing stints. Here are a few tips applicable for pacing at friendlier speeds:

1. Pacers have the responsibility of running, as much as possible, at a steady pace required to hit the target time. It is their responsibility to train in order to sustain this pace throughout the race.

2. Being comfortable running at the assigned pace will give pacers enough energy to spare for motivating runners in their pace group, being aware of the condition of those following them especially in case of an emergency, anticipating the route’s challenging features, and keeping track of the distance covered.

3. They may adjust and re-adjust the pace at certain points in the race depending on their evaluation of the route topography, real estate barriers, congestion of runners, presence of vehicular traffic, weather conditions, and support availability. Any changes in pace should be done gradually and in manageable increments.

4. Positive or negative splitting is not encouraged. Those running at your pace may not be accustomed to this strategy.

5. GPS watches are a great help in giving real time speed, average speed, and distance. These are necessary tools for pacing as some runners “demand” these information, mostly to keep their minds at ease.

6. Bring extra supply of energy gels, chocolate bars, and salt sticks. They will prove PR-saving or even lifesaving, for those who unfortunately lose their nutritional support or have not prepared enough required for the distance.

Listen to their breathing or take note of their running form for signs of fatigue (at least those beside and in front of you). Ask them if they are okay, not feeling faint, numb, or on the verge cramping. Encourage them to mind their form and to take deep breaths and full exhalations to re-establish aerobic balance.  If not, encourage them to take walk, or even stretching, breaks

7. Earphones are highly discouraged. Music is a good cadence regulator, but it will drown the rest of the world. You need to communicate with those around you, cheer them up, give them tips as well as respond to words of encouragement from others and react to calls of distress from runners.

8. Be aware of the route or traffic obstructions and dangerous road conditions ahead of you in order to react accordingly and warn the runners behind you.

9. Talk to those running beside you (, if they want to). Learn how running became a part of their lives. Know their build-up for this distance and pace. This way, you can establish a connection with them and earn their trust. You will likewise know if the PR they are aiming for is realistic or not. An animated conversation will likewise distract them from pain.

10. Listen to their breathing or take note of their running form for signs of fatigue (at least those beside and in front of you). Ask them if they are okay, not feeling faint, numb, or on the verge cramping. Encourage them to mind their form and to take deep breaths and full exhalations to re-establish aerobic balance.  If not, encourage them to take walk, or even stretching, breaks.

11. Use the length of the hydration station to take an invigorating walk break. This will likewise encourage runners to hydrate and supplement properly. Walk breaks, in the last few kilometers of the run, if unavoidable, should be done in strictly timed intervals so as not to compromise finishing within the time goal.

12. Let the runners enjoy their limelight after crossing the finish line, especially those who have set a new PR. Let them savor the moment without your kiddie-party pacer balloon blocking their winning poses for the photographers.  This is your success as a pacer as much as theirs, but delay your celebration until the last runner in your pace group finishes the race.