Tuesday, March 30, 2010

The Job of Race Pacer

Lots of races have people designated to maintain a certain pace to help the athletes finish in a projected time. This is such a great service and I am thrilled when a race has pacers that actually benefit medium-speed walkers like me. Deb and I enjoyed meeting the men who were walking the 3:15 pace during the Arizona Distance Classic.

At one point in the race, we came across the 3:00 pacer. A gentleman walking near us said something to her like: If you are the 3 hour pacer, you are going too slow, and explained that he was on pace to finish around 3:10. Her response was something like: I'm going to finish the last few miles faster than you are, so it will even out. He tried to explain to her that the job of a pacer is to "maintain" a pace, not just guarantee a finish time, but she just didn't get it.

A friend from Wisconsin called me after she finished the race (for a variety of reasons, we did not hook up after we all finished) and said she finished around 3 hours. When asked about the pacer she said after a few miles she knew the pacer was way off, so she walked ahead without her. When I told her that we saw her, and we finished closer to 3:10 she laughed.

OK, for the record: If you are ever asked to be a pacer for a long-distance race, your job is to maintain a steady pace to help the athletes finish in the projected time. If you agreed to 3 hours, that is approximately a 13:43 mile -- every single mile. It does not help anyone if you finish one mile in 13 minutes and the next in 15 minutes. The goal is about 13:43 min per mile.

I have to say the 3:15 guys were great! One of them had a Garmin and he took his job VERY seriously. And they were very friendly, too. After Deb and I passed them, our goal was to stay ahead of them the best we could -- and we did great!

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

No offense, but at a nearly 14-minute per mile pace, it would be quite easy to make up a handful of minutes in the final miles to make it to the goal. This is a very, very slow jogging pace, so unless the pacers were specifically for race walkers (not runners), the pacer was probably right on.

I've worked as a pacer many times (2-hour half marathon) and it is not uncommon at all for pacers to start out a bit more slowly and pick it up at the end. That is a very common race technique. It allows runners to warm up and ease into pace, then finish with all they've got.

I imagine the pacer did in fact "get it."