October 14, 2014

Training Tuesday: Are pacers / support runners legit?

She trained for weeks.  She ran a 21 miler as her longest run and then began to taper.  But this wasn’t her race.  She wasn’t training for a marathon or an ultra.  She was training to run the last 20 miles of a 100 mile ultra race with a friend.  She ran in the middle of the night on trails through serious hills - a race that meant nothing to her but everything for her friend.   This is the story of a friend of mine at work, who recently completed the last 20 miles of a 100 mile ultra race in the mountains with her friend. 

In this week's Training Tuesday post, I wanted to chat about the idea of "running someone in" at the end of a race.  It's been a topic of discussion with my mom and I.  At one point , we talked about me running her in for the last 10k on her BQ attempt marathon last spring.  It turned out that she was running a race the same day as me so that was out of the question.  And to be honest, I’m not sure I was ready for that kind of pressure!  I’m so happy that she found a wonderful pacer (and race buddy) with Meghan who ran stride for stride with her to help her reach her goal. 

As I’m looking at a lofty goal for my Richmond Marathon in 5 weeks, I've been considering the idea of having someone run me in the last 6 miles.  Since it’s a smaller race, I think it would be logistically feasible to have someone join me but that’s still up in the air.  And of course, my pacer buddy would not cross the finish line or consume any of the race course snacks/water.  Knowing that those last 6.2 miles will be the toughest, I think the company and moral support would be very welcome.  I'm hopeful that it also might help give me some motivation and an emotional boost to finish strong!  

When I was out running the other night, it occurred to me that this might be a gray area.  Would my time still mean the same if I pulled myself across the finish line, solo?  What did this mean for my experience at the Shamrock half marathon in March when I ran with a pacer for the first 10 miles?  It really made me think.  I mean Shalane has them for her major races, so they must be legit right? And a pacer doesn't physically aid you, they just simply run a pace for you to maintain with them.  There are tons of benefits of having a pacer, as we've previously discussed. As far as I'm concerned it's totally legit.

What are your thoughts on pacers and support runners?


  1. This is interesting because a friend recently made a comment to me about "a PR with a pacer isn't the same as a PR on your own". I was kind of surprised because I never thought of it that way. I mean races actually PROVIDE pacers so it's not like you're doing anything wrong! It's not like your time ends up with a little asterix next to it that says "time ran with pacer". And like you said, even the elites use pacers!

    I could never run the same time in a training run that I do on race day just because of the atmosphere and the adrenaline, so really, it's like everyone running that race is pacing me! Pacer or not, you still got across that finish line under your own will power and you still had to train and fuel and work to get there all the same!

  2. As long as your pacer ( if they aren't a registered racer) is allowed on the course, what's it matter! People run with their Garmins (and other technology that helps them) all the time. What ever motivates you and gets you across the finish!

  3. Honestly, I think it's fine. The pacer should be registered or legitimately on the course, but even with a pacer, you have trained to the point where you are physically capable of running that time. I "pace" off of people who I know are about my speed, you know just try to keep them in sight, etc, when I'm doing a local race. I was a pacer in the Charleston half marathon and everyone in my group who PRed definitely earned it. We encouraged them and ran with them but we did not "help" them.

    I guess if you're a professional athlete or elite, maybe it's a big deal. But for those of us who are just running for fun and health, a PR is a PR, paced or not!

  4. I would LOVE to have a pacer some day. I am my own worst enemy in races and having someone to encourage me to keep pushing would be huge. I don't think I would love a pace group, though. I need a pretty long warm up and I think it would hurt, not help me. And totally legit! And I love that it proves we are better together than when we're alone:).

  5. If the pacer is a registered runner for the race, I see no problem with it. Preston did this for me on Sunday, and his encouragement and support was very needed. If the pacer isn't a registered runner, I'd say its fine as long as it isn't a violation of any of the race rules. If nobody but registered runners are allowed on the course, then I'd say no, but if they are allowed, then I don't see any issue with it.

  6. Aside from 1 race, I've had each person who started out running with me ditch me because I ran too slowly. It would be nice, but I've crossed every marathon and half marathon finish line on my own, terrible times and all.

  7. I have no issues with pacers whatsoever. Heck many races put them there for you. I ran with a pace grop until mile 19 for my first BQ but no pacers for my 2nd. I feel like they're both totally legit.

  8. Unless your pacer shows up with a wagon or a wheelchair, then it's still YOUR body that is taking you across the finish. I absolutely disagree that running a PR with a pacer isn't the same as on your own. You still have to find it within you to get that PR, no matter who is there with you. If you ran the whole race with a buddy from start to finish, would you even question it?

    This is your race- run it how YOU want. We're all rooting for you! :)

  9. I've never had a pacer per se...but I don't have any issues with them and I don't think it should discredit the level of difficulty it still is to complete that distance. Like you said, they aren't physically carrying you, merely running with you for moral support!