Saturday, June 11, 2011

My First Sweet Pacer Experience

When I was barely new in running races, I overheard two runners chatting about getting a "pacer". The other one said he wants a decent time on his first marathon and to achieve that, he will get someone to pace him. I got curious then...

I started asking runner friends what's a pacer all about, but before that, being an inquirer that I am, I researched for it myself first.

According to Wikipedia, "A pacemaker or pace-setter (sometimes colloquially called a rabbit) is a runner who leads a middle- or long distance running event for the first section to ensure a fast time and avoid excessive tactical racing. Pacemakers are frequently employed by race organisers for world record attempts with specific instructions for lap times. Some athletes have become essentially professional pacemakers. A competitor who chooses the tactic of leading in order to win is called a front-runner rather than a pacemaker."

Even seasoned athletes like Haile Gebrselassie hires pacers for his races
What I have noticed from articles and available sources over the internet, these so called "pacers" usually do it in groups, more of they want to make it look like they are competing with the runner they are pacing. They also use pacers to avoid the tactic of deception from other competitors that starts slow, making the impression that they are far behind and then push it to the maximum once they are near the finish line. They are also used to condition the runner so he will push more to keep up with the pace they are setting. For some, it has become a profession.

But for ordinary runners like me, getting a pacer is not more of a plan to win the race.

I was very excited when I got the chance to become a pacer for a first timer in a 10K race. She is not an elite runner but she wants a pacer because she wants to be sure she can finish the race. She have never experienced running the distance and she feels comfortable if I will be doing the job for her. Well, I am much honored.

We decided to stage her first 10K at AKTV Run last June 5, 2011 at MOA Grounds.

How did I prepare her for the race? Here are some of the things I did:

1. Ask for the PR on that distance and when did it happen - This will give you an idea on how fast the runner can be if you ask his/her PR (Personal Record) on that race. The time frame will give you the accuracy if he/she can attain or break the PR that he/she sets. Since she's new in the 10K race, I asked her PR on the 5K race. She said she clocked 40 minutes last month. With her continuous training and still a month to prepare, I presumed we can hit a new PR of 1:20 for the race.

2. Study the staging race very well - One tactic that is so important is to determine which race it will be. It's important to know where it will be held, who is the organizer, what other distances are available, the assembly and gun start times, and most especially, the map. As a pacer, I feel it is a part of my responsibility to orient her about it since I am much experienced in regards to this matters. Share what you know about the place or research about it so you will have an idea if there are routes in which it will be hilly. Also, consider the season and the weather conditions on that day.

3. Run/train together - We tried to run and train together so that I could understand how she runs: how fast she can go, how long she can keep her speed and when does she usually stop and how she copes up to running back again. This part is crucial so that I can have an idea if the target time I am setting is attainable.

4. Make an attainable and personalized fight plan -  Based from the data I have gathered, I planned a method that will best suite the runner so to be sure we can hit the target time easily. As for her, she is used to the run-walk-run routine so I planned a Galloway method for her.

5. Keep a record of his/her trainings and condition - This is important especially on the week before the race. Every plan can change in a jiffy. You must be sensitive enough for the needs of the runner. If you feel that a certain situation will prevent him/her to reach the target time that you set like getting sick, lack of training, sleep or a sudden depression, say it early on. By giving him/her a heads up, he won't be expecting too much and you will avert any possible serious injuries he/she may get because of pushing with the plan. Offer a new target time and a new strategy. It really depends on your approach on how things will turn out.

6. Finalize everything and give the best conditioning tips days before the race - Where and what time you will meet on race day should be set at least two days before the big day. Share your best advices on conditioning before the race like hydration, nutrition and rest. Try to not discuss the race details a day before since it might create further anxiety to the runner, especially if its gonna be his/her first time. Always open the line of communication like mobile phones for easy emergency access or last minute reminders. Check the things that you need to bring like energy gels, sports drink, power bars and most especially, the race paraphernalia. Be sure to set the alarm to wake up early for tomorrow.

7. Stick with the plan, be supportive and run happy! - A plan will not prosper if it is not executed properly. Do your very best to stick with the original plan. Try to be very encouraging especially at the times when the runner feels he/she is already maxed out. Be sensitive enough to observe him/her. Always ask the runner how he/she feels about the pace or if he/she feels some pain and adjust accordingly. One great way I discovered to take away the feeling of giving up is to talk about the things he/she is interested about. Open a topic that will catch his/her attention. This way, you will distract him/her from the run and it will be like a chatting moment, and I call it "Chika Run". Another thing I did is I run past her and I danced from there, showing her that this run is easy, and she needs to keep up with the distance I made. Before you know it, there's the finish line!

8. Don't forget to praise him/her for a job well done - A good job deserves a high five and a great compliment. May you hit the target or not, the important thing here is that you finished the race together. Remember, there are tons of races waiting there for you. You can always come back for a sweet revenge!

Ate Amor running side by side with me. We were sprinting the last meters to beat the clock, and I'm so happy we did! (photo courtesy of Run Philippines) 

Our official time! ^_^

My pacer experience was indeed a great one. This also is one way of giving back to the running community. We should always support fellow runners to the best of our abilities. Everyone is running their own race and it is nice to know that someone is there to back up. Always remember that it is much rewarding to give than to receive.

Me and Ate Amor after finishing the race, hitting our target PR! ^_^ (photo courtesy of Jackie Gutierrez)

After this pacer job I had, will I go for more? You bet I will. So, who needs a sweet pacer? takers anyone? ^_^

Good Vibes everyone and Sweet Running! ^_^


Arthur said...

That is sweet of you to help your ate set a PR. I need a pacer so expect to hear from me when I am in town.

Daves said...

ako din! pace mo ako :)

The Sweet Life Runner said...

Hi Sir Arthur!

Aw! I prefer to pace newbies only, not veterans in running like you. i am slow, very slow. but thanks for considering. lol! ^_^

Kuya Daves, I don't have a death wish as of this moment... haha! and it's gonna be the other way around for us! Wee! ^_^

Carla @ I Run, You Run said...

I like company during races (it's more fun!), but never used a pacer, as I tend to pace myself pretty well (my marathon splits were surprisingly even). But I do want someone to run with in Makati! Would you take that? I've been here almost a month and have yet to run outside as I hate running alone...

The Sweet Life Runner said...

Hi Carla!

It would be nice and I'll be happy to run with you. I'm pretty sure you'll be happy to meet other runners here I can introduce you to the Filipino running community.

Btw, I read some of your blog posts and I must say, I love the eyebrows! ^_^

Anonymous said...

Pwede bang magpapace kay Ate Amor? :P


The Sweet Life Runner said...

Hi Idol Argo! Tanung mo sa kanya personal baka pumayag pag ikaw. haha! Goodluck bro! ^_^

Anonymous said...

ako ba, pwede mo i-pace? :P - booboo

The Sweet Life Runner said...

Hi Kuya Booboo!

Ofcourse! I will be much honored! Kaso mas mabilis ka sakin eh. Ako nalang kaya i-pace mo? hehehe! ^_^

fitfastandstrong said...

sweet tlga! :)

The Sweet Life Runner said...

Hi FFS! Thanks and Sweet Running! ^_^

Nonoy said...

Hi, I'm a diabetic runner too. :)

I have a blog on my diabetic running journey. you can check out my blog post on

Nice pics. you take care! Run hard, Run safe. :)


The Sweet Life Runner said...

Hi Sir Nonoy!

I just browsed into your blog. Are you type 1 or type 2? If you need insights from me regarding Diabetes I am much willing to share with you my experiences. Thanks and Sweet Running! ^_^