At the half marathon yesterday (more on that later), I had no timing target and so enough time to think. I started noticing all the half marathon pacers.
Pacers are experienced runners and have a timing target. If you join their ‘bus’ and stay with them throughout the course, you can finish your 21.1 (or 42.2) km distance in that timing. It is their responsibility to plan the pace and ensure people meet their timing target.
Sounds perfect, right? And yet I don’t know anyone who joins pacers. Of course, the pacers put up photos on social media of people thanking them. But yesterday, I didn’t see many people joining the pacers.
Like, the 3 hours pacer (he has to ensure everyone finishes their half marathon within 3 hours) was running alone, the 2.45 hrs guy had only 1 person and so on and so forth. Also, they rarely have people joining for the entire duration.
Overheard one of the pacers saying “Everyone runs in the first half life they are gunning for sub 2 and then in the 2nd half, join my 2.45 hrs bus”.
Here is my problem with pacers:
- They are all experienced runners whose pace is much faster than a 3 hrs or 2.45 or even 2.30. It has been a long, long time since they finished a half marathon at that pace. How would they understand the struggle of someone who is a newbie and so, slow?
- The 3 hrs pacer finished 10 km in 1 hr 16 mins. Which means that he would finish 21.1 km in 2 hrs 45 mins. A speed of 7.6 mins/km in 10 km is awfully fast and newbies (because only newbies would target 3 hrs as half marathon finish time) will not be able to keep up. I wasn’t surprised to see him running alone. In fact, at 10 km mark he stopped and started looking for his companions.
- None of the pacers train for this responsibility. They may or may not share their plan on facebook but they don’t even contact runners they know and practice 1-2 weeks in advance to understand the correct strategy. They think it is about finishing their own run instead of focusing on others.
Why can’t these events have pacers who naturally finish running in that timing. So, a pacer for 3 hrs should be a newbie and for 2.45, someone who runs at that pace. Why get sub 2 guys to run against their natural pace?
In other news, I am getting disillusioned by all these running events because of shitty arrangements. Even a fitness brand like Adidas cannot get it right. It is as if the people organizing these events have no runners among them and have no idea what is required. Smaller NGOs like running and living or Run with me have much, much better events. Sure, they are on a small scale but does it matter to a runner whether the event is big or small?