If you have participated in a half marathon or marathon before, you may have seen or heard of pace groups. If you are curious about pace groups and how they work, here’s what you need to know:
How Pace Groups Work
Pace groups are often offered as a benefit to runners who compete in half marathons or marathons. If you are interested in using a pace group, first check the information packet you receive or the race website, to make sure that the race offers pacing groups.
Often times, you will be instructed to check in at the race expo (at the pacer table) to sign up for your pacing groups. Other times you will simply show up race morning and meet up with the pacer before the start of the race. The pacer will run carrying a sign or a balloon, so that they can be seen by all members of the pace group.
Typical Pace Groups
For the half marathon, typical pace groups might be 1:30. 1:45, 2:00, 2:15, and 2:30. At larger races, you may find pace groups broken down even further– in 5 or 10 minute increments between 1:30 and 2:30. For the marathon, typical pace groups cover anticipated race finish times of 3:00 all of the way up to 5:30 hours.
Once again, the larger the race, the larger the number of pace groups. For example, the Chicago Marathon has 22 different pace groups from 3:00 finish time up to 5:45. There are about 100 pacers!
Benefits of Pace Group
There are obviously benefits to using a pace group. If you have a solid pacer, it can help you from going out too fast during your half or full marathon. This can be particularly helpful if it’s your first half or full marathon. Another benefit to using a pace group is that you will be running with a team of runners hoping to meet the same time goal. Having a group to support you can be tremendously helpful towards the end of a race!
Running with a pacer can also take the pressure off and prevent you from obsessing over the splits on your Garmin! By going with the group, you know you will come within about 2 minutes of your goal time.
Disadvantages of Using a Pace Group
Why might you not want to use a pace group? Some pacers are better than others. If you have a less experienced pacer, he/she may not run as accurate splits as a more experienced pace setter. Additionally, you have no guarantee that your pacer will be running even splits. He/she may start too fast and finish slower or vice a versa.
Following a pace group can also be challenging if the race is really crowded. Your pacer may have a hard time running consistent paces, and it may be hard to keep your pacer in sight if the group is really large.
In the end, you have to make the best choice for yourself. Consider the pros and cons, and your own individual situation. If you are shooting for a PR and want some extra motivation, go for it! However, if your goal is just to finish the distance, it may not be the best choice for you.
Have you used a pace group for a half or full marathon?