Last year, I got to serve as a pacer for a local metric (26.2k) marathon. It was such a rewarding experience and I enjoyed every minute of it. I’ve also been on the other side of the fence, using a pacer during marathons. From both these experiences, I can tell you that pacing is both art and science. For years now, the Baltimore Marathon has provided one of the best group of pacers around in the form of the GEICO Pacers.
If you’re unfamiliar with what exactly a pacer does, here’s the deal: Pacers lead runners seeking a particular time goal from the start to the finish line. At Baltimore, there are pacers (marathon distance only) for every 10-minute increment from 3:05 to 3:55, and then every 15-min. increment from 4:15 to 5:15. Pacers set out at an even pace and nail that finish time to within 59 seconds below it, something that is crucial for those seeking a Boston Marathon qualifying time. That’s the science part of pacing.
The art part is providing not only exact pacing support, but moral support as well. Anyone who has run a marathon will tell you that there are inevitable low points along the 26.2-mile route. Pacers encourage and help runners focus when the going gets tough. They also know the course like the back of their hands, so they can point out the best times to ramp it up or pull it back in the interest of running an overall even split. At Baltimore, you’re going to get a diverse group of pacers from all walks of life, but all have the experience to help guide runners to their goals.
According to three-time Baltimore Marathon pacer Sara Damiano, pacing groups may be as large as 40 people each, with up to five pacers per group to help along the way. She says that using a pacer is an ideal way to tackle your first marathon. “Running a marathon can be very challenging,” she says. “We can make it a little less so.”
In most cases, once the groups hit the 24-mile mark at the end of the Howard Street bridge, the pacers encourage runners to run ahead in order to not only meet their time goals, but beat them.
If you’re interested in joining a pace group on Oct. 12, look for the GEICO Pacers at the expo. Registration is only available at the expo. At the booth you can not only meet some of the pacers, but sign up for the particular group you’re interested in joining FOR FREE!! Then on race day, find your group by looking for the big signs with finishing times along the start corrals. Once you get into the thick of the marathon, you’ll be so glad you have the encouragement and camaraderie a pace group provides–it really does make for a better experience.
So tell us–have you used pacers before? How did they help you the most?
For more information on the Pacers, go here to the CSE web site. GEICO pacer bios will be posted soon as well.