If you did all the hard training, there still can be a lot of things that can stand in your way in reaching your race goals, like inaccurate GPS (due to tall buildings) preventing you to keep the steady pace or a simple lack of motivation at the hardest moments.
To make sure you did your best in keeping your anticipated race pace is to run with pacers (sometimes called pacemakers) – a bunch of guys and girls who will make sure you will arrive at the finish line in a certain time, given you will be able to keep up with them.
Most of the city marathons have pacers with target times usually ranging from 2:59 to 5:59, just google <your marathon name> pacers and you will most probably find a page you were looking for.
Before the race starts, pacers usually can be found somewhere in the front of your wave (of course, you still need to get to the corral early to secure your spot). They are carrying balloons or signs, so it is easy to identify them.
Few things to know when running with pacers:
- Listen to them before the race, as they usually do a brief overview of their tactics (e.g. ‘we’ll start a bit faster to cut through the crowd and then we’ll settle to the race pace’)
- If there are several pacers (usually there are no less than two, for backup), chances are that one of them will slow down a little bit at the drinking stations and then will help you to catch up. However, that is not a rule and you should ask them if they plan that before the race starts.
- Since pacers are way too fit for the pace they are setting (e.g. sub-3 marathoners will never pace something faster than 3:30), they usually run like machines. Whether it’s uphill or downhill, they keep the same pace, so make sure you won’t drop on the inclines.
- They are human too, so they may make mistakes (that probably can happen in some smaller races). Usually, they run by watches and km markers (i.e. do not use GPS, or use it as a backup), but I have seen a pacer who was relying on GPS and when he realized that he’s way off the pace, he surged to some insane pace by dropping off nearly all the pack he was pacing 🙂 Also, I have seen pacers dropping out due to unusual race conditions (e.g. extreme heat), but that is a very rare case.
- Have a *very clear* plan B what will happen if you will be dropped. Will you try to chase them at all costs (highly not recommended if it happens in the first 30K and highly recommended if it’s last few Ks)? Will you try to continue at your own pace, or will you ‘wait’ for the next pacer wave and try to keep at least with them? You have to be sure what will you do because it is not the time to make plans when you are in the middle of the race.