What Is a Marathon Pacer? Running Guide

What Is a Marathon Pacer?

A Marathon pacers is an experienced marathoner or elite runner. Who volunteers to guide a group of runners to meet a particular goal pace.
When training for a marathon, most runners have a time goal. Some new runners goal is to finish. On race day some half marathon and marathons will have pace groups. When you get there race morning a pace leader will be holding a sign. Have you considered how a marathon pacer and pace group can add value to your race? If not, you should think about it sooner.

Related: How to choose an online running coach 

Keeping you on Pace and Motivated!

As a pacer, it’s important to help your runners achieve a good time, but also be supportive and encouraging. It’s great when you have an experienced runner running alongside you during a race. They can provide you with useful advice and encouragement to help ensure you achieve your running goal. In a marathon or half marathon, there may be a point when you think you can’t run any more. But a pacer or group can help you keep motivated. Not every large marathon offers pace groups, but many do. The Boston Marathon is one large marathon that does not. The London Marathon is one large marathon that does.
Half-marathons and marathons often provide pacing teams for a variety of finish times. They are led by a pace team leader who are trained to help you maintain your pace.

How does a Marathon Pacer Run?

Pacers run slower than their personal best marathon time. So that runners part of their pace team can finish in the allotted time. Marathon pacers will try to maintain a steady pace to finish on the exact time of for their pace group.

Marathon Pacer

Choosing a Pacer

If you are running a marathon to try and break a time goal and want to run at a steady pace. Then you will want to choose a pace team based on your running goal. You need to calculate a realistic running goal. There will be a pace group leader assigned for finish times in 15 minute increments. Choose the pacing team closest to your finish goal. If you are choosing a pacer so you do not run to fast out of the start. Or are not training with a steady pace then you will need to calculate using your starting pace. Have a time goal for when to break off from the group. You can use this calculator to calculate your time here.

Ultramarathon Pacers

Are you looking a running a ultramarathon? You can ask an ultramarathon friend or experience pacer to be your pacer to help you stay motivated. In this case, the pacer with run with you not keeping their specific pace. The Pacer is usually part of your running crew helping make sure you are on top of your nutrition and hydration. Usually the pacer will start running at the 50 mile mark. For more ultramarathon guides check out runninggearlab.

What Is a Marathon Pacer Pros and Cons

Pros of Running with a Pacer:

  • A marathon pacer is a person who loves running and usually people they want to share the joy of running with others. They will help motivate you to reach your running goal. Being in a pace group can lift your spirits when you feel like you are getting too tired.
  • Many new runners make the mistake of running too fast too early. Pacers do a good job of helping runners hold back and pace themselves throughout all their run

Cons of Running with a Pacer

  • To ensure you have a positive experience with the pace group, ask about their strategy before you join them. Some pacers may have a different running strategy than how you trained. Thus might be incompatible as you will have to run the same pace they are the entire race if you want to get the benefits.
  • Even an experienced pacer, is human and doesn’t always keep a steady pace. Because they are running slower than their PB they may start out too fast. The pace is easier for them. But even being off pace by a little can ruin someone PB if they end up hitting a wall by starting off too quickly.
  • If you run with a pace group, you may not be able to get through the water stations as easily. It can be more crowded with all the runners from that pace group. You might also need to speed up and catch the group if you are wanting to have a waking breaks at the water stations.
Marathon Finish

What Is a Marathon Pacer? Frequently asked questions

Do Pacers run the whole marathon?

Yes, usually a pacer runs the whole marathon. You don’t have to run with the pacer for the whole marathon. You can start with the pacer and choose to leave whenever you feel is necessary.

Can the Pacers win a marathon?

Pacemakers can qualify to be the winner. According to the Chicago tribune “In 2011, Ben Kimondiu, a pacer, won the Chicago Marathon”. Some marathons the pacer is not registered in the marathon and is only a volunteer.

Do Marathon Pacers stop for water?

Every runner will grab water during a marathon, but they may not stop and just grab the water and keep running. If you’re going run with a pacer during the race, you need to get there early and talk to them about how they plan on staying hydrated.

What do pacers wear at a marathon or half marathon race?

Pacers are usually have a sign or balloon and are wearing a specific shirt. The finish time will be marked on their body somewhere visible.

I’m a runner, a dad, a writer, just trying to help runners make better decisions. My running career started back in 2013 getting into olympic triathlons, increasing to full distance Ironmans in 2017. Through the process of run training as a hobby and trying to train the least possible to avoid injury and still compete at the Ironman distance, I’ve put years of research and testing into simple running routines and techniques. As a writer, working with coaches and experts we take their experience and provide articles to help runners at every level.

      Running Gear Lab