As I have discussed previously, your race execution is crucial to maximising your fitness on race day and achieving your best possible result.
While it’s pretty simple in theory, it’s not always as easy in practice.
One strategy you can use to potentially improve the quality of your pacing during a race is to follow a pace group. Pace groups are the group of runners who have trained to run a specific time for the race. These groups are usually led by experienced runners and their goal is to run an even pace that will bring you to the finish line slightly under the stated goal time.
While these pace groups can be fantastic, there are a few things you need to keep in mind when considering following a pace group. Like anything in life, there are pros and cons that need to be considered. In this post, I am going to share what I believe to be the pros and cons of following a pace group.
The Good: The Pro’s of Following a Pace Group.
1. Run an even pace.
If the pace group is well trained and know what they are doing, their goal will be to run a consistent pace across the length of the race. By running an even pace and limiting surges, you use your energy more efficiently and set yourself up for a good result.
2. Stay motivated and energised.
Running in a group with people who are running to the pace you want, helps to take some of the mental energy out of executing a race. The pace leaders will also often yell encouragement and try to keep everyone engaged in the process and feeling good.
3. Feel part of a team.
While running is generally an individual pursuit, running in a pace group with runners each trying to achieve a common goal, helps you to feel like you’re part of team. It’s a great feeling when you cross the line together as a group, each one of you achieving your goal.
The Bad: The Con’s of Following a Pace Group.
1. Some groups are better than others.
While a well-oiled and experienced pace team will definitely improve the likelihood of you running a good race, a poorly trained or inexperienced team could have the reverse effect.
Just like playing the guitar, learning to hold a consistent pace is a skill that improves with consistent application and refinement. If your pace group is constantly surging, does not stay together and generally does not execute well, your performance will suffer.
Be very mindful in the first few kilometers how your pace group seem to be working together, and how consistent they are running. If you don’t feel they are a cohesive team and are running to plan, part ways and focus on your own execution.
2. Pace group times may not suit your current ability level.
While it is often tempting to pick a time and aim to hit it, it is not always a good idea. If you start the race at a pace above what you are currently conditioned to handle, you will suffer later in the race and your performance will be below what you are capable of.
If you plan to follow a pace group, make sure that you definitely have the fitness to maintain the pace for the duration of the race. If the pace group time is 4:00 hours and you’re in 4:07 shape, don’t follow the pace group as you’ll likely pay for it in a big way as the race goes by.
This takes a lot of self-control and often means letting go of your ego, but it is in your best interest if you want to run to your potential.
3. Pace groups can get crowded.
Depending on your goal pace time, pace groups can often get very big. When groups are big, you need to be careful not to trip.
4. Pace group can overwhelm your focus.
While a pace group can help to take some of the mental energy out of running, the busy nature of a group can often take your focus away from what you are supposed to be doing. Besides a consistent pace, fuelling yourself, maintaining good form and the like are important components of race execution which need your attention. If following a pace group, do not follow blindly and lose focus on what you are doing.
Pace groups can be an amazing tool in your race execution arsenal, if they know what they’re doing and you have a sufficient level of fitness to run the pace the pace group is aiming to hit.
Use them carefully and don’t be afraid to part ways if they’re not delivering what you need.