Running with a Pace Group

Contributed by Lisa Gonzales, a 2018 Ambassador for The Biofreeze Berkeley Half Marathon.

Are you a first time half marathoner? Do you have a tendency to go out too quickly in a race and end up running out of gas before the finish line? Do you have a goal to run a faster race? If you answered yes to any of these questions or if you just like running with other people and, perhaps, talking on the way, running with a pace group is something to really consider!

As a five time pacer of The Biofreeze Berkeley Half Marathon, I’ve paced many runners who have all sorts of stories. And because I pace the 2:40 finish time (that’s about a 12:10/mile), I have had lots of time to talk to runners about their running stories, their race goals, injuries along the way, and their reasons for running with my pace group.

So why run with a pace group?

Here are the up sides…..

We’ll save you from going out too fast.

Pacers are selected because they are well-trained and have experience in consistency, and we don’t go out too fast. We run steady, albeit it “slow and steady” for some of us.

If you have a goal, we’ll be there for you!

Pacers are not just trained to run consistently, but we are all pacing a time that is slower than what we normally run. That’s so we can talk and make sure you’re doing okay, and we’ll encourage you. When we pace in Berkeley, our goal will be 15 seconds plus or minus our pace time; thus, if you are looking to run a 2:00 half, the 2 hour pacer should be pacing a finish of 1:59:45 to 2:00:15. And, we’re pretty darn good at it!

If you need encouragement, we’ll generally talk you through it.

I find that in my groups, I try to see who is aiming for a certain outcome and I talk to those running with me. Don’t worry – I don’t overdo it. I don’t want to be one of “those” people who drives you crazy, but I do want to remind you that you can achieve that goal!

Sometime you need someone to save you from yourself.

If you have a tendency to push it or get injured, we can help. When those I coach with RUN365 are returning from injuries, I always suggest they run with a pace group that is 10-15 minutes slower than what they are used to. The goal is to finish…and recover well. While we are all competitive and time counts, having a successful race under your belt (and medal around your neck) is what counts. Beat your PR in another race and take this one easy.

The downsides of running with a pace group?

Crowding at aid stations. If there is a large group of us, we may overwhelm an aid station, although it’s not that common. Think through avoiding a crowd. I tend to remind runners to go to the end of the water or electrolyte stops. There will be fewer runners stopping there better ease to sweep in, grab that cup, and not hit a traffic jam.

We don’t make bathroom stops.  A pacer can’t stop to wait for runners who need to hit the porta potty. Or the first aid station. My advice? If someone in my group is running with us and has to make a pit stop, I suggest they run ahead which makes it easier to catch up.

We’re human. Even when we think we are superhuman, we are still human. That means that sometimes we have a bad day. We get the trots. We get injured. We just may not have it, the same way that you may not. With that said, we tend to run in teams of two at some distances, so rest assured there may be another pacer there to help. If not, step in with other runners and support each other if, as a pacer, our wheels fall off the bus (and let me apologize in advance because it may happen).

I pace because I just love helping runners reach their goals. And most of the races I pace are very family-oriented for me, because my 13-year old twin daughters (who were ambassadors for The Biofreeze San Francisco Marathon).  Nothing makes me feel better than a runner who asks to pose with me at the finish because he or she just set a new PR. High five! My job is done. I’m always a better and more satisfied pacer and runner when I can make a difference in your life. Oh, by the way, don’t forget to say thanks!

Dr. Lisa Gonzales is a five-time pacer for The Biofreeze Berkeley Half Marathon and a seven-time pacer for The Biofreeze San Francisco Marathon. She is head coach for RUN365 with the South Bay team and is USATF certified. Her day job is Assistant Superintendent in the Dublin Unified School District.

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