Some thoughts from this fall

So, like every marathon season, there were some huge successes and some huge failures. Some people were the victims of weather or injury, while others seemed to have everything go there way. course, there were some of you who had good, but not great performances. As much as I hate to admit it, there are times when you are my guinea pigs. I learn what works and what doesn’t. Not by design, but through the results and feedback I get from you.

There were two things that stuck out with me this fall. They were 1) Pace groups and 2) the home run swingers.

Pace Groups:

I feel like I have always encouraged runners to sign up for pace groups becuase it was their job to run the pace they were assigned to. However, how they can get you there is a whole different matter. In fact, I was talking to Kevin Hanson about this a few weeks ago. To parapharase:

Pace groups pretty much stink. Think about it. They get people who run a way faster marathon and get them to run something way slower. Think about it; the guy pacing your 4 hour group is proabably a 3 hour marathoner. He has no idea what 4 hour pace should feel like! He is going to be way fast at the start and then slam on the brakes 10 miles in. AND what’s worse is that he doesn’t think that 15 or 20 seconds a mile too fast is that big of a deal. It’s a HUGE deal.

After all the emails I received, I started thinking about it. It seemed like the majority of the people who signed up for pace groups had pretty rough experiences- mainly like Kevin described above. Maybe pace groups aren’t the way to go. Or if races were smart, you would have someone attempting to run that time be the pace group leader. Don’t make them carry that stupid sign either. Just give them a nice loud jersey or shirt to wear with the pace group printed on the back, or a special bib. Anyway, off topic.

So I am frustrated with pace groups. The more I think about it, the more it makes sense. We live in the age of GPS and people are addicted to whatever that thing says more than I am addicted to coffee. Plus, the majority of you folks are doing this by yourself. So why should we train by ourselves for 12-18 weeks and then just jump into a group of 40 people and expect to be comfortable.  I mean even you who are at the group runs here in Royal Oak- you are self absorbed with your Garmin and iPod. It’s ok, I’m not judging- just observing. With that said a couple things come into my mind

1) You have to be aware of what YOU and the PACER  are doing. Most of you noticed that something was not right. You felt like you were way too fast, but decided to stick with the group. I think one of the traits you learn from training- especially the long tempo runs- is what the feel of your maraton pace is. With that, hopefully you develop a confidence to do it on your own. So, like everything, proceed with caution. If you know the group is too fast, trust yourself. If the pacer is too fast, you know at some point they are going to have to slow down. When that happens, you’ll be right back with them (and probably going by htemm at that point).

2) You need to recognize and fix mistakes right away. Some of you said that the pacer went for miles before realizing what they did and then they just slammed on the brakes. Fix the mistakes that the pacer is making by doing what you need to do. If that means falling off the back, so be it. Most races are big enough that you won’t be by yourself. When they come back to you, you will feel better than them and your confidence will by higher. That pace group will be what you need them to be, when you need them to be.

I know it seems like I am coming down on you, but in the end it is you that has the power to run your race. I won’t be there beside you. That pacer could probably care less how he/she gets there. But, you, you can make the adjustments to save your race. some of the blame comes back to me, since I always had encouraged pace groups. I think from now on we’ll have to take a closer look at our race plans to see if that it should include a pace group.

Next time we will talk about the home run swingers…

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