For the rookie runners reading this, a Pacesetter (commonly referred to as the rabbit) is someone who leads a middle or long distance running event for the first section of the race to ensure a fast time. Pacemakers are also used on world record attempts in order to make sure that the runner knows where their invisible ‘opponent’ predecessor is at that stage of the race. It’s like the target they have to chase.
Pace setting gained popularity after Chris Brasher and Chris Chataway successfully paced Roger Bannister to break the four-minute mile for the first time in 1954 in Oxford. Since then various athletes have helped each other in their quest to improve finishing times. Pacemakers serve the role of conveying tangible information about pacing on the track during a race, in race conditions, which can be invaluable to someone looking to shave off seconds off their personal best.
• The main benefit is motivation. It’s not like runners are worried about making the right time in long distance runs. Most of the time having someone in front of them motivates one to run faster to keep up with the pacer.
• A pacesetter helps ensure runners meet their game plan for the race exactly. The pacesetter is told to run at a very specific pace, and is the marker for those following him.
• There is a physical benefit in running closely behind someone, especially on days when it’s windy. And it’s extra motivation in the final stretch of the race
• Typically, pacers are not allowed to carry anything for the runners they are setting a pace for. So essentially in most cases, it’s purely psychological. If you don’t already have a pacer, then you can always look-out for some markings on other runners in the race, that indicate the time they are aiming for. Find a time that suits you and follow your pacer.
• Pacers also offer a degree of safety in ultramarathon races, as runners get exhausted and have to run through the night, there are chances that they might get lost or pass out from sheer exhaustion. Having a fresh runner with a clear head nearby can prove beneficial in terms of physical and mental fortitude.
So the next time you are looking to shave off seconds or minutes in a race, join a running club and look for a pacemaker that can guide you to a faster finish!