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Pointers for pacers in ultramarathons

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I was running recently with guys from my running group. One of them mentioned he was going to be a pacer for a friend in the Leadville 100 mile race. A pacer is someone who joins an ultrarunner to keep them going and on pace. They usually run with the race participant late in the race to help motivate and bring new energy. Since the pacer isn’t doing the whole race (some racers have multiple pacers), they usually are more buoyant than the racer.

I’ve done a number of ultras (9 now). I’ve never used a pacer, but I have stuck with other runners ┬áso I have company. It got me thinking about what pointers I’d give a pacer.

  1. Persist. Don’t let them quit or give in. It’s much worse to quit than any pain you are experiencing.
  2. Distract. Talk about things that aren’t the run. Rap music. Movies. Cars. Anything.
  3. Lead. Don’t run behind the runner. Lead and pull him or her along with a pace a tad stronger than they’d like. This takes skill.
  4. Remind. Find out the ultra-runner’s rules. Every racer has a set of rules that they race by. Remind the runner of these rules when needed.

Finally, be fun – but don’t blow sunshine! No one likes blind optimism late in the race. Blind optimism is for the starting line!

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