Mumbai Marathon 2019: Setting the race with marathon pacers!

Updated: Jan 19, 2019, 19:46 IST | Sunny Rodricks

Its time you choose your pacer wisely as they will set the pace of your run and help you ace the Mumbai Marathon 2019

Mumbai Marathon 2019: Setting the race with marathon pacers!
Runners align before the race line to conquer the Mumbai Marathon. Pic credit/Facebook Tata Mumbai Marathon

Across the globe and in India, marathons have a set of seasoned runners who pace the race and lead different bus to glory. In other words, "A pacer is one who knows the way, shows the way and goes the way, the one who could run faster and get away with the distance quicker than the given time but instead chooses to assist the other runners in achieving their target." says Anik Raheja who overcame his childhood medical condition of Hypothyroidism and eventually went on to start Jalandhar Running Club back in Punjab.

Pacers help runners o improve their time and achieve their target. [Personal Best timing] in marathons and major races. The 16th edition of the IAAF Gold Label Tata Mumbai Marathon will witness participation of over 45,000 athletes. Of which 8414 runners will be taking part in the full marathon, which is a 22 percent increase compared to the last edition. 

Mumbai Marathon 2019: Want to ace it as a runner? Follow this guideThis year the Mumbai Marathon will witness 39 pacers running the marathon and helping runners across different race categories to finish their race with a stipulated time limit and achieve their best timing. It is interesting to note that this year all the pacers under the Full Marathon race category are comrades runners [Comrades Marathon which is considered as 'The Ultimate Human Race' in the world]. There will be 21 pacers leading their bus at the full marathon while 14 pacers will lead the half marathon bus and four pacers for 10K marathon respectively.

Not many are aware of who a pacer is and their roles and responsibilities during the marathon. More so, runners need to understand why they need to choose a pacer to complete the run and whether there are any advantages of sticking to a pacer during the run. To solve all the queries and in order to help understand what pacers are and how important a role they play in a marathon, we spoke to a few pacers who will be leading different bus at this year's Mumbai Marathon. Here's what they have to say.

Neelam Pacer
Neelam Talwar

PACER: Roles and responsibilities:
48-year-old Neelam Talwar who has been flying as an air hostess since 1993 says, "Pacers are volunteers who are given a task to complete the course in a given time. The pacers run the entire distance of the marathon with a group of runners called 'BUS' that they are setting the pace for. The pacers enjoy running and encourage co-runners to finish a race in a specific time."

Neelam who will be pacing the 2 hours 45 minutes bus in the half marathon category goes on to add, "Pacers maintain a predetermined pace, create their own unique strategy, are steady, consistent runners who are focused on maintaining speed and helping co-runners realise and achieve their goals. Their job is to help new, inexperienced runners complete their race and achieve personal best timings (PBs).

Anik Raheja
Anik Raheja

Planning and Strategy:
Running a long distance race can be monotonous and boring at times and runners may court the excuse of weather, crowd, fatigue and eventually end up quitting the race halfway. In order to avoid that many pacers plan their pacing strategy keeping in mind the route of the marathon. Pacers not only pace but even plan, strategise, analyse and jot a concrete plan that would benefit the runners who will be following their bus.

Anik Raheja, who will be pacing the 2 hours 30 minutes bus in the half marathon category states, "The planning and strategy are made as per the route map - vital points being the hydration stations, toilets, incline, decline etc. As a pacer, I usually prefer to keep the start slow so as to pick the momentum up gently and as soon as the body gets inflow, it's not difficult to run at a consistent pace which I keep close to the overall average pace required for the given time slot. There are apt breaks for hydration - not less enough to do things in a jiffy, and not more enough as well to lose the momentum and unnecessary seconds. I set the checkpoints (every 3-5 km) as per my pacing plan and keep matching the planned and actual numbers so as to make sure that we're running well on time."

Mukesh Waje
Mukesh Waje

Picking up the pacer:
It becomes extremely crucial that runners pick their pacers but the question is a big How? Mukesh Waje who will be pacing the 4 hours 50 minutes bus in the full marathon category says, "Runner's should choose their pacer's depending on their timing goal for the race and not get carried away by any other factors. The most important thing runners have to remember is pacer is a facilitator, he will help you not run for you, you will have to run at the end of it."

Things to keep in mind while picking up a pacer:

  • There is more than one pacer for all target time. Talk to all and choose wisely.
  • Always ask pacers for their strategy.
  • Do a background check of the pacer's running history and past pacing records.
  • Check for pacer's personal records. Their personal best timings, their pacing experience etc.
  • Read analysis of pacers from different runners forums available online.
  • Make sure that the pacer is a good motivator and dedicated to the fellow runners.
  • Have a crystal clear idea regarding whom you want to follow on the race day and start working with your pacer towards the goal!

Communication is the key:
For pacer, it's important to be energetic, enthusiastic and inspiring to their fellow runners besides being able to pace the bus. Communication plays a key role while running a long distance together and its crucial that pacers go beyond the call of duty. Mukesh quickly adds, "A pacer is a facilitator who helps co-runners achieve their timing goal for the race. In the span of a couple of weeks, pacer’s roles and responsibilities vary from being a mentor to a friend, to an advisor, to a running buddy." 

While a pacer plays different roles as a mentor, friend, advisor and so on; there are some pacers who love to constantly engage with their runners and keep them involved. Anik says, "I love to share the inputs and stories that I find very inspiring and touching myself to add more power and keep everyone (Runners) positively engaged throughout the run."

Finishers Medal

Golden rules of pacing a marathon:

  • A pacer cannot afford to be late by more than 30 seconds. 
  • A pacer cannot be too fast or afford to be too slow.
  • Be honest with the co-runners, tell them your strategy that you intend to follow and stick to it. 
  • Be consistent, motivate the runners, encourage them and constantly guide them as they are looking up to you. 
  • Always remember you are not running for your personal best.
  • You are running and pacing to help other runners on your bus achieve their PBs
  • Never cross the finish line alone.

Advantages and disadvantages of sticking to a pacer for the marathon:
Not everyone runner would understand the importance of a pacer while running a long distance race. This is where Mukesh comes to our aid. He says, "The advantages to run with a pacer are many. The most important of all is he will be your pace-keeper. He will set a pace depending on the distance and timing goal. The pacer has already accomplished the goal which the runner is trying to achieve, so he is coming from the experience and knows how it works not only the pace, refueling, hydration, breaks but softer aspects such as excitement, anxiety and mind game (read as hitting the wall). Runners who run in groups or running partner will vouch for group energy and how it works when you are just about to give up. Being with a pacer you are most likely running with few more like-minded people sharing your goal and that will pull you up when everything else is asking you to give up."

But then there are few runners who might feel that their pace and run is much better than the pacer and joining his/her bus would hamper them in achieving their goal. So, could there be any disadvantage of joining a pacer? To this Mukesh quickly replies, "Sticking with the pacer can be a disadvantage only if you are on a wrong bus. You will either burn out if faster than you have trained or you miss your time goal if you are on slower pace bus. So choose your bus (pacer) mindfully and realistically."

Marathon Timings

About the Marathon:
The richest marathon in India with a prize pool worth USD $405,000, this event has six different race categories - Full Marathon (42.195 kms), Half Marathon (21.097 kms), Senior Citizens Race (4.7 km), Dream Run (6.6 km), Champions with Disability category (2.1 km) and a newly added edition Open 10K run. 

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