Why you should use a pacer for your next race

You’ve finished your first marathon without time pressure, participated to your first 10K or half-marathon and you are asking the question “what’s next”.
The next challenge could be increasing the distance.
Or improving your personal best,
Your speed.
Your pace.
One thing that works for me almost each time I want to run a personal best is to run with someone, having a pacer or being one myself. I like to say that I am a solo runner, but I know I am better running in duo or within a community. It pushes me to the edge.
So maybe you heard about it or thought about having a pacer for the next race…
I kind of paced two friends during the Berlin Marathon 2015 – I say kind of because it was more about running together than pacing – and I will be pacing a friend for her half-marathon in April next year.
But what it is really?
What are the implications of being a pacer?

Follow the balloon

A pacer is someone who runs with you during a race. His/her primary role is to keep you on track with your time. I’m sure you’ve seen them during a race. They wear the colors of the organization; sometimes they carry a balloon in their back, so they can be seen from a certain distance. On these balloons, the goal-time is written.
We often tend to start a race too fast, facing the wall mid-way and ending up failing our goals. A pacer helps as an orientation: these guys keep a steady pace, so follow them!
Elite runners also have one or more pacer running with them. Maybe you remember this time during the Berlin Marathon when a pacer almost passed the winner?

And what about the ultra-marathon distance

I only have marathons, half-marathons and 10K under my belt. But after watching, reading and talking a lot about ultra-marathon, I understand that being a pacer for theses distances is a different approach than for a marathon. During an ultra, he/she will have the role of a guardian, making sure that the runner is fueling properly, stays on track and keeps the motivation high. Often, a pacer is only allowed for really long distances and can only enter the course mid-race.

The pacer is the brain.

When I’ll be pacing my friend Gina for her half-marathon, I want her to trust me, to rely on me and just to enjoy the race. I will carry the fueling, the time (watch) and keep her informed and motivated, especially when she hits a low point during the race. She just has to run and enjoy her time – Berlin half-marathon is a very nice course by the way.
The pacer is there for you, so that you stop thinking about everything; so you can focus on the race.
(And he/she can take pictures of you during the race too…)


What I really liked at the Berlin Marathon this year is the feeling you get by running for someone else. You get a totally different pressure. I felt so relaxed because it was not about me, not about my time, not about my goals. I had no reasons to be hard on myself, no reason to beat myself up. Being a pacer takes you in another dimension, where your friend or paced-runner, his/her goal become the most important things in your world.
And honestly…
Who wants to fail someone trusting you his/her goal?


  1. So true! I reached my PB only because of a great pace runner – unfortunately I never met someone else like him again…

    • Oriane

      Oh I understand. Same problem here. There is a big difference between following a pacer of the organization and someone who knows you! I’ll need one for my next marathon!

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