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Thoughts on a Racing with a Pack of Runners

Posted by George Parker on
Thoughts on a Racing with a Pack of Runners

There are advantages and disadvantages to racing in a pack of runners. Here I break each down to help you decide if a pack can help you chase your running goals. 


Let's talk about how to run in a pack of runners for a half marathon, or marathon, I guess, maybe even a 10k. But specifically, I want to talk about experience about running in a pack in a marathon. A recently ran in the CI M, California International Marathon, and I was running in the three hour pace group. And it is a big pace group. It's a popular time, a lot of people are there. And so as I was running, I was thinking about a lot of these things. And I thought I would share. So first of all, why would you want to run the pack? Well, for a longer distance running with a group of runners is so advantageous because you can save the mental energy of having to pay attention to your pace, you can tuck into a pace group. And you can just run and not even think about how fast you're running, you can let the Pacers and the energy of the pack naturally do that for you. It all kind of regulates that's a huge advantage in a long distance race where you need to save all the energy that you can. So that is the biggest advantage, I think of running in a pack, which is saving energy, you can also say they're less air resistance, things like that not all matters, but the biggest one is the mental energy that you're going to save by running in the pack. Now that being said, there are disadvantages. One of the first ones is that there are more people in our there are more people, there's more chances for catastrophic accidents, right? Like you can step on someone shoes or get pushed down like that all can happen. The biggest danger in running a road marathon is this falling, right of getting hit by something like that. Or when you're in a pack, you can't see the road in front of you. And so it's harder to see potholes or things like that, like all these things get more difficult in your group of people that the trade off for not having to spend mental energy on pace is that you're a little you're a lot more vigilant on what's happening around you, so you don't fall and get hurt. So that's a real drawback. Another drawback is, after a while when you're in this pack, that kind of is your pace. And if you want to go faster, you're going to have this bit or no man's land between where you were in this pack, and where you might want to go to find other runners. And so you're going to have to go bridge that at some point, that becomes a real problem later in the race. If you're trying to make a break, and you're trying to go faster than the pack was going is that you're gonna have to be prepared to run by yourself for a while until you find other runners. And the third one is it's hard to move in the pack, right? Like once you're in the pack, it's kind of hard to move positions. And that gets difficult if you want to shift to run the tangent, of course, right and you're stuck on the outside of the pack, it's hard to kind of cut over run the tangent. Or if you need to go to a particular aid station that's hard to do in the pack. Because it's hard to move left and right, it just gets a lot more difficult. We have that many people. So those are some of the drawbacks are running in the pack. The advantage, again, is that you save a tremendous amount of mental energy, but it doesn't come free. There are drawbacks. So knowing that, if you do run in a pack of runners, and it's a bigger pack, here are some things that I would suggest to think of. So one of the things is where should you run in the pack. And what I would say is, the best place to run is very close to where the pace was, are kind of open that front center right in the middle of the pack. The reason for that is that you get the maximum advantage of you know, the the wind resistance being broken, for sure. But more importantly, the pace is a lot more consistent and steady. If you run towards the back of the pack, what you'll notice is that there's like this yo yo thing that happens where the pack is going to kind of naturally expand and contract. And all those create these micro accelerations for you, which can add up over time. If you're running where the Pacers are, it's a much more consistent pace and you're not going to have these micro acceleration. So that is probably the best place to run. If you can't run they're running sort of upfront, at the Pacers here kind of you know, parallel was slightly behind is another great place to run because you're in the front, you're close to where the action is, you're not going to be subject to the yo yoing thing. So

that's where we think about running in the pack. The second consideration though, is think about what the eight stations are in the CI m race this past year, all the aid stations were only on the right hand side. Well, that makes things challenging if you're on the left hand side of the pack, because it is really really hard to get over there and get your hydration you either need to accelerate above the pack. Get it or slow down, get it and catch back up to the pack. And again those of micro accelerations if you're running in a smaller pack or a front. It's not that hard, right like a pack of five People can easily fan out get their hydration move on a pack of 50 people was a lot harder to do that the eight stations can handle all that volume at once. So think about your hydration stations are and in this particular instance where they're on the right hand side, that's probably where you want to go be. That being said, You're not the only one who's gonna be thinking that right and it makes those visits even more difficult. So, point is long story short, a lot of advantages are running in the pack. Be aware of the disadvantages, and do the best you can to position yourself in the pack to minimize those closer to the front, closer to where you want to be for nutrition. And recognize that you will get frustrated because you will get stepped on you will get pushed, you will miss an aid cup. That's all a trade off for the benefit that you're saving from not having to worry about the pace inside of the pack. Hope this helps. Remember, it's not luck training.

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