Most runners who have participated in a marathon or half-marathon are quite familiar with the sight of pace bunnies in their midst. They are usually quite recognizable with their cut out rabbit ears advertising their respectable race times on them. You may have followed one in a race or used them as a gage to determine your own performance status within a race – but have you ever thought about donning the ears yourself?
Being a pace bunny can be an extremely rewarding experience. While many runners thrive on achieving personal bests, there are going to be days when personal bests don’t come as easy, or at all, and helping a friend or even a complete stranger achieve their goal might be almost as gratifying. Volunteering as a pace bunny is also a great way to get involved in a race, give back to the running community, and get your long run done in the process!
So how do you know if you’re qualified to be a pace bunny? Ideally, a pacer will run the race at a continuous tempo. So at the most basic level, if you can run a steady pace, you can be a pace bunny! Although many pacers are seasoned runners, who along with being able to maintain a set pace, are also able to shout out words of encouragement to the runners in their group as an added way of boosting their energy and spirit to keep pushing on.
Once you’ve decided to take up the challenge and accept the reward of being a pacer – how do you know what time to pace for? Generally, you should choose a time that you know you can hit, even on an really off day – keep in mind that you may have a lot of people counting on you! One generalization is to take your most recent result, and for a half marathon, add 15 minutes and for a marathon, add half an hour. Another guide is to look at your current training runs and decide what pace you are able to run with relative ease and have a full conversation while doing it. Be realistic, you don’t want to be the bunny that gets dropped on the run!
In long distance races like the marathon and half-marathon pacing can be everything. For many runners, having a pace bunny to guide them to the finish line in their goal time is a huge help, giving them one less thing to worry about on the course. So if you’re feeling the spirit of Christmas within you, consider giving the gift of rabbitting to a friend or to your running community this holiday season! Who knows, you may enjoy wearing the bunny ears more than you thought!
Guest Contributor: Sue Safadi is currently working towards completing a “triathlon” in post-secondary education. Having completed her Bachelor’s and PhD at Western University, she is currently completing her Master’s degree in Physiotherapy at McMaster University.