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What Is A Rabbit?

posted by Brandon
What Is A Rabbit?

We received a few questions with regards to rabbits. It occurred to me that most folks have no idea what a ‘running rabbit’ is, what he or she does, and who pays for his or her services. If you are wondering why people drop out of a race when they are ‘winning’, read more. First off, I should mention that a rabbit is not something reserved for elite athletes. Rabbits can be employed to chase anything from a personal best to a World Record.

What Is A Rabbit?

A rabbit is a man or woman hired to run a specific pace for a specific distance in order to help the person completing the race to stay on his or her desired pace and avoid the elements. This person can typically hit the desired pace with relative ease. The majority of world records (800m-Marathon) are set using a rabbit, or several rabbits.

Learn More Running Terminology

When Kenenisa Bekele set the World 10,000 meter record (26:17), his brother Tariku paced him through 5,000 meters in 13:09

Can The Rabbit Finish The Race?

Yes. That being said, pacers usually have a bonus structure depending on how close they are to the specific pace and how far they make it. There can also be clauses on how certain checkpoints are reached. For example, if an rabbit is asked to run 16:40 for every 5K, it would be most beneficial to run 3:20 for each kilometer as opposed to 3:00, 3:40, 3:20, 3:10, 3:30.

Learn How Keeping a Steady Pace Could Increase Your Chance of Success

Who Pays For The Rabbit?

This is a great question. If you are watching a local track meet and see someone step off the track with a lap to go in the mile after leading for 3 laps, chances are, they are rabbiting a friend or teammate. In this case, teammates often trade off rabbiting duties. For example, one athlete will sacrifice himself or herself on one weekend with the understanding that his or her teammate will do the same the following weekend. If a friend asks you to rabbit for them in an attempt to hit their Boston Qualifier, you could trade off like the example above, or ask them to pay for your entry fee, post race massage, and drop off a case of beer following the race. Simple as that… For most major marathons or world-class track meets, the race director, meet promoter, or agent of the individual athlete chasing a specific time pays for the rabbit. I have run a few marathons where I was in 20th place at the halfway point and finished just outside the top 10 without passing anyone.

Does Anyone Make a Living Rabbiting?

There are a few athletes who are known on the international track circuit as human metronomes. These athletes might be able to make a decent living rabbiting athletes ranked in the top 10 in the world to personal bests or world records. I recommend trading off with a friend or teammate to see if having a rabbit lowers your personal best without training harder. It is nice to shut your brain off and just follow someone.

About the Author:  Brandon Laan is a runner, coach, and entrepreneur.  He spent his undergraduate days at The University of Western Ontario where he captained the Cross Country Team before fleeing to Hawaii Pacific University for graduate school. He is a Level II Certified USATF coach and holds personal bests of 1:06 and 2:21 in the Half Marathon and Marathon respectively. He also enjoys running to eat, not eating to run…and always will.

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  1. charles says:

    still don’t understand WHY a Rabbit is needed Don’t competitive athletes WANT to run their best time without help from a “crutch”? Seems if you need help to do your best, you shouldn’t be running in the first place

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