Don’t shoot the messenger
Last month I ran and won my main race of the year, the BNP Endurathon 25.0, a 25km race with some pretty tough hills in muggy conditions. I did not stick to a pacing strategy because my goal there was to win along with only a soft pace target – I had a racing strategy. But let’s not care about my podium finish. When my goal is specifically to pace others in a race, it is no longer competitive strategy and game-theory that I employ – after all the mandate is to hit an acceptable time band for crossing the finish line. Come hell or high water! The race strategy is then simply a pacing strategy –
“to run the route at an appropriate pace at each of the many stages of the entire distance to ensure that the typical person who has trained appropriately crosses the finish line ahead of the target time”
So, to go too fast at times might lose certain participants, and to go too slow at specific stages of the race might force others to drop back later when the pace is increased too much in order to catch up. The money is in the detail and success is in the process. It was in that vein that I also created these free gifts for you, specifically for that race.
I should tell you that I do not like this part of my ‘self-inflicted job’ – being the messenger to you about pacing failures at races. After all, many of the pacers are my friends! The IDBI (Mumbai) 2016 of last Sunday was no different.
I reported on the Failure of Pacers at the SCMM-2016 earlier this year, and about the Pacing Failures at the SCMM 2015 a year prior to that. For some background, my most widely read guide on being a pacer or choosing a pacer is worth going through if you haven’t already.
It is true that most people do not use a pacer, but whether you use one or not, you might like to see that the quality of pacers is not sub-standard, as that sets the tone for other things at the event too then!
The IDBI-2016 10km Race Pacers Report – Shocking Failure Rates!
Of course this categorization of what is success and failure is my own, based on what I think a recreational runner doing a 10km race would find acceptable when targeting a finish time in the range 50-minutes to 90-minutes. Going slower than the finish time is definitely unacceptable, but you might argue that going faster than 1-min-15-sec is not too bad. However, I believe that someone struggling to complete his race in, say, 70-minutes, would find it incredibly difficult if pushed to a time faster than 68-min 45-sec. As a pacer, if you go inappropriately fast, you will lose runners who will drop back and then never catch up with their goal pace. A strategy with built-in dynamic balance is key. In any case, even if you were to relax the conditions, the failure rate is shocking! The actual times are also listed in the table for you to make your own judgement of pass/fail. I am just the messenger.
What I would like to point out is that I do not even think that a ‘yaay!’ is necessarily success if the pacer simply ran too fast for most of the distance and then slowed down deliberately close to the finish line to avoid being documented as a failure.
The IDBI-2016 Half Marathon Race Pacers Report – Shocking Failure Rates!
The acceptable band, like in previous reports, starts 2-min 30-sec before the target time. For longer distances such as a full marathon, I have the same width of acceptance. As you can see from the table, the failure rate is shocking!
Why this report update?
Most mass participation sporting events are about combining physical fitness with entertainment. In India with all its frustrations of corruption in so many walks of life, we often look at recreational running as a way to get away from things that we often seem to have little control over, towards something that we can have some control over that also leads to a better physical existence. So, when we race towards a time target with a pacer, we expect that promises will not be broken, just like that of politicians. We expect that we won’t get failure, just like that of electricity supply. We hope that we won’t fall short of our target like we might fall short of water in our homes. 7 pacers out of 12 failing to achieve their promised target for the half marathon is shocking!
It’s great that so many entities are able to use the financial profits from such events as an incentive to create and conduct these events. As customers of such service providers, we would like to get value for money in terms of the experience – often we don’t. In the same vein, it’s always good to report on the standards of pacers. I decided to report on this aspect of the IDBI 2016 race because it is the main competitor in the race calendar for what has been my “home city’s race”, the SCMM held in January each year.
Questions to be answered
I have many friends among both the lists above and I hope that those who didn’t finish successfully will not take this report personally. I am sure they already feel quite rotten about what transpired. Perhaps they will step back and think about their performance objectively. In the cases where the same pacer has failed in a previous race, perhaps we should ask the race organizers “why was that person selected again to be a pacer?” What are we doing about Process for Performance?
I have told you why you need not run to be fit. But if you are going to run, and if you are going to race, and have been promised a pacer, you deserve a successful pacer. I’m just saying…
Don’t shoot the messenger!
Dr Purnendu Nath spends his waking hours focusing on helping individuals and organizations reach their goals, to make the world a better place. He speaks, writes and advises on topics such as finance, investment management, discipline, education, self-improvement, exercise, nutrition, health and fitness, leadership and parenting.