As reported by Markham Heid in Shape.com – with some help from yours truly:
The Chicago Marathon’s organizers have announced they’re not going to have pace-setters—a.k.a., “rabbits”—at this year’s event, which is just a few weeks away.
To be clear, Chicago is only ditching rabbits who precede the top competitors. Pace-setters marking time for the other 99% of the race’s 45,000 runners are still permitted.
“If you have a goal in mind, all you have to do is stick with that corresponding pace-setter,” says Jeff Horowitz, author of Smart Marathon Training and Quick Strength for Runners.
Horowitz has run 175 marathons, and has been a pace-setter himself as a member of Clif Bar’s pace team. While pace-setters like Horowitz are helpful race-enhancing additions for most runners, the “rabbits” that pace the top competitors are more controversial. “For the top runners, the pace-setters remove a lot of the psychological burden and strategy and jockeying that would come into play if the elite runners were setting the pace against one another,” he explains.
That’s just what Chicago’s race director, Carey Pinkowski, told the Chicago Tribune in a recent article: “Without the rabbits, the leaders need a much greater level of concentration. That will allow us to see more tactics, strategy, and competition throughout the race.”
By making the top runners set their own pace against one another—rather than simply chase the rabbit for most of the race—a whole new element is brought into the event. “The details of how to be the fastest over so many miles gets very complex,” Horowitz says. “With pace-setters, you lose a lot of that.”
But for the rest of us, Horowitz says pace-setters “just make everything more fun and comfortable.” He adds, “I’ve never heard of anyone proposing banning them completely.”
So rest assured—unless you’re a truly elite marathoner—your friendly rabbit will be there to guide you during your next race.