The End Of Elite Pacing In The Chicago Marathon

As reported by Markham Heid in – 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.


About horowitzrun

Jeff is a certified running, cycling, and triathlon coach, and is the author of "My First 100 Marathons" (Skyhorse Press 2008) and "Smart Marathon Training" (Velo Press 2011). An obviously addicted runner, Jeff has run at least one marathon in every state and on 6 continents, including marathons in South Africa, China, Bangkok, and Antarctica. Jeff is available for group, one-on-one, and virtual coaching. Options include: 1. Basic Training Plan. This includes a customized training schedule geared towards a goal race, with a detailed running schedule that would include all distances and target times for each workout, including speedwork, tempo, and endurance sessions. 2. Complete Fitness and Race Plan. This includes the plan listed above, plus the non-running workouts and drills that runners need for better overall fitness and performance. You would get strength & core workouts, as well as run-specific training drills and stretches. 3. Virtual Coaching. This includes all of the above, implemented on a week-by-week basis. We review each week's progress at week's end so that adjustments can be made. The program is tailored to suit you right up to race day. It involves more contact, on a weekly or even daily basis. 4. Full Coaching for athletes in the Washington DC area. All of the above, plus a weekly workout together including speedwork, drills, and strength training. 5. Individual track sessions. One-on-one track-based workouts. Contact Jeff for pricing.
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