Having a pacer in an event has a number of benefits, including
They'll prevent you from going off to fast as typically they will run a constant pace through out
They'll take away the stress of whether you are going to fast or too slow
They'll give you the extra motivation that you need to push through when things are going tough.
For those that have been following me for a while will know I am a huge believer that the mindset has a lot to performance at all levels, so number 3 is the biggest one for me (for those that want to know more about my training approach and methodology the best was is to download my free 'How to PB parkrun' guide.
I therefore went on a mission to see what the actual impact of having pacers at parkrun was.
A word of warning, this is by no means a perfect study, the sample is small, there maybe volatility in the results and there'll ne a number of other factors that go into these results e.g. how big the event it, how new it is, how likely it is to have tourists, the weather and probably many other things.
Find parkruns that have had pacer events relatively recently, I did this by simply searching for pacers parkrun on Facebook.
Work out what was the percentage of those that run that had a PB that day.
Find the 3 previous parkrun at the same location and calculate the same percentage.
Compare the results.
So I picked:
Pontypridd parkrun (actually 2 of them as they have them quite regularly),
Sandy Water parkrun,
Here is what I found:
Overall with pacers we see 15.6% of park runners PB, and without 12.9%. (I'm always amazed at how many PB's you see each week but when you think some are new runners and its PB per course then you only need 12 PB in every 100 events) .
This difference is 2.7% is pretty substantial, when you think a lot of people won't be using the pacer on the day.
Each event is shown in the bar chart on the left (full data tables are provided below). Out of the 7 events sampled, 5 of them see an improvement with pacers.
The biggest improvement was at Pontypridd parkrun with near 1.5 times more people PB'ing with the help of a pacer.
On average Aylesbury and Stewart didn't improve with pacers but if you look at the data, there seems to have been a bumper week including in Aylesbury which really knocked up the average, if we'd have ignored that it would have been higher than the average of the other 2 previous events.
Stewart again seemed to have one week that was a bit higher but not crazy, but the pacers didn't seem to have much impact here.
Overall there is a clear impact from having pacers at parkrun, I was a little surprised to see that it wasn't universal across my sample but as noted above there are many factors that could impact this percentage. The fact that there was some huge increases seen does offsets that though as wasn't expecting to see 1.5 times more PB just due to pacers been present.
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Full Dataset Used: