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Why do organizers use pacesetters for long-distance running events?

The organizers of certain running events use a pacesetter during middle-distance or long-distance running competitions. Why?

Marathon Runner Eliud Kipchoge

Marathon Runner Eliud Kipchoge (Source: Business Insider)


Abhijit Nair

Updated: 22 July 2021 5:39 PM GMT

Athletics is one of the most premier sporting events in the world. It is basically a cluster of sports consisting of various types of jumping, walking, throwing and running events.

Amongst all the athletics events, running remains the most popular to the masses. Running is mainly divided into three categories - Track Running and Road Running and Cross Country Running.

The track running events are further classified into three different types - Short distance running, Middle distance running and Long-distance running.

Now, as the name suggests, short distance running is a sprint for a very short distance i.e., 60m, 100m, 200m, and 400m. On the other hand, middle distance running includes 800m, 1500m and 3000m run, while long-distance running basically includes 5000m and 10,000m runs.

The organizers of certain running events use a pacesetter during middle-distance or long-distance running competitions. Why?

To understand why the organizers do so, it is important to understand what a pacesetter really is.

As can be made out from the word itself, a pacesetter is someone who sets the pace or someone who leads the competition for at least the first half. A pacesetter is also called a pacemaker.

Such a pacesetter is usually employed by the organizers so that the actual competitors in the event do not use excessive tactics to win a race. A pacesetter basically ensures that he or she leads the race for a major portion of the event with a very fast speed, eventually dropping off. Hence, they are also termed as rabbits, informally.

The major benefit of having a pacemaker or pacesetter is that there is minimal to no tactical running. Usually during middle and long distance running there are a lot of tactics involved like starting the event as a flash before slowing down just to increase the mental pressure on fellow competitors.

A pacemaker is also used during the world record attempts, wherein the pacesetter acts as an imaginary competitor to the one attempting to break a world record.

The pacesetters are usually paid by the organizers to do their job. They are also instructed to complete a lap at a set time or before it, in order to keep the original competitors on their toes.

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