How to Reach your Goals by Using a MN Pacer

If you’ve taken the leap and signed up for a race this year, you most likely had a goal in mind. If you missed your goal, maybe you started out with too much energy and enthusiasm only to blow through those first few miles and bonk on the later. Pacing yourself during a race takes discipline, practice and lots of patience.

But have no fear; MN Pacers are here to help!

Who are MN Pacers?

We had a chance to talk with Sam Ryder, who started MN Pacers in 2010. The “big races”; Grandma’s and Twin Cities Marathon have long had pacers, but Sam saw a need for pacers at more than just those races. Race Directors saw the need too and within the first year of business MN Pacers could be found at over 15 races in the state.

What is a Pacer?

A pacer is an experienced runner who leads a group of racers with a specific goal. The pacer works to set the pace; running even splits in order to bring runners to the finish line typically within 30 seconds of the goal.

Let’s say your goal is to break that 2:00 mark in a ½ marathon. The pacer will set an even 9:10 pace running each mile at that pace. That way you can be sure that you’re not starting out too fast only to have nothing left in the tank toward the end of the race.

How to Use a Pacer?

Whether it’s a MN Pacer (who you can spot by their red singlet with the word PACER in yellow) or another group, Sam says you can find pacers at over 90% of longer distance races. He’s seen runners shave as much as 15 minutes from a previous PR time just by joining a pace group!

Running with a pace group is easy – simply find your group, line up and run! However, there are a few things to keep in mind:

  • Be Early: it’s a good idea to show up to the race with enough time to find your pace group. If the race start is congested and you’re stuck in the back of the pack, you’ll waste precious energy trying to catch up to the group.
  • Be Social: running with a pace group can be a great way to get to know others in the running community. If you’re up for talking during the race, be willing to share your running stories and get to know your pacer and others in the group.
  • Be Appreciative: most pacers are volunteering their time, so be gracious and remember to thank them for helping you attain your running goals.

Interested in becoming a Pacer?

Are you an experienced runner who’s looking for a new adventure? Are you someone who likes to help others reach their goals? Have you always wondered what it’s like to carry a stick with a sign attached to it during a 13 mile run? Maybe pacing is for you!

MN Pacers currently has 45-50 pacers and is planning to expand their team to support the demand of races inside and outside of Minnesota. At most out of town races, pacers get free lodging and race entry fees. There are also sponsors who will sometimes donate goodies including one who outfitted the team with free shoes!

Sam explains that pacers typically start out leading groups 1 minute or more slower than their current race pace at that distance. To learn more about becoming a member of the MN Pacer Team contact and share your running background and interest in joining the team!

How has running with a pace group helped you reach your goals?



Jennifer has been running for over 15 years. While she loves to run – her true passion is triathlon. She's been racing with TEAM SOAS since 2014.

Jennifer likes to swim, bike and run in the city of Minneapolis where she lives with her husband and dogs, Ruby and Koa. Her favorite running (and swimming) route is around Lake Nokomis, where you'll often spot her with a four-legged running partner.

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