Legal Bandits (Pacers)

By: Chris Scott

I've broken the code - no more suffering through a hot day of running just to suffer through a night (and potentially 2nd day) of the same experience. Now, as a professional pacer (I've sworn off 100's until I'm 60, which is still 25 years away), I can jump immediately to the night and 2nd day thrills; not have to pay an entry fee; still get to eat from each aid station's cornucopia (tho I was sorely disappointed that Idlehour didn't have spam this year…); and if I schmooze my runner, may even get a T-shirt or other hospitality (potentially lodging & meals). Of course, that means I don't get a buckle that doesn't fit my jeans to flash at other 100's. But, if I listen closely before and during the award ceremonies, I can pick up horror stories (from finishers and DNF'ers) that I can adopt as my own and repeat at shorter venue events.

Want to do the same? Well, here are a few tips.

  1. Scope out the field beforehand, and if you can find a runner who may finish before 2nd sunrise, offer your services. Except for the very front of the pack, and assuming some reasonable conditioning on your part, you should be able to stay with your runner even when they feel like they're flying. It's amazing how 10 minute miles during the night section can feel like a 6 minute pace under fresh conditions. The drawback, of course, is that by being up front, first day crewing duties don't permit as much socializing with other crews along the course. If you don't mind the 2nd day's touch up of the 1st day's tan, you may want to lower your sights to a middle of the pack'er. And if you're truly into sharing your runner's "get your money's worth" attitude, then linking with an "under the wire" runner can offer its own entertainment - just don't expect a particularly, briskly-paced workout.

  2. Try to pick an event with a course that offers some pleasant scenery. Having just finished (oops, paced) AC100, this can be potentially riddled with conflict. While the views under a full moon and occasional peeks at LA slumbering under a shroud of clouds provided some breathtaking moments, the breath-taking climbs up Wilson and San Merrill proved exasperatingly demonic.

  3. Be cautious about distance you may have to run. Wasatch allows pacers before mile 40, which means you'll motor through more than 100K if your runner negotiates away your free time. And, like AC, Wasatch has some ugly climbs and descents farther along the course. Pick OD, where you can only accompany your pacer for one short mountain section about 2/3's along the course.

  4. Search out the events with liberal policies/practices on hospitality. Pre- and post-race feeds are obvious draws. A swelling inventory of merchandise can offer opportunity for walking away with a stash of runner-bought goodies. The W$ designer collection rivals Needless Markup, and you might actually get a water bottle with a strap that doesn't too quickly separate from lack of effective glue.

    Yup, being a groupie-pacer at 100's surely beats the suffering (physical, mental and financial) of having to actually drudge through 100 miles. I'm going for the party of half the distance, while still getting some recognition for "contributing" to the event's (as extension from one runner's) success. Now that I have the pacer revelation, the next step is to search out the even shorter ultras that permit pacers…

Happy Trails!!!