For those not familiar with them, “marathon pacers” are runners that the race organizers use to help set a particular pace for the elite field early in the race. Not only does it help the elite runners to have a bit of a chase pack to assemble around these runners but it also helps the organizers to ensure a fast finish (which helps with gaining additional sponsors for the race).
The Pacer That Went the Extra Mile and Won
Marathon pacers do not run the whole race but normally drop out someplace between mile 13 and mile 18 of the marathon. From that point on, the racers are on their own for the pace. There have been some instances where a pacer chose to continue running the race, as a regular runner, and even some where the pacer won the race.
This is what happened yesterday in the Abu Dhabi Marathon. Reuban Kipyego, a 23-year old runner from Kenya, decided to keep going after the 30k mark where he was to step off (about 18 miles). Instead of stopping, he kept running and actually won the marathon in a time of 2:04:40. Not only was this time good enough for the win but it was also a PR (personal record) of 38 seconds. It also was the first marathon he had won.
According to this Runner’s World article, he told the race organizers that he had felt very good and didn’t see the pack with him anymore so decided to run the last 8 miles to the finish. The second place runner came in 1 minute and 41 seconds behind him.
The first place prize for the Abu Dhabi Marathon was $100,000 – quite the incentive to finish out the race he had started as a pacemaker! Now, he cannot wait to go back to Abu Dhabi next year to defend his title.