Racers vs. Pacers: What Type Of Runner Are You?

Tim Bradley breaks down the differences between these two types of runners and provides workouts for each one.

Tim Bradley breaks down the differences between these two types of runners and provides workouts for each one.

When it comes to running style and racing, two distinct types of runners exist. As a coach, it typically takes just a few workouts for me to identify if someone is a racer or a pacer. Each style brings specific strengths and weaknesses to training and racing, and it is important to identify if you are a racer or a pacer. Both styles can bring you success, but to maximize your ability you must learn both how to pace and how to race. Read the list below to identify what type or runner you are:


A classic racer can be identified by the following characteristics and tendencies:

— Enjoys racing, typically likes to race more than train
— Does not necessarily set goal times for races, just wants to “win”
— Focuses more on place than time
— Commonly goes out hard and runs positive splits
— Tends to do well, as long as there is competition
— Struggles to run even races, especially the longer the distance
— Can struggle alone in training
— Tends to have a good kick

Racers can achieve great success when they are running well and winning. For some, this may actually mean winning races, for others it might mean placing high in their age group or winning medals. The downside is when racers have a few bad races it can really hurt them. A racer must learn that you can’t win every race, and sometimes it is better to run a faster time and lose than to run a very slow time and win. A racer must work to run with more control and pace more effectively.

RELATED: Essential Drills For Speed And Efficiency


Pacers can be identified by the following characteristics and tendencies:

— Typically is over-anxious and experiences a high level of race anxiety
— Very focused on time and splits, less focused on overall place
— Tends to over-think racing
— Commonly runs even splits or negative splits
— Tends to struggle in bad conditions when the environment is less controlled
— Struggles to run fast in shorter races, due to a lack of aggressiveness
— Less of a kicker than a racer, has a pretty good kick, due to a proper pacing strategy

Pacers tend to run with their heads and not their hearts. This allows them to pace effectively and run very consistent races. However, pacers often lack ambition and run too conservatively. This can lead to a lack of major breakthroughs when it comes to race times. A pacer is more afraid to fail than a racer. The pacer may run consistent times but might have PRs slower than someone with the same ability, but with a more ambitious racing strategy.

Now that we have identified the characteristics of racers vs. pacers, it’s time to look at some workouts that can help you maximize what you do well and work on your weaknesses.

RELATED: The Art Of Peaking For A Goal Race

Workouts For Pacers

Workout 1: Fartlek
This workout is designed to help pacers forget the pace and just run on feel. The point is to focus on running hard and on effort rather than specific time goals.

2 sets of 1min, 2min, 3min, 5min, 3min, 2min, 1min with equal rest

All efforts should be “hard” with the last 1min being close to an all-out effort. You should feel like you don’t have much left at the end of this one.

Workout 2: Time Trials leading up to a 5K or 10K
One of the best ways to learn how to push yourself and feel more comfortable at race pace is by running time trials. This allows you to run all-out without the fear of having that “bad time” by your name at the end of a traditional race.

Week 1: 1.5-mile time trial

Week 4: 1.5- or 2-mile time trial

Week 8: 2-mile time trial

Week 12: 1200-meter or 1-mile time trial

2 weeks out from peak race: 800m time trial

RELATED: If You Run Slow, Who Cares?

Workouts For Racers

Tempo Running
These 3 to 5-mile or 20 to 30-minute workouts are a staple of any solid training plan. However, sometimes racers really struggle to hit consistent tempo runs. This is mostly due to boredom and a lack of focus when it comes to this type of training. To truly develop pace you must do these workouts either on a track or a really flat road loop. Make sure to have a watch and specific time goals for each lap.

Acceleration Run
This workout is meant to teach you how to run negative splits. You must be on a track or very flat road course. Here an example, a 2-mile continuous acceleration run:

First 800m (2 laps) — Marathon pace

Second 800m — Tempo pace

Third 800m — 5K pace

Fourth 800m — 1-mile race pace or faster

These workouts can help you become a better runner, maximizing your strengths and improve your weaknesses. Try the aforementioned workouts this spring and you will make yourself a faster, more balanced runner!


About The Author:

Tim Bradley is the owner and founder of Big River Personal Coaching and is the distance coach at Saint Louis University.