I'm not a long distance runner, and I never will be, and so my comments here might be born out of complete ignorance. However that said what's the deal with pacemakers?

Watching the London marathon this morning the women's elite race set off, and up front were two male pacemakers, supposedly there at the request of the women who had specified what pace they wanted to run at. The commentators went on about how pacemaking is becoming an exact science now, and that the men can run at a pace such that they could try and help the women break the 2hr20 barrier.

So what's my problem you ask? Well, isn't long distance running an individual sport, you train for months to run a long distance, and its a race. Not a follow the pacemaker for half the race then race for the second bit. Surely in a running race tactics are what help to make it interesting. If everyone is running behind a pacemaker where's the fun in that? In my mind, any distance race is open to tactics - take the races Kelly Holmes ran at the Olympics, both times she hung back, then sprinted through at the finish. Scale that up to a marathon and can't the same apply here? It would seem not, to have any chance you have to match the pacemaker.

And OK, I concede that there are other pacemakers further back to help the slower group keep to a pace, but why should a pacemaker be needed at all? Self discipline is an inherent part of training for long distances, so why not self discipline during a race?

I don't know, maybe I'm not realistic about this, but I'd like to see people run races unaided. Thoughts?