EagleTribune.com, North Andover, MA

September 19, 2013

'Pacebands' offer simple tool for distance runners

Dave Dyer

---- — Sometimes, the simplest ideas are the best ones.

That may be the case with Middleton’s Gretchen Fishman, who came up with “Pacebands,” a nifty tool for runners to wear during distance races.

What are Pacebands? Basically, they’re silicone bands athletes wear on their wrists during marathons and other races to make sure they stay on pace. They show the times runners should be running in their splits in order to reach their desired time.

“My husband is a runner and he was playing around with computer programs and he printed out a pace schedule,” said Fishman. “I thought that it would be neat if we could put it on something more permanent than paper.

“I first thought of hospital-type bracelets, but that had some drawbacks. Then we made the jump to the silicone bands.”

It seemed like a good idea, but nothing to get overly excited about. However, the Fishmans displayed and offered the bands for sale at the Boston Expo prior to the Boston Marathon, and they were amazed by the response.

“We didn’t have high expectations but we came away from the Expo thinking we had a good thing going,” said Fishman.

Indeed, a surprising number of Pacebands were sold at the Expo and word slowly spread about their usefulness. But their popularity soared when they caught the attention of Ryan Hall, America’s fastest marathon. He has a best time of 2:04:58 in the marathon as well as an American record of 59:43 in the half marathon.

Hall has already used the Pacesband in races and he plans on making it commonplace from now on, including at this fall’s New York Marathon.

“When Ryan Hall came aboard, it was great validation,” said Fishman, an avid marathoner who has run 26.2 miles in 12 states and has a long range goal of running a marathon in all 50 states. “To have someone of that caliber like it was more gratifying than all the sales we had.”

A Facebook page not only provides lots of information on Pacebands but also has a video on Hall using the band in a half-marathon. He has gravitated into somewhat of a spokesman for the product.

Currently, the Pacebands are primarily for marathons and half-marathons at a cost of $8.99. But there are plans for Pacebands for a 5K, 10K and metric marathon.

Fishman hopes it all mushrooms at an upcoming “kickstart campaign” that will raise funds to greatly expand the scope of Pacebands. Regardless of the expansion, this is clearly an example of a little idea grown big.