Tuesday, August 10, 2010

Being a Pacer

Mel at Tall Mom on the Run wrote today about the experience of having a pacer.  She speaks very fondly about her friend that is going to help her achieve a running goal by running with her in a race to meet a goal time.  I LOVE this.  Having someone there to keep you on track is quite awesome.  Someone there to help you through specific miles of a race, or even the whole thing is quite special.  I hope to someday have a pacer, but until then, I will write about my one and only experience as a pacer.  Let me tell you, it was sooo great.

About a year ago, my friend Kristine, who was fairly recent to running, was talking about a 10k race that she had completed in some massive heat.  She did well in the race, but felt that she wanted to break the one hour mark.  She mentioned that she was contemplating marking this time goal with a *special* race.  The race she had in mind was the Marine Corps 10k, as part of their Marathon weekend in October.  "Are you going with a group?" I asked.  "So far it's just me," she said.  "Well, count me in!" I said, and I also promised I could keep her on pace for under 60 minutes.

I was so excited.  We signed up for the race, made our travel plans, (Toronto to Washington DC in a weekend requires a teeny bit of planning) and kept on running.  When it came to departure day, I picked Kristine up at her school (she is a teacher too).  Her colleagues were excited for her.  They were so supportive and genuinely interested in her big race.  I could not wait to help her smash that time goal!

"We came all the way from Canada, will you pose for a picture?"
We had a couple of great days seeing the sights in Washington (go and check out that fantastic city if you haven't already!).  Race morning came bright and early.  I had many dreams the night before about living up to my duties as a pacer (really, I took this job seriously).  Before we knew it, we were surrounded by Marines (yum!) at the starting line.  Us, and 7,000 other 10k hopefulls!  The gun went off and I started my watch.  By the first mile marker, we were behind goal pace by about 30 seconds.  I casually mentioned to Kristine that we had to shave a bit of time off in subsequent miles, and the look she gave me was not good.   She really hated me at that moment, but I just shrugged it off, and told her "no worries, you're looking really good!"  She did stride right along beside me and we fell into a great pace.  She even waved and smiled to every Marine standing along the sidelines, and it was soo great.  I realized that my job as a pacer was not to bother her with the time details, but to encourage her and to keep my eye on my watch.  We flowed along smoothly.  At about the 8km mark, she asked me if it was possible to reach her goal.  "Of course it is.  You are amazing!" I replied.  I was secretly looking at my watch noticing a time that was a tad lower than goal pace.  She was doing so well.

As we rounded the corner (and up a hill) to the finish, we gave it everything.  Her time was 56:37.  I had tears in my eyes as we came across the line.  I was so proud of Kristine.  It was such a great experience, to take part in someone's goals.

I will leave you with a couple of photos from race day...they aren't the highest of quality as they were taken with my Blackberry.  The sentiment is there, though.  It was a great weekend, and I came back more pumped than ever to go for my personal goals!

Kristine before sunrise at the race start area

Me and two Marines after the finish.

I am off to the track for Intervals tonight...hopefully things go well!!  Enjoy the sunshine!

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