Last week my friend and fellow Village Runner Michael asked me if I wanted to be 2:00 pace group leader with him at the Team 413 Get There and Share Half Marathon (the Jesus Half) in Homewood. Having never paced before but being in familiar territory and among friends, I readily agreed.
For those who don’t know, pacers do the thinking for the runners by worrying about getting across the finish line in time, so that the runners can just follow along like little obedient ducklings.
Here’s what I learned:
- Being responsible for a group is nerve-wracking – When you’re a pacer, you have an obligation to get runners across the finish line in the time you promised. You have to be on the ball physically and mentally, because others are counting on you. There’s no running your own race that day.
- Be entertaining – A good pacer should be fun. Keep tabs on your group to see who’s struggling, and then strike up a conversation with them. Talk to them, tell stories, ask questions. Distract them from the “suck” that they might be going through.
- Watch your pace – Duh. I set my Garmin Virtual Pacer to 9:05/mi to ensure that we’d finish on time, and checked it every few minutes. We also accounted for inevitably slowing down on hills and took the flat miles a little faster. It wasn’t easy to find the balance between going too fast, risking burnout, and going right on pace and rushing if we fell behind on a hill.
- Don’t take your run for granted – Seeing people giving it their all and crying as they crossed the finish line was humbling, and reminded me that what’s easy for me may be someone else’s 100%. The race took place in my town, so what felt to me like a typical Saturday run with some Bible verses thrown in could have been someone else’s A race that they trained months for.
- It feels good to give back – I was surprised at how many people came up and introduced themselves before the race, and thanked us after the race. It was especially great to see people PR! Pacers are an important part of a race—I’m glad that I got the opportunity to volunteer and help runners achieve their goals.
After having so much fun yesterday, I decided that I’m going to run the NJ Marathon with the 4:00 pace group. I want to be able to zone out, not worry about pace, and enjoy the race as much as possible by meeting new people and sharing stories.
Have you ever been a pacer? What were your thoughts on it?
Some more shots from the race: