Tuesday, November 12, 2013

Pacing Success!

Sunday I was tasked with pacing the 2:10 group for our local half marathon.  My running group provided pacers for the half from 1:30-2:10 and for the full from 3:30-4:20. 

My duties included running close to-- but not over-- a 2:10 half marathon based on my chip time, and carrying this sign:

Since my PR from last year is a 1:54, I think the 2:10 was a good choice.  I probably could have done 2:05 if we offered it, but 2:00 was too close to my PR that if I had been feeling off on race day it could have been tough, especially since I was pacing alone.  On the plus side, pacing the 2:10 left me with enough energy to spectate at the finish line for a while then run back out on the course to find a friend running the marathon.

For being my first time pacing, I'm glad I was familiar with the course from running this race last year, running parts of the course in my daily running and when we featured a "preview run" of the course a few weeks ago.

Prior to the race, I played around with this pace calculator.  If I ran the course exactly and my Garmin read 13.1 miles, my pace on my Garmin should read 9:50-9:54 to finish in 2:09-2:10.

Looking at my Garmin data from running this race last year, I had about 13.19 miles.  To run that slightly longer distance between a 2:09 and 2:10 would mean more like a 9:46-9:51 average pace.

I decided to go with 9:50, right in the middle, so that I'd still be under 2:10 with a slightly long course.  I printed up a pace band from the pace calculator site, made it sweat/Gatorade-proof with clear packing tape, and pinned it behind my bib for backup.

I very much worried about running the "right" pace. I remembered hearing Kari's horror story with a pace group for her first marathon where the pacer ran :20+ below goal pace and last month a friend started a half with a 2 hour pace group (9:01) but found they ran the first mile in 7:45.  I did not want to be that kind of pacer!

I placed myself at the starting line-up based on the other pacers, but I think I could have started a little further up because it took me 1 minute and 40 seconds after the gun to cross the timing mats and there were people ahead of me who were walking by the quarter mile mark.  Maybe if the race continues to grow, there should be mini corrals to guide the line up.  Regardless, I planned to be slower on the first mile since there's a bit of an uphill and I knew it would be crowded.

It was difficult not to pick up the pace during the second mile while we were heading downhill.  Still, the first two miles averaged out to my goal pace.  After that point, I was able to keep my pace fairly steady for the rest of the race.

The other challenge was having people I knew in my group.  A couple friends started with me and it was hard to not slow down or speed up with them because that's what I'd typically do when running with them.  I just had to remind myself to keep my pace.

Here are my splits and the course elevation:

While I am used to running with a handheld water bottle, running with a sign for 2 hours was a first.  I had been advised by previous pacers not to grip the thin dowel too tightly to prevent fatigue.  If I had more time, I might have wrapped tape around the part of the stick I would carry to allow a more comfortable grip.  I just switched hands often so that I wasn't tensing up, sometimes carrying it with the same hand that was holding my water bottle which prevented a tight grip. 

Also, it turns out there's more wind two feet above my head.  The sign whipped around less if I kept it closer to my head.

I didn't so much have a solid group the entire time as I had people who came and went.  People would check in on my pace then say they would try to keep up with me or tell me they wanted to try to stay ahead of me.  A couple people approached me at the finish and thanked me and I didn't realize they had been running with me.

My chip time was 2:09:16.  In the end, my watch showed 13.15 miles, and since I was relying on my Garmin, I'm glad I did use a slightly faster average pace to be sure I erred on the faster side of 2:10.

I really enjoyed pacing and would do it again.  It was a different kind of challenge and hopefully I helped some people along the way.

PS, While googling tips for pacing, I found this wiki helpful.

Have you ever paced a race?
Ever run a race with a pace group?


  1. Nicely done! I've never raced with a pace group or paced a race. I'd be kind of stressed out by it!

  2. Awesome! I've contemplated pacing, but never actually followed through and done it. You're awesome!!

  3. I enjoy reading stories about athletes. For me one of the most effective motivational tools is to learn the others' experience. The following resource was also of great help for me - http://bit.ly/Qh9G8S. Among other interesting things, I have also read there about the importance of proper nutrition. I even started taking pre-workout supplement they wrote about. I was pleasantly surprised when I've noticed the first results. My strength and endurance went up, making my workouts much more effective. My shape has improved and I've even lost weight without any special diet.


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