A few months ago, on a whim, I decided to sign up to pace my local half marathon, the Bill Snyder Highway Half. I had heard that it was a good race with an interesting route, but since it was the weekend after Colfax, I decided that it was best if I paced it. After talking to the pacing coordinator, he decided to put me with the 2:25 group, which would keep a pace of about 11:00/mi. Come race day, I was pretty happy to have a nice easy pace since I was still a little sore from the marathon the weekend before.
I woke up around 5:00 am, had some coffee and made it to the parking lot by 5:45 am. Since this was a point-to-point course, they had buses that took you out to the start line way out of town on the Bill Snyder Highway. The buses were very easy and I even found another pacer to chat with on the way out!
Before the race started, I talked to a few friends, hit up the bathrooms and made it to the start line about 15 minutes before the gun. I met my co-pacer, Megan, and we decided that I would lead to bring people in just under out 2:25 goal pace, and she would follow to bring people in a minute or two later. By the time the race started, we had a group of about 20 people following us, chatting and having fun. Several people were running their first half and a few others were looking for a PR. We kept the mood light and it seemed like everyone was having fun. I intended to stay with Megan for a few miles before stepping it up to bring people in just under 2:25.
Unfortunately, at mile 2, I had to make a bathroom stop, and promised to catch back up to the group. I had about 5 people who followed and we figured we’d make up some serious time during the downhill sections later in the race. We ended up back on the course just as the 2:30 group was passing us. We upped the pace, but it took about 2.5 miles for us to catch back up to Megan. We managed to make up time without loosing anyone.
Since I was the lead pacer, I decided to crank down the pace a little and take a group that was ready to go out ahead. By mile 6, we were about a minute behind pace, which we made up during the second half of the course.
By mile 8, the course went from out on the highway leading into Manhattan right into the downtown area (we actually passed my house). The crowds were getting a bit thicker and a lot of the people around me were getting to see their families. I could tell that people we starting to feel the miles, so I talked to them about my cats, Frank, and just anything that seemed light and happy. I reminded people to smile at volunteers since that would help keep the endorphins high.
One of the girls that had been running with me since the beginning, Gabby, was going through a bit of a rough patch. She was starting to slow and I could see that she was hitting a bit of a wall. I reminded her to walk through water stations, drink lots, and try to take in the race atmosphere. I told her that rough patches come and go, and she would soon break through (she did).
Mile 10 clicked on my watch and I told everyone around me that we had just a 5K to run. People were starting to get excited, and a few girls who were feeling good took off to get a faster time. By this point in the race, I was noticing that a lot of people were walking and I tried to convince them to come run with me. A few people looked pretty frustrated to see my pace pass them, but most tried to run with me for at least a little while.
At mile 11, the course got very hilly with a lot of uphill sections left. People were starting to fade and a few of the girls who had taken off at the 5K mark were falling back to my pace because of the hills. I met a girl, Tina, who was on course to PR, but was definitely struggling. We talked a bit about how the race was going and I told her that this was my first time pacing, but that it was a really fun experience. Off in the distance, I saw Frank on his bike. As we passed him, Tina told him that I was “an awesome pacer” and that I was helping her a lot. I gotta say, it was definitely really fun to hear that.
As we got closer to the finish line, I could see the crowds and started to convince more people to run it in with me. The course was definitely hard and people seemed like they needed a cheerleader to help up their spirits. A few girls saw me coming and tried to up the pace to go out ahead of me. I caught up to a few more of the girls who had left at the 10-mile mark and they picked up the pace to stay with me.
We rounded the last corner and made it into the final stretch. I had a group of about 8 people with me and we ran it in together with smiles on our faces. I think everyone was happy to see the finish line and get their medals. I ended up coming in at 2:24:31, less than 30 seconds under my assigned pace. A few of the girls hugged and thanked me for helping them get a new PR (YAY!).
I gotta say, pacing was a hugely rewarding experience. I loved being on the other side, as I have used pacers several times and had used one during Colfax. The energy was fantastic and, for the most part, people are so happy to have you cheer them on and bring them in to the finish line. Pacing is definitely something that I want to do again!
Have you ever paced a half marathon? Did you find it to be a fun experience?