As many of you know, running has become a daily discipline and passion for me in recent years. In May I ran the Providence Marathon, completing it in 3:24:16. I had thoughts of running the Hartford Marathon in October, but a couple of months into training, my body was telling me to back off. I started getting painful spasms in my right thigh, which were becoming increasingly frequent. I knew I had to back off. After a couple of weeks of rest, I gradually started up again and things felt fine. I debated whether or not to enter the Hartford Half-Marathon, but I knew if I did, I would be tempted to beat my PR, which could lead to injury, coming off of some intense marathon training. Then it occurred to me that I could volunteer to be a pacer at a slightly slower rate, and help others accomplish their goals while maintaining a solid base level of fitness on which to build for the future — a win/win! I received confirmation yesterday that I will be a 2-hour pacer for the half-marathon, which means I’ll run at just under 9 minutes per mile — a comfortable, relaxed pace for me.
For the past couple of weeks, I’ve been practicing holding this pace, and adjusting quickly when I find myself going too fast or too slow. I use a Garmin watch to monitor my speed. I have learned that the best way to do this is to set up the watch’s data fields so “Pace” and “Average Pace” appear on the same screen, below one another. With my Garmin, “the Forerunner 25,” I sometimes notice large fluctuations in what it says my pace is, when I know I’m running steadily. Monitoring average pace simultaneously helps me to see the big picture, keeps me from making needless adjustments, and prevents accepting a windows of time (guessing), rather than honing in on one specific pace. This discovery, and practicing this way, will undoubtedly be beneficial for future marathon running, where patience and the longview are huge factors.
I’m taking this pacing role seriously, as I have had mixed experiences in following pacers in the past. At a race in Ottawa, Canada, my pacer was a good minute faster than he should have been. I kept with him for the first half of the race, thinking, “he must know something I don’t know… like, maybe there are big hills coming up, so we should make up time here.” Those hills never came, and I had a poor finish, because I ran beyond what I had trained for. Lesson learned. On the flip side, I have had positive experiences following pacers, where they helped me stay on track. I’m excited to now “give back” and be one of those consistent, helpful pacers, who truly assists folks accomplish their running goal.