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Monday, January 20, 2014

Louisiana half marathon pacing duties

I can't say it enough - the Louisiana Marathon is a top-notch race. I love the beautiful course, the always-perfect weather (sunny and 60's today), the gourmet food (alligator chili anyone? How about ceviche on toast, pulled pork on white beans, frog leg and goat cheese pies, or one of the entrees in the vegan corner?), the friendly and helpful staff, and the runner-oriented attention to detail. In all the races I've run, this is the only one that always has enough port-a-potties and never runs out of paper. I arrived with less than 15 minutes to the gun, and there were no lines for bathrooms - and there were several thousand runners. The director just said he's willing to pay more to make sure the race starts on time and everyone is happy!
It's 5:15 am - driving. I have my throw-back 2012 Louisiana marathon jacket and my "Runner powered by coffee" cup! 

Once I got into the right corral, I spent a few panicked moments hunting for my friend Jenni, only to realize she was on a warm-up. As soon as I found her, the national anthem started, and in minutes we were off. I've never paced a race before, and I found it surprisingly difficult. It's actually harder to rein your pace in and keep it there than to race! And I had to be mindful of Jenni and her goals and needs. I tried to be helpful - grabbed extra water, threw her gu packets out for her, called mile splits.
The starting line, complete with lovely sunrise and migrating birds.

Before the race started, we only had a few seconds to talk, and I asked Jenni if she was going to listen to music, should we talk or be quiet, and if she wanted to hold a steady pace or negative or positive split. But I didn't ask an important question: what if you're behind pace? Should I keep at goal pace? Slow down with you? Remind you? Urge you on?
Unfortunately, I found myself in that situation: she was running smoothly and easily, talking to a lot of people, but after the first 2 or 3 miles was about 5 seconds off pace. I didn't know what to do, but finally I did tell her, "You need to pick this next mile up, we're off pace. Our last mile was 8:05 and our average halfway though this mile is 8:07." She did, but I don't know if I offended her. I didn't want to - I tried to think what I'd want in that situation, but anyway, I felt awkward and rude.

Then all of the sudden it was mile 10, and we'd be separating at mile 11. Another runner was joining her at mile 13 to the finish. I shared my last-minute marathon advice: if you hit the wall, you half to override your body. Your mind needs to tell your legs, "Keep going. There's energy stores in your muscles, and you'll only release them by squeezing your muscles. Keep moving!". Then I turned off, hit the gas, and passed a hundred people (most of whom I know, none of whom would finish with me, meanies) and finished with 1:42:30ish.

I'll probably talk more about the finish fest later, because it's such a wonderful event, but after hanging out for awhile, I headed back to meet Jenni at mile 24: right before the big bridge at the finish. I ran with her and her other pacer until the finish. She had slowed just a tad at that point, and ran 3:33. It wasn't her goal, but it was a BQ! And she really sprinted it in for the last 0.2, which is so fun to watch.

Have you ever paced? What are you supposed to discuss with the racer beforehand? What questions did you ask?


  1. Good for you on giving up your race to pace. Pacing is not easy and you should be applauded for your efforts!

  2. If I was being paced, I'd want to be pushed and prodded.

    I toyed with the idea of that race this year but settled on one in early March instead, and I'm glad I did after hearing "sunny and 60s." That's too warm for me to have a decent race!

  3. this makes me want to run it next year!!!

  4. I don't think I could pace someone at all...

    Great job!

  5. Great job on the pacing - hope you're feeling okay today and not getting achy in the problem areas. You're a good friend to do that. I paced my wife once at the Disney Marathon. It went pretty well, but obviously I didn't say "You need to pick it up" ... I think we all know where that would've went. Rest your legs for a few days. Don't be a dummy.

  6. Glad to hear that things went well! If I ever get a pacing job.. not sure that is likely..I will remember to ask about whether to prod or not! I just assumed that whatever pace I ran they would try to come along.. but what if they didn't?