Friday, November 25, 2011

First and Last 20 Miler for the Rocket City Marathon: Pacing Practice

I am running in the Rocket City Marathon on December 10, 2011 as a pacer for the 3:55 group.  This will be my second time to pace in the marathon.  You can read about my time last year here and here.  I felt somewhat discouraged about my pacing experience last year and vowed to be more on pace this year.  If you reading this because you want to run in the 3:55 group, let me assure you that I will get you there on pace this year.  The things that I learned last year will help me, as will having a faster pace (I paced the 4:15 group last year).  I take my responsibility very seriously.  In most marathons, I only have myself to let down, but as a pacer, I have others relying on me.  I don't want to let anyone down.  But to be honest, pacing is a challenge for me.  It will involve very controlled running, something that I struggle to do well.

If you have never heard about pacers before, I would like to share a quote from Eric Charette, organizer of the pace teams, who says pacers are chosen "based not only on their ability to cover the distance within a certain time, but they are also outgoing and dynamic people who are able to motivate runners.  They are all experienced marathoners who have deep knowledge of endurance running and all have run a marathon within the previous year that is at least 20 minutes faster than the pace group they are leading."  I would like to add that I've always seen pacers as helpful if you are trying to Boston Qualify.  The 3:55 time is a 2013 BQ time for males 60-64 and females 45-49.  So those two groups of people will probably make up a large portion of my pacing group.  I am excited to also have people in my group who are wanting to break 4 hours.  I hope to see many of them reach this milestone!    

In preparation to pace the 3:55 group, I ran my first and last 20 miler for the Rocket City Marathon last Saturday, November 19.  I am still well trained from the Chicago Marathon and, more recently, the Huntsville Half Marathon.  This training will help me in the marathon, but I still wanted at least one 20 miler just for this race.  If I were running a training run for a regular marathon (not one I am pacing), I would shoot for a pace somewhere between 60 and 90 seconds slower than my marathon pace, or between an 8:30-9:00 pace.  For this run, however, I wanted to be exactly on pace.  I thought it would be a nice challenge and that it would help prepare me for pacing (I know there are some newer marathoners that read my blog out there, so note that running your long runs at pace is NOT recommended!!).  I somehow remembered the pace per mile wrong though, so I thought I needed 8:55s when I actually needed 8:58s.  Close enough!

The run was a success even though my splits were not consistent, especially in the beginning.  I was running with Jane then, and we were not paying attention to pace.  When I ran alone, I was paying more attention and was more consistent.  I also ran a fairly hilly course!  At Mile 19, I conscientiously slowed my pace to a 9:23 to bring my average down.  I felt very in control on this run, and it gave me a lot of confidence about my pacing this group in two weeks.

Splits (aiming for 8:55 pace)
1 9:03
2 9:00
3 9:03
4 8:56
5 9:08
6 9:24
7 8:35
8 8:43
9 8:58
10 9:01
11 8:26
12 8:46
13 8:48
14 8:46
15 8:46
16 8:52
17 8:52
18 8:58
19 9:23
20 8:43
Average 8:55 pace/691 elevation gain

I've met people who just love pacers and people who pretty much hate them.  But I've learned that walking in someone's shoes can do wonders for how you view them.  I now have so much respect for the pacers in the marathons I've run, even though I've never been in a pace group myself!  Running a marathon at a pace 20 minutes or more slower than your marathon time is very challenging.  Pacers are doing this selflessly for the other runners, for anyone that wants to run in their group.  I have a lot of respect for anyone willing to give that a try!


  1. Hi there! I've never known a "pacer" so this was an interesting post. I will be anxious to read about how the race goes. It is a big responsibility like you said but what an honor to be chosen as a pacer. Plus breaking the 4 hour mark for many marathoners is a huge feat. I have only run two marathons and did not join a pace group for either one. I am running one in January and one in March and I have considered it. Have you ever done a post on using a pace group? Just curious.

  2. I think you will be a GREAT pacer once again, my friend! Sure wish I was going to be out there with you. Even though we weren't running together last year, I knew you were out there pacing too. Good luck! I will look forward to an update and the blog post.