Pacing in a Tutu Vancouver USA Marathon
Today I ran the Vancouver USA Marathon in WA as the 4:20 pace leader for FRNW, in a tutu. Last year in this same tutu I paced for the 4:10 group, but we didn’t have a 4:10 group this year and already 2 signed up to lead the 4:00 so 4:20 it was for me. This year was also different in that it got hot, ok well in the NW that is like 65 degrees. Wow I never thought I would be saying that… yup I must be from the NW. But the humidity with that 65 degrees was about 70-80% so it felt pretty draining.
We started out at 7am just about perfectly on time and I headed out carrying my stick and saying hi to those around me who I hoped would stay for the entire ride and we could cross that line together. My group this round was filled with some really great people. First there was Cory and Shane, a father and son that dad was helping his 16 year old through his first marathon, dad has finished 9. There was also the 59 year old Kathleen who was going for a BQ and needed to be under 4:25 with her husband and daughter on the side of the course cheering for all of us throughout the day. Or Gail MM 225 who was there the whole time hanging tight sharing race stories and running strong. There was also the 50 states guy from ATL who would need only 7 more after today’s race and many others that just made the group very fun to lead!
The thing that I realize that I love about pacing is you really start to make running into a team sport which especially for the marathon can feel like a lonely sport- especially on those tough race days. But out there as a pacer you have a team of people that are running with and around you that are looking to you to get them to that finish line on time and at an even pace- it’s a tall order, but one that you start to realize means more than hitting those splits on a watch. It’s about learning about those that you are running with and their goals and drives that brought them to this same path that you are on for the day.
But it’s not all easy chit chat and fun and joy and goodness. Nope, today got hard, we hit hills and the sun hit us at about mile 18/19 and we started losing people from the group and I really really wanted to slow down. But being that I had the sign, I had to keep going. I had to stay on pace, that was my job for the day. So I gutted it out. I pushed up the hills, tried to coast gently back down them, and run even and consistent on the flats. There were dark times, when I was tired and wanted to stop or questioned why I was wearing a tutu, it had to be adding heat. Then I would snap out of it, remember that I was there to get others to the finish line and would shot out some encouragement. At mile 23 I told everyone they were doing amazing and we were going to finish strong. Just saying it helped me feel better and ensure there was some pep in the step to keep us going.
We crossed the line at 4:20 and a few from the group were either just ahead or just behind. Others were a few min off pace do to the heat, but overall everyone was happy they finished. I stayed in the finish chute to congratulate those that were a part of the group and not. One of my favorite parts of doing this is all of those that I had no idea I was leading, that stayed back or that I picked up and the end when they realized that the 4:20 person was about to pass them and they got on their horse. It was those people coming up at different times and saying a quick thanks that made all the post race pain melt away. I was happy. Happy to be there, to have helped them achieve their goal and to be around my great friends in the NW running community. Today was a great running day!