Another race. Another pacing duty. But for the first time, I’m a bit fazed. I was thinking that I may be biting off more than I can chew.
Run United 2 (RU2) is my second voluntary pacer duty for the year. As always, we volunteer pacers don’t receive any monetary gains in doing so. We’re not even entitled to finisher’s shirts and other entitlements that regular finishers enjoy (except for the medal, provided that the event you’re pacing has one). Like the other pacers, I’m here for the love of the sport and to give back to the community. This is just continuing where we left off back in RU1. Since the theme of Run United is to “exceed yourself,” I decided to be an example and bring my assignment up a few notches—from 10K to 21K.
Being a pacer is not easy. You have to ensure that you finish in your prescribed time (preferably earlier) while encouraging interested runners to join your group in the hope that it does help them be better. But for you to be able to do that successfully, you have to do it in a pace that is comfortable with you. You can’t be a 60-minute pacer for 10K if your personal best is just around 60 minutes! That is why whenever I pick a pace assignment, I ensure that I’m comfortable with that pace. And true to the word “pacer,” I do look at the average pace per kilometer, not the total time.
From RU1’s 60-minute 10K, it’s time to step up to RU2’s 2:11:00 21K. I picked this group because it was mentioned that the average pace would be a relatively comfortable 6:30/km—not too slow, not too fast. But I should’ve known better than to take others words without double checking. It was only much later when somebody noticed that the computation provided for our group was wrong! Turns out that the correct pace for this time is actually 6:14/km. It may be “just” 16 seconds faster per kilometer, but that difference totals 5:36 over 21K! So basically I have to run five and a half minutes faster than what I thought I had signed for.
Because I had unexpectedly signed up for a faster pace than I had wanted, I was forced to train. 6:14/km pace is by all means outside my comfort zone. It is too slow for my typical 21K race pace, and too fast to be in the relaxed pace. I was really aiming for the latter as I always want my pacing duty to be fun, but since I ended up with a faster pace I was forced to take things more seriously. Fun is out of the equation. This is duty.
Race day, and I was still a bit uneasy. I didn’t know if I had logged enough miles, but I was hoping that my training was enough to get the job done. But as an added precaution, I took my multivitamins daily, did carbo-loading as early as Thursday before the race, and took an entire sachet of Unilab Active Health Sports Gel prior to the race. I even brought two sachets more with the race with me just to be sure I won’t be short of nutrients while pacing.
Unlike RU1 when pacers were placed ahead of the starting line, we’re starting this time together with runners behind the starting line. On a similar note, we’re still sporting those big bibs on our backs and a few (two to be exact) balloons for us to be easily spotted.
Our group started the race on a very relaxed pace—kind of like a warm up, for the next few kilometers. It’s quite a feat to run on a fast pace on the early stages of a race like Run United due to the volume of runners so might as well take that opportunity to just do your warmup. And so basically for the first half of our race, we were playing catch up to our average pace of 6:14/km.
Pleasantly, but not so surprisingly (for me at least), we’re still quite strong as we entered the second half of our race. In fact, this is one of the few times when my second half is faster than my first! We took our first 10K in 1:02:00 and on our 20K by 2:02:12. I guess our easier than planned first half pace saved our strengths for the last half of the race. But what surprised me the most was that we were actually able to arrive in front of the finish line with a few minutes to spare, relative to gun time! This gave us our last opportunity to encourage runners to finish before our promised 2:11:00 finish time.
On a personal level, I do think that I was successful in exceeding myself. Despite all the doubts that I had before the race, we finished in a much better time and condition than I had expected. On a group level, I’m proud that our group managed to successfully deliver our commitment to guide runners in finishing 21K in 2:11:00 despite some minor hiccups. There were only a handful that joined our group and stayed for a while as they either went ahead to aim for the sub-two hours or got left behind for more relaxed pace. Nonetheless, I sure hope that in our little way we were able to help pull some runners to exceed themselves.
To all the finishers, Congratulations! Congratulations as well to all the pacers that were successful in completing their pace assignments. You may view the Run United 2 (2015) race results here.