This weekend, I ran the Michelob Ultra 13.1 Half Marathon in Dallas. It wasn’t a race on my schedule, but when a friend of mine that was organizing the pacers asked if I would pace, I couldn’t say no. This particular race a couple of years ago was my very first half marathon. The course is really nice and it’s MY BIRTHDAY WEEKEND! I quickly asked one of my best running friends if she would be willing to pace with me. I was afraid she might say no because it would mean that we would be giving up an 18 mile training run and she is responsible for pacing our training group. I was so excited when she said YES!
The pace would be a fairly easy run for us with a 2:50 finish. I love pacing runners with a 2:50 or 3:00 finish time. Many times, they are first time runners not sure if they can finish and just praying they don’t get swept up by the SAG wagon. Other times, they are second-time halfers wanting that sub 3:00 finish and unsure if it’s feasible because they remember how bad they hurt trying to complete their first. Whatever their goal, they are some of the friendliest people you will meet at a race. They say thank you to everyone out there cheering them on, keeping them safe and handing them water. They have stories and aren’t afraid to tell them. Stories of how they got up of the couch and lost 100 lbs the hard way. Stories of battling a cancer that is ravaging their body and they want to accomplish something off of their bucket list after facing down death. This is a pretty powerful bunch of runners. We don’t have dreams of age group awards or elite status back here. Pacing this group requires more than just even splits and knowledge of the course. It sometime requires education, such as “what is this ‘gu’ that everyone keeps eating?” But mostly, it requires you to be a top-notch motivator and believing in the runners in the group when they are positive they can’t go any further.
Marcy and I rode together downtown to the start line because the train tracks in downtown were under repair beginning that day, which is about typical. I hate driving downtown because I always get turned around – add a race with closed off roads and I have no idea how I managed to get there. LOL We had to be there by 6:15am so we could grab the pace sticks at the VIP tent and get a group picture taken before the 7am start. The first thing I noticed was that this race felt smaller than it did the last time I ran it, which makes me sad. It’s a good course and one of the few that are in downtown Dallas. We make our way to the start line and immediately begin to see people gather at all of the pace sticks. A few fast selfies with friends pacing other times and we turn our attention to the group. The usual deer-caught-in-headlights looks from people caused me to snap into pacer mode. We began asking questions to warm the up – is this your first half? how has training been going? are you by yourself or with a friend? We quickly told the group that we would be using a run-walk method of 1 minute run and 1 minute walk to get us to the finish. This finish time seems to lend itself well to the 1:1 interval and with newer runners, sometimes that is all they can muster by the time you hit 11 miles. It ended up working out for a girl in the group that was training with the Dallas Galloway group and was well-versed in 1:1’s. There were others that thought they would do a different interval and we encouraged them to do whatever they felt most comfortable with and just stay near the stick because we were running even splits.
Early on, Marcy and I encouraged the runners to get water when they could because the water stops were spaced every two miles until we got to mile 7. In some cities, this might be ok. In the heat of Dallas, the first lesson was that you should always carry water, even in late October. I had to make a pit stop at mile 6 (WHY?!?) and send the rest of them on. Four people in front of me at the portos taking their own sweet time resulted in an 8 minute mile for me to catch up to the group. Thank goodness for run-walk, because I really needed walk breaks for a while after that! Hahaha
Some of the best moments of the race include seeing Devanghi hanging out on the corner while down in the M-Streets, cheering everyone on and seeing one of my son’s old hockey teammates on the Katy Trail working a water stop with his school group. Sunny with the BGR girls just in front of the AAC was superb and they gave the runners a much-needed burst of energy with their enthusiasm and a group working one of the final water stops had “Panther Pride” shirts on. I quickly asked if they were the Hillcrest Panthers. What an awesome surprise to see them out there! I yelled “Go Crest” and told them my son was a student there. They all knew him (I hope that’s a good thing!) and we cheered and went crazy for a second before I kicked it into gear to get us all to the finish line. This is why I run. There are so many great people out there and we are all brought together by this crazy thing called running.
The final mile of the course is all uphill and can be kind of intimidating because you can see it coming. I could hear the heavy sighing and I reminded them that we would finish this hill together, Marcy and I talking them though it. Baby steps, sixty seconds at a time, swing the arms more, keep your body as upright as possible. To see the smiles on everyone’s faces after the conquering of the hill was the bomb. All that was left was a couple of turns. Thanking them for letting me spend the morning with them, we told them to go grab their PRs because they earned them. This group of runners stuck with us the entire race, through a few tears of “I don’t think I can do this.” To have them waiting at the finish line for Marcy and I as we crossed at 2:49:14 (not too shabby, if I do say so…) was pretty stinking amazing. One of the girls actually won her age group!! Seriously, that never happens!!
Swag: This is a race shirt I will wear. It is navy blue and had a cool design by taking its cue from the Dallas BIG campaign. BIG things happen in Dallas with lots of B’s and G’s around town. You stand in between them be cause “I” am part of what makes Big D BIG. I’m a sucker for it, what can I say? Even better? The PACER SHIRT ROCKS! Oh my goodness. Adidas knocked it out of the park with their shirt. At first, we were disappointed because they were supposed to be singlets, but they were so light and airy, that they really kept you cool. There was so much s-t-r-e-t-c-h to this shirt I could have shoved a three hundred pound guy into it with me, but when it isn’t stretched, it was perfectly form-fitting. Definitely some space-age technology going on with this shirt.
Aftermath: I feel as if I have been hit by a car. I think the fast mile mid race about killed my knee because it is so stinkin’ stiff. No bueno. Lots of yoga and stretching, a chiro visit, epsom salt bath and a massage are all on tap for this week because I am running the DRC Half on Sunday for myself in hopes of a sweet PR. Shoot, maybe I’ll even use a pacer to get me there. 🙂