If you follow me on social media, you may already know that on Sunday 13th October 2019 I was a pacer for the 8k Turkey Trot race in Victoria, British Columbia.
Being a pacer is something I have wanted to do for a couple of years now, but never thought I would be able to; it was purely down to a lack of confidence in myself, I just didn’t feel like a good enough runner to be a pacer. What rubbish! If you are able to run a pace consistently that allows you to easily talk throughout the race if necessary, then you can be a race pacer!
In the lead up to the race I was a bundle of nerves. What if I run too fast? What if I run too slow? What if I don’t cross the finish line in exactly 55 minutes? What if I need to stop for the washroom or get injured? What if I mess up someone’s dream of reaching 55 minutes? I could go on, my mind was racing (HA – no pun intended!). But you know what, I’d signed up, so no matter how anxious I was, I was going to be a pacer!
The morning of the race went really fast. I got up at 6:30am, had breakfast, put on the gear I’d laid out the night before, visited the washroom a few times, then was ready to go. My husband and I ran down to the start line, partly because I wanted to tire my legs a little so I wouldn’t run too fast. We went the long way round and ended up coming through the start line for the marathon and half-marathon runners – well that was a mistake! Took us ages to squeeze through and get to where I needed to be…..15 minutes late – I absolutely hate being late! For the following 30 minutes I kept warm, visited the washroom again, and watched the marathon and half-marathon runners go by before heading up to the 8k start line. I was surprisingly not nervous by this point, I was ready to get going.
The race was a bit of a blur if I’m honest; the parts that stood out in my mind the most were around the kilometer markers when I would check my pace and adjust it accordingly. I loved the last 500 meters as this is when I was spouting out my motivation, trying to encourage runners to dig deep for the last little bit.
Crossing the finish line and getting that finisher’s medal felt so much sweeter knowing that I’d been there to help others reach their goals. I didn’t cry, but I was definitely feeling on the emotional side! I will for sure be looking for pacing opportunities in the future.
And if being a pacer is one of your dreams I say do it! You’ll have an absolute blast – even if you are super anxious in the lead up to it! Here are some tips from my experience.
-pick a pace group that is realistic and a comfortable goal based on your current fitness and experience. I went with the 55 minute (6:50/km) pace group as this is typically within my range for a long slow distance run, and I knew I could keep it going for the whole race while also being able to talk to runners around me.
-write out the times at which you should be hitting each mile/kilometer marker; this can either be on a band around your wrist like I did, or on a piece of paper taped to the poll of the pacer sign. My Garmin wasn’t recording the splits accurately, so having the times I needed to be at for each marker made it easier for me to calculate whether I was running too fast or too slow and adjust accordingly.
-keep your pacer sign up high – throughout the race I was approached by runners who had a question regarding the pace or race. Having the sign held high throughout allowed them to easily identify me.
-when a water station was coming up, I shouted to let the runners know it was coming up to give them time to move over to the side of the road.
-In the final 500 meters, encourage everyone you pass to keep going. Remind them this is what they trained for – this is their chance to dig deep and finish strong.
If you have any questions on being a pacer or the race itself, please either write a comment below or send me an email – happy to help.
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