Pacing a Non-PR

Blah blah blah, Superbowl, blah blah food salsa guacamole beer commercials, whatever. I enjoyed it as much as I’m obligated as a red-blooded American. Forgive the pathetically sad little Browns fan for not getting all geeked out on the NFL Holiday.

Prior to all the pigskin nonsense, I took my beautiful 6am face and spirit fingers north on the beach path to shower the Surf City runners with my presence.

Brian’s coworker that I stole and forced to be my friend was hoping for her first Sub-2 hour half, and wanted somebody to get through the last 3 miles with.  Luckily for her, I know a little about getting near the end of a goal race and needing a friendly push…

I just hoped she’d get to me feeling a little better than I did when I found @EmilySweats at mile 24 of Sub4OrDie Long Beach.

That was not so fun. But it would have been a lot worse alone.

Believe it or not.  I think.

So I did what any responsible pacer and run-friend would – got up early, sent precise course coordinates where I’d find her, and sharpie’d the splits we needed all over myself.  (Yes, they are still faintly visible this afternoon.)

When I text her that picture with “Good luck see you soon!” I got this back :

Tough girl.  I thought everybody threw hissy fits when last-minute derailings happen to months of hard work and training?  Just me?

Brian and I ran the 6 miles up to the start (yes, together, go ahead and throw up on yourself) and caught Rebecca in the pack just as they took off. Gave her a big yell from the side lines and hoped for the best.

I got another 2.5 miles or so in (total for the day ended up being around 12) running out to our designated meeting spot and found myself along the full marathon route.

‘Oh! SR and Pam should be coming through here soon!’

photo cred – SR

If you are in the market for a very drill-sergeant’y pacer, SR’s your girl. Pam was all, “Hi SarahOUaL! So nice of you to run a bit with us, how are you hun??” and SR’s all, “QUIT TALKING YOU’RE WASTING ENERGY! SPEED UP. SLOW DOWN. LIFT YOUR KNEES SQUEEZE YOUR BUTT SUCK IN FLEX YOUR ARMS. LET’S GOOOO”

So I ran with them until SR’s threats of shanking me if I bumped Pam or derailed their race in any way became a little too much for my sensitive self to handle.  I ditched them at the 18 mile mark and made my way back over to Rebecca’s pick up spot.

I watched runner after runner after hundreds of runners go by – hawkeye’ing every inch of course looking for her pink shirt and white hat.

No Rebecca.

I couldn’t help but get anxious as the seconds/minutes ticked past her projected arrival.  I was nervous I’d missed her, nervous she’d be too far behind to save, and mostly, nervous I wouldn’t know what to say or do when(/if) she got to me.

All I’ll say is she was in a world of hurt by the time that point came.

I asked how she was feeling.  Offered water.  Asked what I could do to help.  “Too fast?  Too slow?  Do you want to push or do you want me to stay here next to you?  Do you want to hear a scandalous story to take your mind off the pain??  We’re drinking later, right??

All of these came with either a tiny nod or weak shake of her head.  I felt like the worst run-friend in the universe.  Why don’t I know what’s wrong?!  Why can’t I fix this?!  Why can’t I give her the PR and picture-perfect finish she wants and deserves?!

Talking to her afterwards, I profusely apologized for not knowing what to do.  She laughed.

R : “Sarah, I would NOT have gotten through that race without you.  I missed my PR, but knowing you were waiting for me at mile 10 was the only thing that kept me moving when it started to hurt at mile 8.  You did perfect.  I got to the finish because of you.”

… cue teary eyes.

R : “We’ll try Sub2 another time. You’ll wait for me at 10 again?”

Ummm, F Yes I will.  Game on, pacer pants.  I’ll start working on my telepathy skills.

Sarah OUaL

45 thoughts on “Pacing a Non-PR

  1. Loved this post … I injured myself in Nov of 2010 it took me of course my very young running career … I ran the Toronto Half in 2:00:18 in Oct 2010 … got injured doing 12 miles on Nov 6th … World Running Day … and after that did not run more than 4 miles … maybe out of shape … maybe scared of injury … on Sunday I decided I would run not hard but long as far as I could to see if I still can do it … and I did! I am so happy … I ran 10 miles in 1:50 … I started feeling my IT band bother me a little around mile 5 … I stopped when I felt the pain … stretched and hydrated … the pain would go away … I would repeat … right around mile 8 … I was getting tired and my mind started to become cluttered … I was getting ready to stop … and suddenly a guy passed me as I was stretching and he said … “you can do it … just keep running” … I needed that … after he told me I smiled and got a new burst of energy that helped me get to my 10:21 miles (back to my starting point) … I saw him as he was making his way back to his starting point … I told him “thank you, I needed that” and I did … I can imagine what your friend felt … because a few kind, encouraging words helped me get the energy to help me finish … sorry for the long comment ! Just wanted to tell you thank you for giving the push, the words, the non words … when a fellow runner needed them!


  2. try punching her in the face next time, thats what i did to pam.

    seriously though, i felt the same way – what could i have done better to help you achieve your goals? i felt a sense of failure on my part.

    but theres always another race!


    • I know you were so mean!! ;) maybe not mean enough huh? DON’T take that anger management class you signed up for. k? k!!

      No failure. I gave you/me all I had. perfect weather, perfect race with an almost-perfect friend! :) xo


  3. I’m training/hoping/wishing for a sub-2 hour half as well!

    What do the numbers on your hand/arm mean? I get that 10, 11, 12, 13 are the miles but I can’t decipher what the other numbers mean.


  4. Oh man – I sometimes feel like this when I’m running with Paula and she’s having a horrible run. It’s like talking to a tree — but I know if I bailed on her it would be SO much worse! That’s awesome that you volunteered to help your friend out – I hope she gets her sub-2 soon!!


  5. I’m petrified to start running, but I feel desperate to start!!! I have so many things going on in my world and I know I just NEED TO RUN. How do I do it? I wish I lived in Cali and could join you guys on your runs. Maybe I should convince my husband to move us there. Or maybe you should just come to Oregon and train me. Pllllllease!!!!


  6. It was so great seeing you on the course!! Your smile made me smile! Your such a great cheerleader. Thanks for running a few with us! SR was telling me all kinds of mean things, I think towards the end she meant to hand off a water to me but, threw it at me instead. Mean huh??! ;) nah…she was AWESOME. She did such a great job hanging in there with me!! :)

    You’re an awesome friend too for running the last few with your amiga!! :) It was a PR (perfect run) day!!


    • It’s Nike, bought it on clearance at Sports Authority. It’s super light and tissuey instead of normal stretchy spandex, and two kind of separate panels rather so it’s looser, although that does make it kind of prone to “flashing” if yaknowwhatimean. I think this is it :


  7. Oh pacing is tough! There is so much pressure. But it sounds like you did a great job getting her to the finish line. I’ve death marched to a few finish lines, and there’s really nothing you can do when it gets to that point. There will always be another race!


  8. Love this post! I can definitely appreciate how personally you and SR both took it that your friends didn’t hit their PR goals. It meant as much to you as it did to them! That’s a good friend!


  9. Does it freak you out when I call out your name like I know ya?? I started out running like it was a 10K so when I hit the 8 mile mark I was so done….I think I spotted you around mile 10 and when I shouted out to you, you replied “keep running” which was brilliant cause at that moment my mind was telling me to f*ck this running stuff and start walking, so I convinced my mind to listen you instead and I kept running….longest three miles of my life but I made it across the finish line and was a whole minute faster than my time from the Irvine Half last month – Thanks for the encouraging words!


    • Haha – I’m glad I helped in some weird way! I never know what to say to runners during a race – everything seems trite and stupid after it comes out. Way to stick it out and congrats on the improvement over Irvine!


  10. Dont feel badly, there is only so much a pacer can do. Last race I ran, Surf City 2010 I was trying to stick with the 4:45 (yes I am that slow) and hit the wall hard at 12 miles (should have actually trained…). He was great and tried so hard to have me hold on but short of a piggy back ride nothing was going to work. I am sure your friend will get there.


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