Becoming A Race Pacer | Chris Beale
Our Run Gatwick Race Pacers play a vital part in our race. A good Race Pacer must be a steady, consistent runner who is focused on maintaining their speed and helping other runners realise their goals. Read about our friend Chris Beale – from Here We Are Running as he takes on his first race as a Race Pacer.
Being a Race Pacer was simply one of the most rewarding things I’ve done since becoming a runner and I loved every minute of it.
Being a regular runner and taking part in 5k, 10k and Half Marathons, as well as the occasional Marathon, I’ve always admired Race Pacers who I’ve often run with at different races and who’ve helped me to keep going, when it starts to get tough.
For a while now I’ve been thinking, “I’d like to give pacing a go” and in February the opportunity arose to join the Xempo pacing team at the Wokingham Half Marathon.
I was selected for the 2 hour and 10 minutes slot which for me is 30 minutes more than my Half Marathon PB and about 25 minutes more than my current Half Marathon times. So this would be a very comfortable pace, allowing me to concentrate on being consistent and helping to motivate a group of runners looking to dip under 2 hours 10 minutes.
When I found out that I’d been selected to be a Race Pacer, there were two things that I did.
The first was to get in contact with several experienced race pacers that I knew and ask them for their top pacing tips. They were really helpful and I knew that if I followed the tips, I’d be in good shape on the day.
The second thing was to do a few practice runs at the required pace. I’d need to have an average pace of 6:08 per km or 9:55 per mile. I actually found it a little difficult at first to run at a pace that was slower than I usually run for my easy runs. To start with I found myself naturally increasing in speed and then having to slow down again. However, after about the 4th practice attempt, something seemed to click. This was a good confidence booster a few days before the race itself.
When race day came I felt well prepared, although had a few nerves as to be expected. Each pacing group was running in pairs which meant that there was someone else to chat to during the race about the speed we were going and whether we were on track.
Soon after the start I looked around and saw a group of around 20 runners behind us. Early on I wanted to talk to the group, explain how we’d be pacing and give them some words on encouragement. Building that rapport and keeping everyone motivated was one of the key tips I’d learnt for the experienced pacers.
Then during the race it was important to keep everyone informed of our progress, remind them to stay hydrated at the water stations and keeping those words of support going, especially if I could see anyone was struggling a bit. It was also nice to have a chat with some of the runners as we went round and find out a bit about their running journey.
It was a reasonably flat course so we focused on consistent splits throughout, using our watches to check we were running at the right pace. I’m someone who normally operates in kilometres but for half marathons the distance markers are in miles. We had a really useful item called a Pace Pocket that we could check at each mile to see if we were behind or ahead of our target pace.
During the race we inevitably lost a few runners along the way, as well as picking up some that started in front of us but what was really encouraging to see was in the final mile, the majority of those who had been running with us, pushed ahead slightly and left us finishing on our own. I was told by an experienced race pacer that this is the ideal situation and that if you’ve kept it consistent throughout, finished inside half a minute ahead of your target and finished alone, then you know you’ve done your job well.
Being a Race Pacer is all about the rewards, the rewards of knowing that you’ve helped other runners to achieve their goal time in a race and it’s even more rewarding when people come up to you at the end of a race to say thank you or to tell you they got a PB because of you. That’s just a great feeling. So I can safely say that I thoroughly enjoyed my first experience at pacing and it’s certainly something that I’d like to do again.