Pacing Helvetia 2015: My First Experience as a Pacer

by Jodi
Some of the pace team Paula pulled together
Carissa told you about her Helvetia Half Marathon experience in the last post.  Isn't she great?  I also was at that race but in a totally new capacity.  Paula Harkin, owner of Run With Paula Events, asked me to join her as a pacer for the race.

I have never paced a race before and was pretty nervous about other runners relying on me to help them hit their goal pace for a race.  After all, I just figured out how to run negative splits and manage my pace per mile in the past year. Would I be able to lead other runners - on a hilly course - to their goal time?
Me and Carissa before the start of the race.  Kind of intimidating to wear a Portland Running Company Race Team singlet.  Feels totally out of my league.
Questions and doubts plagued me.  I was assigned to the 8:30 pace group, a pace I often run with friends, but not my typical race pace.  I was worried about going too slow.  And worried about going too fast. To complicate things, the course is really hilly, especially in the middle miles.  I typically solider slowly up the hills then bomb the other side to pick up speed, but not all runners take this approach.  Were we supposed to hit a consistent 8:30 pace mile after mile or just finish with an overall average pace of 8:30?  Can you get fired from a volunteer job?

On race morning, the 8:30 (pace per mile) Pacer Group was comprised of me, Paula, Amanda and Chris.  We all tied balloons to the back of our shirts, did a little warm up, and joined excited racers in the start corral.
selfie at the start of the race
The first two miles of the course are flat and fast.  We clocked both of those at an 8:08 pace - too fast, but it gave us a cushion to run slower on the hilly miles.  It turns out we didn't really need the cushion.  Our group of runners held steady at a slightly too fast pace for most of the race.  Even on the hilly miles, they stayed at or below an 8:30 pace.  It was impressive.

I think I had more trouble trying to run in a straight line than I did holding a steady pace.  The four pacers were trying to run in a line together, but I kept slipping ahead by a step or two and knocking my balloon into Paula's face.  Or I'd fall back a few steps and get bonked by her balloon.  It took us a good eight miles to figure out how to run without attacking each other with our balloons!

In the end, we hit the finish line ahead of schedule by almost a minute.  A couple of runners in our group PR'd on the course and they were so stoked about it.  It was really satisfying to see how pleased they were and know we helped them reach their goal.
Amanda, Paula, and me
I enjoyed participating in a race without having to kill myself for a finish time.  It was fun to run with a different goal - to help others do something awesome - and simultaneously spend time with my friends doing something we all love.  Plus I got to share a burger and a beer with Carissa at the finish.  What else could I want?
I LOVE this girl!
If I don't get fired for running our group into the finish too fast, I'd love to pace another race.  Thanks Paula for asking me to join you.

Race By The Splits:
Mile One: 8:08
Mile Two: 8:08
Mile Three: 8:23
Mile Four: 8:05
Mile Five: 8:29
Mile Six: 8:24
Mile Seven: 8:12
Mile Eight: 8:20
Mile Nine: 8:27
Mile Ten: 8:22
Mile Eleven: 8:24
Mile Twelve: 8:18
Mile Thirteen: 8:23
Mile 13.2: 1:53

Finish Time: 1:50:04 - 13.23 miles - 8:19 average

Great work Helvetia runners!

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