Six days after the Big D Half, I ran another half marathon. Notice, I didn’t say race. That wouldn’t have been smart coming off recent sickness and such short recovery. But it was my first race to ever real deal “pace” someone. And that someone just happened to be one of my best friends, Tara.
Tara’s run 3 other halfs in the past. But she’s one of those runners who doesn’t consider herself a runner, doubts her capabilities and has never followed a true training plan. So back in January, she asked me to make her a training plan for this half and gave it her all for 14 weeks. She did speed work, tempo runs and long runs and kept to my suggested training paces. Her previous PR had been a 2:39 and her goal was to run a sub 2:20 half this time (that’s a 10:36 pace).
I had been keeping a close eye on her training in MapMyRun and knew she could do it. I actually knew she’d do between a 2:10-2:20 based on her recent running. But training and race day are different beasts and we’d have to see.
THE MORNING OF THE RACE:
We drove to the race with our friends Laura and Stephanie who were also running the half and hoping to PR big time. The race was in Irving, another suburb of Dallas only about 20 minutes south of us, so that was nice and parking was fabulously close to the start line. The weather seemed super nice, in the mid 60s but the winds were crazy at 6 am. I didn’t want to worry Tara with this bit of info. I had made certain Tara, not a big breakfast eater, ate at least toast and a half a banana (my half breakfast of choice) that morning and we did a half mile warmup before lining up for the start about 7:30 am. I could tell she was nervous and “wanted to get it over with.” I wasn’t going to leave her side and was for damn certain she was going to hit her goal! We originally lined up around the 2:20 pacers but being me, that made me anxious. I didn’t want to start there. I mean I knew that was her goal, but I also knew that 50% of people overshoot their time expectations and line up with a pacer that’s too fast for them so if we ran at the beginning with that group of people, we’d likely get stuck… just the way I think. We ended up in between the 2:10 and 2:20 pacers and that made me relax. Remember, I’ve never paced anyone and my pace is normally not in the 10s… so who the heck knew if my way of thinking was smart.
At the race start, the winds were 20 mph. But we had each others’ companionship and the miles began and I made sure to start us off conservatively. Our first mile was a 10 minute mile (remember I was shooting for 2:10-2:20 for her) and as we kept going I made sure to keep watching my watch. Tara said she was feeling great, despite the winds. We just kept running and I kept talking. Come to think of it, I think I talked 80/20. Of all the talking done during this race, the split was 80% done by me and 20% done by her. Makes sense, since this was her goal race. About mile 6.5 I could tell there became a small struggle. We’d been running into the wind the entire time at this point and I knew she was feeling it. Luckily we were doing a turnaround and I had been trying to get her to swallow alot of chews at mile 5 but she doesn’t take them down as well as me. She finally did between mile 6.5-7.5 and at that point we ran into a girl from Dallas who wanted to run with us and so we ran with her for about a mile. I chatted her up about her running interest and racing history while Tara listened just behind us. At this point in order to keep pace, I was having us jog a 10 min 20 sec pace for about 2 min and then run a 9:45 min pace for 2 min and alternating off and on to try to keep our pace about 10 min per mile. Tara was rocking it!
She wasn’t doing much talking at this point. At mile 8.5 we ran into these two men, first time half runners and they ran alongside us for about two miles until I realized they were slacking and we needed to keep on keeping on. Up until mile 12 Tara did fabulous at the surge, slow down, plan that we’d started at mid race. At mile 12 we began ascending a hill and as much as I tried to keep us at our 10 min pace, Tara’s tank was running on fumes. Her legs were shaking (while running), and she was shuffling. I would run ahead of her a few feet to keep her ‘chasing’ me and then run back to her to make sure she was ok. I knew the last two miles were gonna be tough for her. And they were. Our mile 12 slowed by a minute per mile. Mile 13 began and while there was a small hill, it wasn’t the hills, it was just her VO2 threshhold had been hit and she was done. It was probably because of the pace I had pushed her to run the entire race, but she still slowly but surely crossed that finish line with me by her side and a smile on her face in an amazing finish time of 2:13:48 (2:13 pace)! She had tears running down her face from happiness and I can honestly say, had I not pushed her so hard, I don’t know if that sweet taste of personal victory would feel as good! It was such a huge PR for her! Over 36 minutes and a huge personal accomplishment for me too, to be able to pace her to her goal! Even though it wasn’t my race, it was just as enjoyable because I got to share in her special day!
Our medals – so pretty!
Our friends Steph and Laura also had HUGE PRs, too!
LESSONS I LEARNED FROM THIS RACE:
- You can pace someone but you can’t run for them. TARA put in all the work, NOT me, to fulfill her half goal! That takes pacing someone with drive and determination.
- My form and cadence are much better when I go slower.
- I’m so much friendlier to everyone on the race course when I’m pacing someone else or just running as opposed to racing. I was high-fiving people, thanking them and chatting people up left and right on the race course. (not normal when I’m in MY race mode)
- In race photographs, my enormous Arnold leg muscles don’t pop out (guess they aren’t engaged as much) LOL.
- My hips, back and glutes didn’t hurt.
- No post race soreness.
I had such a good time! I hope I didn’t bug the you know what out of Tara! I would definitely pace again! Have you ever paced a friend or is it something you’d want to do???