Today marked my 10th year at the Austin marathon. One year I ran the half, so I can only claim 9 Austin marathons. If you’ve been following my blog then you know I was pacing the 5 hour group. If you have no clue what this is, in a nutshell, the marathon provides designated “pacers” to run a certain time, so if you have a goal, or are trying to qualify to get into Boston, you simply follow them, and they do all the work of running even mile splits the whole way. It is a good way to prevent yourself from going out too fast, and to run smoothly. The 5 hour pacers are the slowest of the pace groups. I had a fantastic partner , Korrie, to help me. Although a slower time, it is still a huge challenge to run evenly and hit the same time each mile, while adjusting for any bottlenecks encountered.
The pacing actually started Friday and Saturday with a lot time at the marathon Expo at the pacer’s booth answering runner’s questions. Most questions had nothing to do with pacing and were related to parking, street closures, and logistics I had nothing to do with. I did get a little lunch break Saturday to go eat the above pictured “carbs“. (can you believe it’s vegan?!?..only in Austin)
Saturday night I was super nervous. Sure, I have run a lot of marathons, but never have I had a lot of people counting on me. Plus, while I felt 100% recovered from RR 50 mile, you never know what might start to hurt after I had put some serious miles in. And, as a pacer, you are also a cheer leader. No matter what I couldn’t slow down, walk (other than to grab water), whine, or appear anything other than totally relaxed. Luckily the expo wore me out and I did sleep.
Sunday morning came, and the pacers were given VIP access. We met at a hotel, and had a breakfast buffet, indoor bathrooms, chairs, and heat! Wow, this was fantastic. Next we were on our way outside to line up. Now, it takes the slower runners awhile to get to the start, so we didn’t start our time until we crossed the mat (aka “chip” time), so I knew the clocks on the course were useless to us. My partner and I both had Garmins and wrist bands with the mile splits we were supposed to hit, so we could constantly check in and make little micro adjustments if we were too fast or too slow. We couldn’t get drastically ahead or behind the splits. The biggest challenge for us was not getting too fast, as the pace we were doing was easy for us both, and it was a constant pulling the reigns in.
The runners who joined us were a varied and inspiring group. We had the winner of “The Biggest Loser” reality show, but the Mexican version with us. He is apparently quite a celebrity in Mexico and had lost something like 150 pounds and this was his first marathon. We had some first-timers, and some folks just looking to improve, or avoid going out too fast. We learned as many names as we could, encouraged folks as much as we could. We both knew there was no way we could be out there 5 hours and not hit a bathroom, so we took turns leaving the course dashing to a bathroom and then doing a mad sprint to catch up. This kinda screwed up our timing, as it added a little extra distance and it made figuring out the splits very tricky. We managed to stay about 1 minute fast the whole way. Ideally we would have been right on, but like I said, this was incredibly challenging!
Stephanie jumped in with our group at about mile 22. We still have at least 20 folks with us. We were at the point we were really pushing some folks to keep on with us. Unfortunately, there is a huge hill at mile 24. We lost almost everyone on it. But, we weren’t “hired” to coach. No matter what we had to stay on our pace, so we couldn’t wait for anyone. We ended with 2 runners going every step of the way, and one had done the practice runs with us, and really was struggling, and it was a thrill to see him hit his goal. Officially we made it in 4:58:30. So too fast. We agreed we did the very best we could, and hopefully a couple folks who fell off on the hill, still hit 5 hours with the cushion we built, but weren’t supposed too.
This was a really fun way to run the marathon. I felt great, since I really had no choice, but my feet are pretty crappy. Most is from last weekend’s fun run. Finishing and having the VIP amenities was another cool part of doing this. We got ushered right into the hotel for another buffet. I am disappointed more folks didn’t stay with us, but the course is tough if you don’t run lots of hills, and especially for first timers.
Next week, I am back to my normal running schedule for awhile, so no more cupcake feasts for me, as I return to the low cholesterol diet.
Congrats to all who ran today!