Running 101: Pacing
Running has always been somewhat of a selfish act for me. I recognize that it majorly cuts into my time with friends and family and sometimes alters plans or events. The reason I race is to shoot for PRs to make myself happy. Running is one of the few things I do entirely for myself and don’t apologize for. Truthfully, I believe it keeps me sane.
So, when my mom asked me to pace her in a 4th of July race on Friday, I admit I hemmed and hawed. Every time I’ve promised someone I’d run with them during a race, I’d always pull an “OOPS. I don’t know what happened? I just started running and got excited and I am sorry?”
My mom’s goal was to break 25 minutes in Bernie’s Race. She is very active, but she was worried this goal was a little lofty. At first I said no. “I’m taking a break from racing. I don’t want to see how slow my pace is these days.”
But then I thought back to the Harrisburg Marathon. And how I ran into my friend Jim around the fifth mile and we had stuck together for about 10 miles before accidentally parting ways. I remembered how nice it was to have company and have someone there to talk to.
So I agreed. And I pinned a bib to my shirt for the first time since the disaster that was my Boston Marathon experience. As I lined up with hundreds of other runners in the street, I felt the familiar pre-race jitters creep in. I was nervous!
Once the gun went off, everyone went flying. My mom and I settled into a seven-minute pace which I immediately barked to her that we needed to SLOW DOWN. The excitement of the start of the race had everyone going out much too quickly. We slowed to a slightly sub-eight minute pace, and I tried to maintain a casual conversation with my mom. We hit the first mile in 7:38, which was a bit quicker than our goal, but she felt good, so we went with it.
Our second mile included a lot of turns, and I could tell my mom was starting to struggle. I kept chatting, talking nonsense, mentioning how good beers would taste that night, talking about fireworks and trying to distract her. Our second mile we hit in 7:57.
“This is it. One mile. EVERYTHING. YOU. HAVE.” I said in what I hoped was an encouraging tone.
“I. AM,” she said to me, perhaps through gritted teeth. I continued to chatter, offering words of encouragement and advice, to which I received zero response.
As we turned the corner onto the final stretch, I told her she needed to “haul ass.”
“We aren’t going sub-25, we’re going sub-24 today. PICK IT UP,” I yelped to the woman who had given birth to me and has put up with my nonsense for 28 years.
With everything she had, we crossed the finish line together, coming in at 23:51, good enough for her to score second in her age group.
This wasn’t my fastest race, but I will never ever forget it. My mom didn’t stop smiling all weekend, and kept randomly hugging me to thank me for running with her. I couldn’t have been more proud of her and that medal.
I think it may become “our” thing, because suddenly my mom felt much better about my pacing.
“You better come back and run with me next year. I am winning my age group,” she declared.
A job I can’t – and wouldn’t- possibly turn down.