The Pacer in Me: Helping Runners Exceed Themselves

RU2 Pacer PosterIt’s the second leg of the Run United series. The trilogy that most runners have on their bucket list each year. The race that runners have been preparing for. It’s Run United 2.

The air was filled with excitement as I reached the race venue. My fellow pacers were already getting ready at the pacers’ lounge. Bards, our pacer coordinator, was up and about making sure that each pacer is prepped up before he takes his post at the start line.

The first wave of runners are in the 32k category. By the minute, groups of runners started to trickle in at the start line, getting themselves positioned at any possible spot. Soon, the area before that huge start line arc was filled with runners – the seasoned runners, the elite and podiumers and the first timers of the 32k distance. Everyone was anticipating for the gun start at 3am.

DJ Chloe and Sportscaster Anthony Suntay took to the stage for the pre-race program, and introduced the pacers. Honestly, as soon as my name was called, race jitters rolled down my spine. The huge responsibility of a pacer just sank in on me. To be a pacer for Run United 2 was a challenge I accepted. Also, it’s my way of giving back to the running community, helping out runners to efficiently finish the race, and Exceed themselves.

The Pacer.

I was pacing a group of runners who want to make a 3:30 finish on their 32k. With Mel and Dante taking the lead, I decided to stay in the middle of the pace group to ensure that everyone doesn’t get left behind. In the course of time, perhaps due to lack of training or maybe because it’s a first 32k run,  some runners had challenges keeping up. The 3:30 lead pack was really doing well with runners.

Fulfilling pacer duties at Run United 2. Photo Credit: Running Photographers

Fulfilling pacer duties at Run United 2.
Photo Credit: Running Photographers

From the time we left MOA area, a few runners have been keeping up with me up until we made a U-turn at KM0. One lady runner was already losing grip. Giving her words of encourage perhaps wasn’t enough as she decided to just take it slow. But that was commendable. She was running with us at an average of 6:45/km for the 8 kilometres. There were two other runners who were visibly running alongside with me. One of them just got lost in the dark along Roxas Blvd. There were a significant number of runners keeping up as we caught up with Mel and Dante.

By the time we reached Buendia Road, roughly halfway through the race, the stamina and energy have dropped for some runners. On our final U-turn going back, significantly, one runner, who was right beside me for the last 26 kilometres, started to lose grip as well. The 3:30 lead pack was way head of us.

Should I just tell the runner to join a slower pace group so I can join the lead pack? Should I stay behind to give him the push he needs despite him saying “Coach, I don’t think I can make it.” Tough call.

Steven R.
His name’s Steven R., as his personalised bib told me. Instead of him keeping up with me, at some point, I would match his pace so he can feel relaxed. As soon as I knew he was recovering, I’d get back to our normal pace. But he can only hold on so much. I knew he has hit the wall, and was ready to give up. I’ve lost two runners in the course of three hours, and I can’t afford to let one more runner fall off from my pace group. Half an hour to our target finish time, and we still have about 5 kilometres to grind. Steven was already slowing down. 3:30 was almost an arm’s reach. But his condition was somehow making it a far-fetched goal. And I knew how badly he wanted to make a 3:30 finish.

“Block the pain. Think about the finish line.”                     

The Convenience Store.
I let him on his own. I crossed the road to a nearby convenience store. A pack of chocolate could be a life saver at this time. I rushed back to the race course, caught up with Steven and handed him the chocolate. Sugar rush. Just what he needs to keep going. Epic.

The Finish Line.

Photo Credit: Running Photographers

Photo Credit: Running Photographers

We stopped by each hydration station to make sure he gets rehydrated, alternating sports drink with water, pouring water on his head to keep his body temperature down. We passed by more 32k runners, telling them to keep going. Seconds ticked and minutes passed as the time flashed on the LCD of the GPS watch I was wearing. I urged Steven to stop looking at his running watch to lessen the stress he was already feeling.

We’re almost there as we made the final right turn to Seaside Blvd. A couple of minutes to go. The race’s host was welcoming every runner making his way to the finish line. On our last 100 metres, I told Steven to use up whatever energy he has left and sprint towards the finish line. Looking at the race clock hanging by the arc, the running time was 3:35. And it was the best time he could beat.

Have I failed? Maybe yes, because I haven’t made a runner hit the 3:30 target finish time. But on the flipside, I’m certain that I have succeeded because I have helped a runner Exceed himself.

****It’s was a privilege being a pacer for Run United 2, and having been given the opportunity to help others Exceed themselves. Read Steven Romero’s story here: Meet Steven Romero: The Runner Who Took the Challenge and Exceeded Himself


3 Responses to The Pacer in Me: Helping Runners Exceed Themselves

  1. golddh says:

    What an awesome way to help folks. Pacers are heroes!


  2. Pingback: Meet Steven Romero: The Runner Who Took the Challenge and Exceeded Himself | RuNNiNG SuPLaDo

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