Three years ago, I jumped into the world of being a race pacer with no clue of what I was doing or for that matter how much it would change me as a runner. But I will go into that more shortly. The race was the Pacific Northwest Marathon for their half marathon event. It is kind of ironic that my 30th half marathon and my pacing birthday.
I returned this year as a third year pacer. Being with them since day 1 has let me see how much this race has grown since the beginning.
If you read any of my previous reviews, you will understand this is not the typical race you will see in Oregon. This is more like a super supportive group running event that gives you a medal. It leads to this being an affordable more all abilities friendly race. Packet pick up was a small affair at Dicks Sporting Goods, allowing you to pick up your shirt where you got a choice of color and style and your packet. One thing that I will always love with this race is it is small enough the race directing team gets to know you and know what motivated you to be at this race.
My Saturday started super early. I was the pace team leader so I needed to be at the race in time for the early starters which gave people who had been slower then 12:00 miles a chance to be on the course. This is a rarity for any Oregon based race. Its a 7:00 hour course limit, which makes it one of the most inclusive races you will see.
I was pacing the 3:00 half but I was going out with the main start group. After Hot Chocolate in March I learned that the 1:1 interval was always going to be my best answer when pacing because it was the easiest intervals to adjust on the fly.
This is one of my favorite courses every year. You take to the streets and back country of Springfield. The only big challenge with this course is the race is small enough the streets are not closed and you need to be careful to watch out for traffic. That being said its a small downside.
I passed a small group I think it was at mile four and at this point I was on my own. One lady decided to tell her friends “I want to see if I can keep up.” I explained to her what I was doing for intervals and she was honest with me, she did not think she could make that pace but was going to stay with me as long as she could.
This is a well supported all volunteer effort for this race. All the water stations had been fully stocked with anything that you could of needed. And this is one of the few races I have ever seen where the elites take the time to cheer for the back of the pack as they pass (its an out and back.)
My favorite part of the course is through Armitage Park getting to run so close to the water is breathtaking. After the park you get back into the urban part of Springfield before making the half way turn.
My new friend, Kari was doing excellent. She was in pain but she wanted to keep pushing so I kept talking her through it. She explained to me she just wanted to prove to herself that she could do it.
The course started getting really wet after we made the turn but for me this was turning into the best effort I had pacing since I started this. I was running just a few seconds early all away through.
Now the one thing is going back some of the water stations had been left unmanned. Most of this was probably due to the weather. But there was enough stuff laid out at each that you had nothing to worry about.
When we got to the last mile I realized I did have a couple mins I could burn off and still be close to I told Kari to walk a little more and save her energy for the last push at the end. She was a little worried about the 5K’ers coming in so fast around us, but I told her just focus on what we are working on and she will be fine. She was almost in tears at this point. She was hurting but wanted her daughter to see her finish strong. I think we made the right call in the long run because just at the last quarter mile she felt like she was ready so I told her to go and I was screaming for dear life. She finished in 2:59.
The finish line was amazing. You get your medal and treated to a spread of community offered up food. And unlike a lot of races people will stay to support you. I stayed to collect signs and cheering for my fellow pacers.
Then the race director asked me to add a few miles on to my race.
We had some marathoners out on the course at mile 18. And this was close to 6 hours in from the early start. They drove me out and I walked with them for about three miles. It was inspiring see some of the dedication out there.
This race teaches me so much every year. This year it reminded me why I love running. It is about the people, the stories and the community that can encourage each other.