Pacing the Charleston Half Marathon: Respect for those behind me

Don’t get any crazy thoughts. No more 26.2 miles for this girly.

The Charleston Marathon/Half Marathon/Shrimp and Grits 5K is this weekend, here in my beautiful city. The Charleston Marathon a great local race for a decent price, the proceeds benefit public school arts programs, and it’s not too big like that other large race my city is known for… the one that will remain nameless in this post… the one involving a bridge.

I ran the Charleston half marathon last year and had fun (you can read about it here). Here’s Nadine and I at the finish.

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Instead of running for myself this year, I am pacing the half marathon. Pacing is a great way to give back to the running community, and even if I’m not in shape to race a half marathon, I have enough endurance to run it. I will also help at the race expo.

For my readers who don’t run large, long distance races, here’s how pacers work:

Let’s say you train for a half marathon, and a few weeks before the race, you settle on 2 hours as your goal time. On race day, you can line up behind the 2 hour half marathon pacer, who will wear a bright  green shirt marked with “PACER 2:00” and carrying a big sign that says “2:00”. If you run with that person, you can meet your goal. We pacers will be running with people and encouraging them during the race. It’s free to run with a pacer, and you can read more about the race pacers here.

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My pace group is the 2:30 finishers, which is about an 11:20 pace. It’s the slowest pace group the Charleston Half Marathon offers and about 45 minutes slower than what I’m capable of running.

Recently, I told someone I was pacing and my time slot. His first remark was how slow that is, then he said, “Whoever put you in that time slot must not think much of you as a runner”. That comment stabbed me in the heart. I said that I’m nervous but excited, and maybe I will be a good pacer since I’m vocal and encouraging.

Last Saturday, I ran 7 miles to practice that pace and made some new friends. We ran, talked, and took pictures. It was honestly one of the most fun long runs I’ve had in awhile.

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The half marathoners with a 2:30 goal aren’t that different from those with the goal of a 1:45, the fastest half marathon pace group. They train hard and hit the pavement on Saturday morning just like the local elites. Most of them run longer each Saturday morning, sometimes starting an hour before others, to get their total mileage in.

Many half marathoners aiming for a 2:30 finish are first timers. Some found running on a fitness journey and have lost large amounts of weight. Others just run that pace and enjoy it. Some even say they get their money’s worth out of the course. They run for fun and love, not necessarily to be fast and win- and that’s okay!

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Just like those who win or place in races, my 2:30 half marathoners have stories of triumph and victory. They proudly wear their medals all day, take pictures on the run, and enjoy the post-race beer.  I have the same respect for them as I do my friends who run half marathons a whole hour faster.

I will toe the line with my 2:30 pace group on Saturday, but my respect for them is already deeper than it was before I signed up to pace.

Good luck to everyone running in the Charleston Marathon, Half Marathon, and 5K this weekend. No matter the distance or pace you run, we all cross the same start and finish lines, and we are all runners.

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39 Responses to Pacing the Charleston Half Marathon: Respect for those behind me

  1. nevie b. says:

    hi amy! i will be running the charleston half marathon this weekend and guess what – i was planning to look for the 2:30 pacer! it’s only my second half marathon and i guess your friend would think i’m slow – my PR from my first half is 2:25 so i am planning to pace with the 2:30 group for the first half of the race and then try and push ahead. so maybe i’ll see you! i’ll be wearing a light blue top and black capri bottoms – although with the weather forecast, probably a hot pink jacket and gloves too 🙂 i’m excited to feel like i know a little bit about my pacer! see you in charleston!!

    • Amy Lauren says:

      Hey Nevie, it’s great to meet you. You’ll see me Saturday in my Pacer Swag shirt ;). I think it’s a great idea to start out with our group then push ahead- better to start out at a pace you’re very comfortable with than go out too fast, especially in a half marathon.

      The capri bottoms should work, but definitely bring a jacket and gloves! Depending on the wind, there can be a breeze off the water here. I also recommend “throw away” sweats for marathons and half marathons. The temperature here warms up a lot from 8-10:30 when you’ll be running… Goodwill is a good place to go for throw away sweats (Or you can raid your closet and just find something you no longer want and would donate anyway- which is what I do).

      Get some rest over the next few days and have a safe trip down!

      • nevie b. says:

        thanks amy! i do have a throwaway sweatshirt for the start line – $8 from walmart :p and i did take into account the breeze from the battery – i took a look at the coursemap and realized that’s actually right at the beginning of the course so hopefully my layers will help til i can throw my sweatshirt away. looks like the bib is going on the thigh this race. so glad to connect with you and see a friendly face at the start line!

  2. Adrienne says:

    Thanks for being so motivating! and I bought legit running gloves too! Definitely looking like we will need them! have a wonderful race! =)

    • Amy Lauren says:

      We will need them! hand warmers too- I need to pick some up. I sure hope Target or Walmart will have them… I gotta do that tomorrow. Do you know of anywhere else in West Ashley that may have them?

  3. harveylisam says:

    Um wow, that’s guy’s a jerk. I had stronger language I wanted to use, but I’ll keep it family friendly. 😉 You’re going to be an awesome pacer, and kudos to everyone who crosses that finish line, regardless of their time! I hate snob runners.

    • Amy Lauren says:

      Well, I sincerely hope the comment didn’t come from his heart. However, I think most runners are nice people- it’s just a few that make things look bad :(.

      There are some “snob runners” out there, regardless of how someone places in a race. The last race I attended, I ended up sitting by the winner at the post-race party and we had a great conversation- he was really down to earth and respectful of everyone behind him (and he won!).

  4. Stacy Legg says:

    Some people can be so rude!!!! Eddie says you are an awesome pacer (as you helped him PR at the Lickety Split in Hartsville this past June) and I know from personal experience what a great encourager you are. You will be the best pacer out there!!!! Have a great time 🙂

    • Amy Lauren says:

      I remember pacing Eddie that day! It was fun doing the run and seeing him PR. It was actually more fun doing it that way than racing myself because I didn’t feel pressured to run fast, but I enjoyed it!

  5. I’ll be there running the half, maybe near you. I was going to try to run a 2:15 like I did at Kiawah. However, I may slow down and run with you all for fun since my full is only 2 weeks away.

    • Amy Lauren says:

      You’re more than welcome to run with us :). Or try for 2:15 (2:15 also has a pacer). Nevie who commented above is going for 2:25 so that would be kind of a compromise. Whatever you decide to do, I’ll see ya on Saturday, definitely say hi before the race too!

  6. kristenk says:

    Oh my god! That guy is extremely rude. I’m running my first half marathon at the end of February (Disney Princess Half) and my goal is 2:30. I’m very aware that I probably won’t get that in Disney because it’s so crowded and I may take a picture or two with some characters, but I have another half on March 30th and I’m planning on pushing myself to run under 2:30 since that’s a more serious race. I know I’m slow, but I’m training so hard and I feel like I deserve my medal just as much as the people who finish an hour earlier than me. I wish the people that thought I was slow could spend a day in my Mizunos on long run day to see how hard it is for me to run long miles for the first time ever!

    Sorry for the rant! I think it’s awesome you’re pacing that group. You won’t have to worry about running fast, and you’ll probably be the one getting most of those people across the finish line for the first time ever! Have fun!

    • Amy Lauren says:

      I’ve said that too- anyone who criticizes another runner’s pace, distance, etc should spend a day in their running shoes because we all have different life and health circumstances. Just as long as they give my shoes back!

      If I ran a race at Disney, I’d take pictures with the characters too. Those are definitely the ones to slow down and enjoy. When I pick a race to try to PR, I never go for fun courses or anything… I go for boring, low-key, and flat!

  7. drachtungbaby says:

    In regards to the :”rude guy”, I really think the majority of “fast” runners support everybody who runs. I would actually be nervous doing a 2:30 group, since I wouldnt have a good feel for it. I helped a friend do a sub 2 hour in November and it was a blast. Good luck this weekend!

    • Amy Lauren says:

      Thanks Alex. I agree with you! Most people at the front of the pack are super nice and encouraging- you included :).

      I had the same concern over 2:30 at first. Knowing my recent race times and training paces, I’m probably capable of a 1:45. So, I practiced the pace (I warm up at a 10 min/mile, so I really did have to practice it). I found that if I talk the whole time and pay more attention to things around me, it’s not hard.

      I also considered that some of my group may get a little spread out, so I may actually run up and check on a few who are shooting for a bit faster than 2:30, then run back down the course for those who are shooting for 2:30 flat.

  8. Amy says:

    Yay! Good for you! I have to admit: running 13.1 miles at 11:20 pace sounds rather enticing right about now. Long and slow. And, really, think of how many people will be so appreciative of you after the race because you helped them beat something they did not think was possible. At teh same time, that is a REALLY slow pace if you are a speedy runner and half of the challenge (in a good way!) is making yourself stay there. I cannot wait to hear all about it!

    • Amy Lauren says:

      It is definitely a challenge to run that pace. The practice miles I put in were not easy. Once I get into the groove and chat with others, I can maintain the pace- but I was sore the next day. Crazy sore! I guess it works different muscles. Maybe that’s not a bad thing, though?

      Also, I can really enjoy the course running that pace. It may be challenging to some in my pace group (as it should be- runners of ALL abilities should have a goal to improve, whatever improvement is for that person)… but I sped through the first few miles last year when I ran it for myself. So this year, that’s guaranteed not to happen!

  9. spectacuLAUR says:

    Okay, this is one of my favorite posts from you for two reasons: You expand your mind/opportunities and you are a respectful person. One of my biggest pet peeves when I started really getting into running was how some runners are REALLY full of themselves. You’re right… We both cross the same start and finish lines. It doesn’t matter how fast you make it because, well, you make it! It’s the same distance and you’re STILL a runner no matter what your pace is as you chug along!

    Another positive about this experience is getting to know different people. Since you run with a lot of the same people because of paces, goals, etc. you miss out on meeting new people with different paces, stories, and so on. I think this is just great! Have a blast this weekend 🙂

    • Amy Lauren says:

      Thanks, I’m glad you like the post (btw, I’ve missed your blogs lately and wondered how you were doing- hopefully well!).

      It is really fun getting to run with and know different people with pacing. It’s getting me out of my comfort zone, that’s for sure.

      The numbers game is a difficult one. I feel like people get too wrapped up in it. Setting goals for races is great, and inevitably, runners are disappointed when they don’t meet those goals (I know I am).

      It’s a struggle to find the “happy balance” between your feelings toward your finish time and making sure you have a good time (meaning: time with your friends, time enjoying the event) at the race.

      • spectacuLAUR says:

        I’m doing alright. I keep planning to post but never getting around it, so I’m waiting for the day it just comes natural. For now, I’m just a silent reader 🙂

        And I definitely think it’s hard for people who run A LOT to stay away from numbers and even more so if they start reading about it (magazines, blogs, etc.). Most times, people don’t even know about watches and all the hype around certain things until they start reading too much into it. I think sometimes the more you stay away, the better. Lol

  10. Sarah says:

    Love this, Amy. First off, uhm ouch – whoever said that is a complete moron. Pardon my rudeness but it’s deserved. I hate running “standards”, such as a slow pace/fast pace and how each of those equates to your overall running capabilities. People need to keep their opinions to themselves because you just never know what someone has been through. I’m so freaking excited for you. Your picture from last year looks great with your friend Nadine! Best wishes and have fun 🙂

    • Amy Lauren says:

      Well, there’s a reason why a PR stands for personal record- it is personal, you know? Not a comparison record :). I admire those who have worked hard to get faster, that’s different than someone who is just good at running. Anyone who finishes a half or full is doing a great job just by getting out there, 13.1 or 26.2 miles is no joke regardless of how fast or slow it is.

  11. Preach it sister! Fast or slow as long as you are moving you are beating everyone on the couch. I’ll be doing the full so hopefully I can see you before, after, or during!

    • Amy Lauren says:

      Thanks girly :). I’m sure you’ll do great, I may see you at the end, but I’m not sure how long I’ll be staying around. Think I might hit The Orange Spot for some post-race hot chocolate and enjoy being warm!

  12. love this! no matter how fast or slow you go, a half or full marathon is still a HUGE accomplishment

  13. Liz says:

    I can’t believe somebody said that! Even if they thought it, you shouldn’t say it! I think its’s awesome to pace a slower group (slower than what you run, anyway). That way you know you’ll have the energy to be an encouraging coach and you’ll be able to run back and forth if you need to and still keep the runners going at their pace! If If I can ever make it to be comfortably run a 1/2, I’d love to do something like that! I love helping people meet their goals on shorter runs and used to love being on the people on the PT team when I was in the Army and helping people pass their PT tests!

    • Amy Lauren says:

      One prerequisite for being a pacer is you have to have run the distance a few times and send them your finish times. That way they know you can pace a distance. For example, I could never pace 1:45 because that’s about as fast as I’m capable of running… obviously I could not talk and encourage at that speed, but yes, I could probably run that. So someone whose half marathon time is a 1:56, they will not put them pacing 2 hours, etc.

      It will be awesome helping people meet their goals. If I ran the race, I could PR, but by pacing, I can help others PR. Plus I don’t have to train like mad to try to PR or spend 13.1 miles on the pain train running super fast… haha!

  14. KrisLawrence says:

    Thank you for being a pacer! I think that job would be incredibly intimidating and admire anyone who volunteers for it. I paced a friend for a race once and I was a nervous wreck the morning of and the entire race. I was terrified I would mess up! Pacers are fantastic and you are doing a great thing by helping other runners. Good for you for practicing the pace ahead of time too!

    • Amy Lauren says:

      Yeah, I had to practice it (who am I kidding? You read my blog and you see my race times…). I only did one practice session, so I hope that’s enough *crosses fingers*. I ran this race last year and figure my city has it each year, I didn’t want to do the same race again but I obviously wasn’t gonna sign up for the full… and I already run too many 5Ks as it is. So, pacing seemed like a good idea.

      I am a little nervous, but sometimes you gotta fake it till ya make it, which is what I’m trying to do. I think my pace group will help keep me on track too!

  15. Laura says:

    I think it’s awesome that you’re going to be a pacer. Everyone needs encouragement no matter how fast they run!

  16. I think it is great that you will be pacing the 2:30 group. I am sure it will be a wonderful experience for you! Enjoy it, you are a great person to encourage people out there!

  17. Hey Amy! I hope the pacing went well this weekend! Oh, I know what you mean about “stab in the heart” comments about things and hopes/dreams/goals you want to work on. From time to time, I run into someone who feels they HAVE to tell me how disappointing it looks for me to have an English degree but to be working infood service. It’s hurtful… and these are people who think they know me very well, but they don’t. And that’s what makes it hurt worse. Thankfully, my family’s not like that. 🙂 And I am looking, applying and seeking. Nothing yet. But yeah, when you mentioned the comment, it spoke familiar territory. 🙂

    Anyways… I didn’t mean to get on that tangent. I saw running photos today on Facebook! Was that the pacing today? And you were wearing long pants and long sleeves… is it cold in SC? We’re currently at 14 degrees up here. Hehe.

    Are you going to work on pacing more for right now, then, or was this just a one-time thing?

    • Amy Lauren says:

      I would possibly pace more races. I may pace this one again next year, but it’s a little to early to make decisions about January next year and my running. Only half and full marathons have pacers so that limits this short-distance girly, but it was fun to do the half as a long run rather than a race.

      It felt like 30 degrees with the wind chills at the start, and a headwind the whole time. Had I been racing this, I would’ve worn less, but pacing and being out there so much longer than I usually would, and not moving as fast, I dressed extremely warm. This weekend is really cold for Charleston! I did meet some folks from Minnesota, they liked this weather. LOL.

  18. LilMysNinja says:

    I just want to say thank you for posting this. I’m one of those that had the 2:30 goal for my first half back in November. Sadly I didn’t meet that…thanks to that stupid ankle. I’m more of a 5k girl and my pace for that is great. For longer distances, I tend to be much slower but I know that over time I will improve. We don’t always know what the other runner is going through or where they are in their running journey so being supportive of others is important. Though I didn’t get to run this race with you, I still want to say thank you for pacing!

  19. chasingthekenyans says:

    I always get annoyed at those who look down upon slower runners. At least they’re out there! No matter your speed, you are a runner, and I wish these snooty ‘faster’ runners would be more accepting.

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