Charleston SC Half Marathon Recap (2:30 Pace Leader)

On Saturday, I ran my first half marathon as a pace leader for the Charleston Marathon half marathon. Instead of pursuing a time goal for Half Marathon #6, I toed the line to pace the 2:30 half marathoners to victory.

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This year’s Charleston Half Marathon was the most *fun* half marathon I have run. I talked to people, cheered, made crazy jokes, and enjoyed the sights and sounds of the race. Instead of pre-race nerves like I usually have, I was totally excited because my focus was on helping others around me and not achieving a certain time or pace for myself.

My duties as a pace leader started Friday afternoon, when I helped Andrew and Peggy at the TrySports booth at the race expo, held downtown at Burke High School (also the starting point of the half and full marathons). We sold tons of gels, sports beans, bars, and other marathon nutrition, and I talked to runners about their goals for the race and how pace groups could help them meet those goals.

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At the expo, I met so many runners from other states. Lots of runners visit Charleston to run because our marathon is in the winter and it’s usually too cold to run marathons in other states. I met a lady from Minnesota who was super stoked about our beautiful weather (I am pretty sure she was the only person thrilled to run in 30 degree temperatures at the start).

The expo also featured some really awesome art from local schools. The Charleston Marathon proceeds benefit arts in Charleston County Public Schools. It’s a great cause and gives students a chance to showcase their talents. Here are some of my favorites.

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While at the expo, I picked up mine and Clay’s race packets. Everyone got a clear gear bag to check (extra safety precautions due to Boston Marathon’s bombings), a long sleeved tech shirt (great ladies’ cut for us girls!), and a few coupons and things.

After standing in line to get Clay’s bib information changed (they butchered his name, but at least they got the beer tickets right), I headed home to pick up Clay for a pre-race pizza dinner at Baroni’s West Ashley and to rest before the next day’s festivities. Baroni’s is a new-to-us pizza place that’s close by and had a great special for Charleston Restaurant Week.

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The next morning, I got to the race bright and early to meet with the pacers, pick up my signs, and talk to the other runners. Those who wanted to run the race in just below my pace time (2:30) could sign up to run with the group so they had someone to run with and motivate them on the course.

Cynthia (Cynch), an experienced pacer who works for TrySports, and I both paced the 2:30 half marathoners. The cold winds at the start broke my sign 50 feet into the race, so I held up the blue laminated papers for 4 miles. Cynch and I missed the official picture, so here we are with our signs and rockin’ hats:

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Here are the other pacers- thanks to Angi from TrySports Mt. Pleasant for taking these awesome pictures, even if I missed out on this one. Some pacers are from the Charleston area, but others are frequent marathoners who traveled here to run as a pacer as a training run for a future marathon and enjoy the Lowcountry.

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We lined up at the start with our groups, holding up our signs, and were off! We had some great ladies and guys running the race with us, so we talked, laughed, and made jokes during the race. It was fun running at a conversational pace and *enjoying* it. Working from home, I don’t get a chance to show my extroverted personality enough, so I took advantage of it- plus talking during the race helped me slow down.

The race runs from Burke High School through downtown Charleston, with a portion through the South of Broad neighborhood and the Battery, before turning onto King Street and running up the peninsula to North Charleston.

Despite the chilly temperatures, it warmed up a bit, and the buildings on King Street blocked the wind. Once we got into North Charleston, which doesn’t have as many buildings on the course, we used a couple of the bigger guys in the pace group to break the wind by lining up behind them. The pace group was singing, joking, and talking about everything from kids to favorite Charleston restaurants- so the time and miles passed really quickly.

We had TONS of crowd support downtown and on King Street, some support in the neighborhoods of North Charleston, and tons of crowds at the finish.

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I finished in 2:25:18 (chip time) or 2:30:13 (gun time). I wasn’t sure if my pacing was chip time or gun time, as I know USATF awards are based on gun time but figured the 2:30 half marathoners would be more concerned about running just below 2:30 rather than an award.

I dropped back a little because Cynch was up ahead with most of our pacing group (people signed up to run with us at the expo), so I motivated and ran with some others who weren’t officially signed up with us. I figured I would reassure them that they were on track to finish just below 2:30 (regardless of where they started in the start wave, as the race doesn’t have corrals).

As soon as I crossed the finish line, a girl behind me turned to me and told me thank you and said I did a great job motivating her through the last few miles. Another lady said she was thankful because I talked to her after her ipod and watch died- she had no clue if she was on pace, but she wanted to run a 2:30. I got a lot of thank you’s and people telling me I did a great job, so I guess even though my time wasn’t spot on, people were thankful for the pacing.

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When I finished, I devoured a delicious bowl of grits and a Chai Yen from The Orange Spot– one of my favorite shops for coffee and located conveniently at the finish. The Orange Spot is delicious and operated by two very sweet girls- it was a nice touch to give Chai Yen tea to the runners.

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After my post-race celebration, I headed to the finish with Virginia, Rocky, Paul, Lisa, Steve, Susie, and some others to watch the full marathoners finish. We had quite a few friends running the full, so we stuck around to cheer and support. Virginia tried to make sure I stayed warm by piling all the clothes on me… they were still piled on when Jessica finished and we took this cute post-race pic.

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I also saw my fellow garage training friend, Steve, get his award for winning his age group in the half marathon. He just turned 60 and has won an age group award or grand masters in every race since his birthday- he is super speedy thanks to the amazing running secret found by doing hill sprints in Charleston’s parking garages.

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And, here is Virginia and Lisa- Lisa won an age group award for the 5K. She works with the race committee but was able to do the 5K and then do some work at the finish line party for the half marathoners and marathoners coming in.

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Since this is a point to point race, I got a ride back to the start from Steve and Susie (thanks guys!) and headed home, arriving back at 1:30ish. I took a *long* nap that afternoon before heading out to dinner with Clay, who ran a 40:47 in the 5K despite starting a minute late and having to stop in the porta potty. We celebrated by wearing our medals to Early Bird Diner for some delicious noms.

Someone asked me what I thought of pacing, and I said that I would definitely do it again! I don’t see myself running marathons, much less pacing them, but pacing the half was fun and a nice break from running so many races all out with my own goals. Pacing was a motivating and inspiring experience for me to see so many runners complete their first or fastest half marathon, and if you’re a distance runner looking to give back, I highly recommend it.

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38 Responses to Charleston SC Half Marathon Recap (2:30 Pace Leader)

  1. I love Baroni’s. I used to eat there all the time when I worked in West Ashley. It sounds like you had fun pacing. I might have to give that a shot in the future. I was there along the course cheering on some training partners in the full marathon. I’m making a race recap from a spectator’s perspective tomorrow.

    • Amy Lauren says:

      You should write a recap from a spectator’s point of view! I did that for Catch the Leprechaun last year when I spectated, but this year I am running that race, it’s a 5K on a Thursday night. It is really fun to cheer at races and volunteer too, especially right after a marathon or big race, it motivated me to get back at it sooner hehe.

      Baroni’s was great! I read mixed reviews on Yelp but we were really happy with it. One of our favorites now.

  2. I’m so glad we were able to meet up after the race! Hearing Steve and you cheer me on at the end gave me a little extra boost to sprint (or at least run faster lol) to the finish!

    • Amy Lauren says:

      I don’t think many people sprint at the end of a full marathon… although I saw a few yesterday who were bookin’ it to the finish (maybe for the beer who knows). You did great, you should be super proud of your time with those winds too, yikes! Definitely take it easy this weekend, hope to see you out there again soon.

  3. Great work Pacing, such an awesome thing to do to give back to the running community I am sure they were all really grateful to have you out there.

    • Amy Lauren says:

      I hope so, it was fun being there. Great to give back but also to just enjoy a race as a long run for once (this one was a good one for that being so big and also scenic through the first 6 miles or so).

  4. Zaneta says:

    How awesome!! 🙂 You did a great job!! I always love ANY pace leader who talk to other runners that may not be in their group but need some encouragement… you ROCK!! 🙂

    • Amy Lauren says:

      Yeah- especially at about mile 11, I kept telling everyone how much further they had to go, how they were almost to the free beer and shrimp and grits, and at mile 10, how they only had a 5k left. The best part was running near the finish and hearing the party, that definitely motivated everyone! Thanks for responding :).

  5. So cool. I’d love to pace a half when I am healthier. I love talking to people and would have so much fun.

    • Amy Lauren says:

      It was fun talking and joking. You just figure out who wants to talk and who doesn’t, some people are really pushing the pace or just want to listen to music, etc. But, usually those who sign up for pace groups really want the chatter and encouragement.

      Once the participants got a bit faster at the end, I mostly encouraged some who had stopped to take walk breaks, the lady whose ipod and watch had died, things like that.

  6. ahellams says:

    How awesome!! I would love to be a pacer for a race. I was so bummed I couldn’t be there this year; first time since I have lived in Charleston I did get to run it!

    • Amy Lauren says:

      It was a really fun one to pace! I’m glad I wasn’t gunning for a PR or anything with those winds, otherwise I would have been really nervous going into the race. But with pacing, I wasn’t quite as nervous and was more like crazy excited!

      Course has a lot more cheerleaders this year, which was a good change. Finish party was great too.

  7. kristenk says:

    It sounds like you had an awesome race! I’m so happy you helped so many people reach their time goal! I might check out using pacers for my half marathon in March!

    • Amy Lauren says:

      Thanks girly! Running with a pacer is not a bad idea if you have a goal time in mind. I think if my first marathon had pacers, i would have run with the group. Several in our group were first time half marathons but many were on half #2 and some were even thinking they’d do the full next year. It was neat to talk to people about their goals.

  8. harveylisam says:

    Sounds like a great time, Amy! I ran with a pacer for one of my half marathons this fall and it was really helpful. Awesome job!

    • Amy Lauren says:

      Thanks Lisa, I’m glad you found the pacers helpful at your race too. I think as a pacer, you help more people than you realize just by wearing the shirt and being there, people know they are on track for the time they want.

  9. Great job. I would love to be a pacer one day. It was a lot of fun reading this post.

    When I lived in Toronto, I loved it when it was 30 degrees because that was a warm winter day. Looking back, I have no idea how I tolerated three winters there.

    • Amy Lauren says:

      I don’t think I could tolerate a weekend there, yikes! I’m so warm blooded- even people who move here say after a few years, you get so used to the heat and humidity here that it’s hard to deal with the cold. It was actually a nice day yesterday with highs in the upper 50s and lows in the 40s hehe. Just not that for the race, unfortunately!

  10. Steph says:

    Nice! This sounds like a lot of fun. I think it would be a while before I’d ever be able to pace a race because I’m so inconsistent, but I think I would love it!

    • Amy Lauren says:

      Yeah, we went a little too fast for some of the miles (wind to our backs on King Street), but we got it done. I think everyone was happy with the end result at least and that’s what counts.

  11. olivetorun says:

    This may have to go on my books for 2015! I am glad you had such a fun experience. I’ve always wanted to try being a pacer and it sounds like it would be a great experience overall. 🙂

  12. spectacuLAUR says:

    I’m glad you had a great experience during your first time being a pacer!!! Seriously, this is a great way to have a nice, easy run without psyching yourself out mid-run to pick up the pace! I cannot imagine how great it is to help cheer people on and motivate them to finish. 😀

    • Amy Lauren says:

      It was a nice, easy run, and by slowing it down (well, slower by my standards, of course), the recovery wasn’t bad either. Truthfully, it was like a long run with 3500 friends in the half marathon distance. I was able to run 8 speedy miles yesterday too, when normally I would not run the day after a half.

      • spectacuLAUR says:

        Those slower (by your standards), longer runs may actually be really beneficial since you can do a decent run the next day. Who knows, it might be a perk for your training style!

  13. Christine says:

    I’m glad your pacing experience went well! What a great way to get a run in and help people at the same time. I’d love to officially pace a race sometime. I did pace a friend who was looking for a PR in a half marathon last year and that was awesome! She got her PR and I had company on a run (plus we both got medals at the end – win-win!). Hopefully I’ll see you soon on a Sunday run.

    • Amy Lauren says:

      I read your recap and hope to see you soon too! I am running the Charlie Post Classic on Saturday but will be doing a run on Sunday with the OnShore group if you want to join us for a run and brunch (I am actually going to brunch this Sunday!).

  14. Amy says:

    Great job pacing and having a good attitude about it. Looks like a super fun hometown race for you 🙂 And I love that restaurant week is the same as the marathon.
    At first I thought it comes at a perfect time of year for a marathon if you live somewhere in the north, but then I realized these runners were probably at their peak training week right around Christmas/New Years. I ran a February marathon last year and boy was it tough to fit in my running during that week (I travel a lot at the holidays). So even more power to all the marathoners!

  15. runner1313 says:

    Awesome fun pacing isn’t it? Well done!

  16. runningwithjz says:

    Looks like you did a great job pacing!! Well done!

  17. I have never paced a race, but I have ALWAYS been appreciative of the pacers!

  18. Kara says:

    I’ve always thought pacing would be so rewarding! It’s so awesome that you did this and had so much fun. Maybe someday I’ll be able to do it! Usually I’m the one who needs a pacer though, haha!

    • Amy Lauren says:

      Honestly, I’d love a pacer for a race! But usually, I just consider one of my faster friends my “rabbit” since I do shorter races ;).

      I guess pacing depends on how fast you are, but they definitely stick you with a pace they are 100% sure you can run. That’s very important. I know a few people were asking for a half group slower than 2:30, maybe that is something they will add in the future, I’m not sure.

  19. Kristy says:

    Congrats on your first pacing gig, that’s great! That’s some nice bling too, and the pizza looks amazing!

    • Amy Lauren says:

      Thanks- the finisher’s medals were cool this year for the race, I like them better than last year’s. The pizza was delicious, but pizza usually is. Even when it’s not the best, it’s still pretty good.

  20. I’m glad you enjoyed your pacer experience! I would love to do this one day, but am nervous I wouldn’t do a good job of holding pace!

    • Amy Lauren says:

      Yeah, my pacing partner and I probably could have come a little closer to a 2:30. It’s not an easy thing to do really, you start out pacing a group and when the group kinda drops, or goes ahead, you just do the best you can to stay on track. Either way, the people who signed up and really stayed with us for it exceeded their goal.

  21. LilMysNinja says:

    I ate at the Early Bird Diner before. Loved the food!

    And I love this post!! Thanks for always inspiring others. 🙂

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