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.
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.
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.
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.
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:
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.