I used to HATE running with people. Any people. I ran alone 100% of the time. I hated feeling like I was slowing someone down, or going too fast for them, or how embarrassingly out of shape I felt heaving words out between breaths in an attempt to on-the-run conversate.
Margot! Remember the first time we ran together? I’m surprised you came back.
But slowly, mostly out of desperation to make friends when we moved to CA, I came out of it. Somehow it became easier to talk mid-stride, and falling into a universally-approved pace became second nature. I started really enjoying running with people.
Anyway, there’s been a lot of talk lately about in-race company and pacers. Susan just ran her friend’s first marathon with her, and there was Super Pacer Mason who pushed no less than 7 different people through parts of the Eugene course.
I didn’t mean to get wrapped up in the hype, but this weekend I got a taste of the pacer game at the OC Marathon. Accidentally. And MAN, who knew it was so complicated??!
SkinnyRunner and Kristina were being marathon bosses and running the marathon “for fun” after both crushing Eugene last week, and I decided to fix my long run into the course since their “easy pace” = “a pace I can almost-sort-of-barely hang on to”
After an hour I got bored of them needed a break. I stopped to wait for Monica who was just a few minutes back when Nicole ran by and said my name. We’d met at Eugene, where she’d been gunning for a BQ but ended up having to pull out early (her story HERE).
from Nicole’s recap – fitnessfatale
We were around mile 18 and although she looked good that’s always a scary place in the race.
“Want some company?”
“LET ME DRAFT OFF YOU”
Aint nobody got time for extra words at mile 18. I’ll let her tell the runner’s side (HERE), but I’ve got some thoughts from the impromptu “pacer” point of view.
Thoughts From a Pacer’s First Date
1) It is a very helpless feeling not knowing how to help. I wanted to ask a million questions – ‘is this pace ok? do you want me to run in front or beside? do you want me to tell you a story? do you need anything?’ – but that is a) annoying and b) bad for energy management.
Had I ever run with Nicole – hell maybe talked to her more than twice – it would’ve been a little easier to sense what she wanted or needed, but god damn those miles were the most stressful ever! Pacing is tough shit.
2) I’ve come up with four different approaches towards the pacer/run buddy. It’s hard to tell how your runner will respond if you haven’t tried them out, like a fart joke on a first date. Ideally you’ll have some experience together to get an idea, but remember no one can fully predict how their brain will react in the pain cave. So if your angry little mile 20 friend isn’t responding to your pom pom cheers, maybe try one of the others :
This is the “just talk to me, tell me a story, read the phone book, recite the pledge of allegiance just for fuck’s sake take my mind off this pain” approach. Likely nothing is actually being processed so feel free to ramble nonsense or deep dark secrets – just make noise.
Pam and I with SR at her 50K last year – the machine doesn’t NEED help but said the company made it more fun
The take-away-all-of-the-thinking approach. Let them run like that hot football player no one knew how they got into college – all body, no brains.
Mason providing course intel and of course hydration support while my brain vacationed
Your runner is a self-conscious headcase and needs reassured they CAN hold this pace, they CAN finish, they ARE NOT going to die? Or they’re announcing their permanent separation from running due to irreconcilable differences and needs reminded why they’re putting themselves through this ridiculous self-inflicted torture? Remind them of the training that got them here – that they are prepared, capable, and damned if they throw away all those early Saturday wake up calls to quit with 10k to go. Maybe add a little pat on the butt for good measure.
K delirious at mile 25.9
It’s “suck it up, buttercup” time. No really. Move your ass, don’t you dare let this person pass you, there’s no crying in running. They might hate you at the time, but they’ll thank you later.
SR giving Monica a little cattle prod to a huge PR at the OC Marathon
Keep this in mind next time you agree to jump into a run or race with a new friend. And trust me, you’ll get to see a real rough side of your friend in those late miles.