And so the dust has settled and a day after playing Official Pacer at the Run United 2, 32 kilometer category, it’s time to incise and reflect on this business of pacing in races. Here are some insights one might consider before accepting this job, beyond the prestige, the free bib and all the privileges that come with the role:
Pacing requires preparation, both physically and mentally.
And so I got the invite from Ms. Vimz Mendoza to join the RU2 pacers group over a month ago and promptly took on the 32 KM distance with a 3:15 time. It’s my first time take on this role and excitedly recommended running friends Van (3:15), trail devil Dave (3:40) and Reylynne (who failed to show up). We were in the midst of our Milo R2 Apex running school (though we had minimal speed training and mileage) so I figured this would be easy peasy, keeping in mind my last full mary in February where I breached the 32 kilometer mark at around 3 hours.
I was imagining the night before the race of our 3:15 trio egging, chanting and pushing a battalion of runners into the finish line, sounding like some lord commander battling the wildlings beyond the wall. Unfortunately, it remained only a movie in my mind…
Pacing means keeping an average, if not constant pace throughout a race.
So after a little research, I learned that pacing required me to maintain a pace of 6:06 throughout the race with some minor adjustments in between. Now this seemed simple enough, right? But then with someone like me who loves to take off fast at the start, adjust a bit in the middle and slow down in the final kilometers, this was a major issue.
But on race day, that’s what we tried to do. My 3:15 trio with Bobby Go & Van Denn Cruz tried to maintain a pace of 6 minutes per kilometers even if everyone was flying out like bats from hell. Armed with just a lap watch, Van stayed within our target pace (5 kilometers at 30 minutes, etc.). I latched on to him with Bobby a few meters away. We were targeting a faster pace in the first 10 kilometers for certain adjustments at the third hour. But owing to our slow start, we reached KM10 at exactly one hour. Now if we could only go a bit faster but kilometers 13 (1:18) and 18 (1:48) came and our pace remained at 6. Bobby Go was nowhere in sight.
There were some runners who joined us a few kilometers later, but soon dissipated when the going got tough. And so it was with me. Around KM20, I couldn’t keep up with Van and I had to let him go ahead. Van, now the only 3:15 pacer on time, brought with him his loyal following (up to the finish at 3:14++). So at this time, all three 3:15 pacers were running separately.
Pacing is a selfless endeavour.
Soon I was taking more time to hydrate and recover. Buendia Avenue became my battleground as I combat fatigue and boredom (I forgot my mini-Ipod). At this time, I’ve been resigned to missing my target finish time, unless I suddenly developed the surge and run faster. All the while, I was mindful of the reason why I was there that Sunday morning. So whenever, some weary runner started keeping up with me, I tried to maintain my assigned pace and just kept going. I’d remind them that I was already running short but they still joined me even when I would slow down, every now and then. So thrashed as I was, I still found some energy to prod my equally tired minions.
Pacing can be fun, if not done alone (and the small c hasn’t reared its head).
By the time I entered the CCP area, cramping started to make its presence felt – first in increments and soon in big waves. I was reduced to lots of walks (and sudden stops) and short jogs that I had to rip off my pacer bib, lest some lost soul started hounding me, hopeful of a 3:15 finish. I had to vary my steps from heel strikes and strange plodding to ward off the cramping and was no longer eager to help others. Still, I managed to strike up some quick talks with certain walkers and push them to get running in the final 2 kilometers.
Soon, I chanced upon certain pacers who were already washed up, as well. We just kept burning the final meters until the finish line loomed from afar. The final surge was a full on attack and by 3:29 I finished my pacing duty. Not in the grand glorious fashion I had envisioned it but it was one soul-searching, core-scrutinizing experience (tagos sa buto) I wouldn’t trade anytime soon.
So would I take on another pacing duty again? Hell yeah. But first, I need to train more properly on the ways of strengthening, energy conservation and mileage planning. I just need to remember the care, sustenance and recognition we received yesterday and I’m there. Add up the smiles, admiration and camaraderie from the runners we’ve touched and and helped and it’s one duty that’s almost close to a calling. Or a religion.
Photography by Dan Alvarez Sagayap, Les Letsky, Blue Zapanta, Jon Las Bruce, Mark Andrew, David Buban and Art Mendoza