Wednesday, October 12, 2011

Wineglass marathon - Pacer Chris

 Well, a little out of order from my last post, but two Sunday's ago, as part of the marathonpacing.com pace team I lead the 3:25 pace group at the Wineglass Marathon in Corning, NY.  My mind pictured a picturesque day running through wine country and gazing at the incredible fall foliage.  It wasn't to be.

Lauren and I made the 3.5 hour drive up on Saturday and worked the pace booth at the expo for a few hours before sneaking out for some wine tasting in the Finger Lakes.  The countryside was beautiful, the weather...not so good.  Overcast / drizzle and mid 40's.  We kept our fingers crossed that the weather would blow out by morning and we'd be treated to a great day.

That night at our pacer dinner the reality of the next day were setting in.  There were going to be MANY PEOPLE in my group counting on me to run a steady pace and get them to a Boston qualifying time, a personal best or just meet their goal.

We got all of our stuff ready and when we woke up race day our luck had run out.  40 degrees and RAIN!

Wineglass is a great race.  It sold out at about 1200 runners in the marathon and over 2000 in the inaugural half marathon.  A great small town atmosphere with big town organization.  It was a point to point race, so we drove to the finish line and hopped our separate buses (half and full).  It was a consistent downpour the entire ride out. 

Once off the bus I found a nice little spot to stay dry and warm, then headed up to the starting area to stage and meet my runners.  I had a great group that varied in age and gender, very enthusiastic and filled with goals and stories.  The gun went off and the "usual" things that happened to a pace leader happened again.  The first half mile was filled with one runner asking me over and over if this was the pace we would hold for 26 mile, and commenting how good it felt.  It was downhill and I was trying to hold back.  The rain was still coming down, but now that we were moving it didn't feel as bad and my misery level disappeared.  At the point I crossed the start line the race wasn't about me, how I felt or how miserable it was.  It was about my job...being consistent, being a motivator and providing confidence to my group.

This was by far the largest group I've ever had as a pacer.  My runners were commenting how steady we were running (within  three seconds of my 7:49 goal pace mile after mile) and how quickly the race was flying by.  That's always a good sign, so I kept going with it.  When we hit about half way we passed a clock, temp was 42 degrees and the rain was still pelting me.  "I hope this rain doesn't stop now" I said to my group, we'd run too far to only run part of the marathon in the rain.
Pretty large group, about half way through
My goal was to run about 30 seconds under goal (3:24:30) and we cross the half marathon right on target at 1:42:15.  The course was surprisingly flat and downhill and we kept chugging along.  At mile 22 it had just about stopped raining and I told my group of about 20 runners that if they were feeling good, now was the time to slowly pick up the pace.  As we clicked off the final miles I turned into a sweeper, grabbing runners who were struggling and lifting them up.  About 10 of my runners went head and by mile 25 there were only a few with me.  I cross the finish line in 3:24:43 with one other runner.  Once through the finish shoot is where the real fun of pacing begins.  It's great to meet up with everyone from your group and congratulate them...as well as hear their "stories" of how the race went down.
I'm blessed to have the opportunity and ability to be a part of such a special aspect of running.  Is it nerve wracking, and a lot of work?  I guess you could say that to an extent, but I never think of it as such....it's the reward at the end of helping others accomplish something more than they thought possible.  That's priceless, something you just can't buy.

Will I return to Wineglass, you betcha!

6 comments:

  1. My friend Mandy won the Wineglass Marathon last year and qualified for the Olympic trials in the process. She had nothing but good things to say about it. I'll have to add it to my list some day.

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  2. What a great story. You have the right personality and attitude for pacing. Your group is lucky to have you as their fearless, chilly, and soaking wet leader.

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  3. Wow, I hope I have a pacer as fabulous as you when I try for 3:25!! What a great experience, congratulations on doing a perfect job!

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  4. I love this side of the pace group! And you are one heck of a pacer! Great job Chris... rewarding, I'm sure! :)

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  5. I am so impressed with you humbleness!! I can't even begin to imagine the responsibility you take on when you do this! Congrats to you!!

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