last year provided my first opportunity to serve as an official marathon pacer thanks to an inquiry from my friend erin mcdougall. erin was and is the organizer for the pacers at The County Marathon in and around beautiful picton, ontario, and it was through the magic of social media that we were able to connect. when he prodded me again early this spring about possibly serving as a pacer once more i nodded agreement - and was also able to conscript my friend lewis into volunteering as a pacer for the half-marathon distance.
if you haven't already read lewis' account of the race, i encourage you to do so now - it recaps much of our experience together and my report will only elaborate on the elements of it which were particular to my pacing of the entire 42.2km vs. lewis' work with the half-marathon group.
with the plan to arrive early (about 60 min. before gun time) at the start line i hopped on a shuttle bus from downtown picton and had a great conversation on the way with a racewalker named kim from ottawa. kim was a seasoned gentleman (i'm guessing in his late 50s) who was really personable and we got into a great conversation about the ins and outs of racewalking. having agreed that it's a very unnatural looking sport i was surprised to hear that it has a history that hearkens back to the 1800s which was rooted in military competitions. i had no idea that it was that storied, but certainly can accept that it is a legitimate athletic endeavour - especially after hearing that the 50km world record of 3:32:33 was set just last summer at the european athletics championships. that's a smokin' time - and when you consider (as kim pointed out) that while runners can lose form as they fatigue but still finish quickly race-walkers must maintain form or else be disqualified ... well that makes it that much more impressive.
at the essroc arena (the warm-up centre at the start line of the full marathon, complete with elevated indoor track) i met and chatted with my one fellow full marathon pacer, dave, as well as erin - who took the time to introduce me to the lone kenyan in the race, gilbert kiptoo. i don't often get starstruck - over the past 15 years or so i've had the privilege of being pretty much shoulder-to-shoulder with some of the best tennis players in the world, including my idol andre agassi - but there was a bit of tingly feeling shaking the hand of a 2:08 PB marathoner.
the conditions were almost ideal temperature-wise (about 10°C at 8:00am start time) but the winds were out of the east at about 18 kph - and we were pretty much headed due east for the entire length of the point-to-point course. the saving grace here was that it wasn't gusty but rather a steady breeze with moments of respite.
my crew hung with me through to about 30k where we began to see a couple of our new friends drop off of the back. at 35k the pace group was reduced from three to two, and at 38k (the one notable 'hill') i lost my last two runners - nav, who had been nursing a strained glute muscle, and eldon, who felt that his ITB was flaring just a bit. this put me in the familiar place of running alone for the final 3.5k, with crowds cheering the pace bunny on saying "you're right on target" and "where's your group?!?".
in the end i crossed the timing mats at 3:29:40 - the exact same time that i logged in last year's event. consistency matters!
unlike last year (when the rains started falling not 10 minutes after i crossed the finish line) the weather was glorious for hanging around to cheer people in. nav wasn't too far behind at 3:31:23, and eldon a minute back of that at 3:32:33. janet was next at 3:37:25, and richard (whom we tried our best to cheer along by keeping the invisible 'elastic' intact) wrestled out a strong 3:43:54.
race gear for the 2015 County Marathon: