Motivation · running

The Joy of Pacing

I wanted to write this to highlight a passion of mine and hopefully inspire others to try it. It’s coming up for 2 years since I started going along to Perth Parkrun and it’s just over a year since I started to do something I’m passionate about – being a pace runner.

I’m passionate about helping people make a difference to themselves in my daily work as a Personal Trainer and while I had volunteered as a marshal a couple of times, I thought my skills would be better served by being a pace runner and help encourage others along while running. Pace runners are a wonderful feature of Parkrun and I always look forward to helping out on the first Saturday of every month.

I’ll admit that I found it hard the first time as I had no idea what the pace I was to be running at for 26mins felt like and so it was going to be an interesting learning for me as well as being able to help those who were following me. I normally have my Garmin set to miles and so I only had 3 alerts to get the pace right. I have since changed the settings to kilometres so that I have more alerts to get it right. It’s not easy to get it right every time but the feeling of being able to help someone get a good time is the best feeling ever!

It’s rare that a run becomes memorable but each run pacing at Parkrun has been memorable as there has always been someone I’ve either helped get a PB or get a quicker time than they’ve maybe done for a while.

On Saturday, I was running 26 min pace but after 1 mile, there was only one person beside me so I decided to help him along. Paul had told me he would be happy with anything below 26 mins and so as we approached the grass section, I gave him some coaching tips. By the time we came off the grass at the other end and got onto the riverside section, Paul was feeling the pace a bit and proceeded to ask me how we were doing for pace to which I refused to tell him. I knew that if I had told him where we were at, he would lose the pace he was running at either from complacency or fear that he couldn’t keep it up. Truth be told, I hadn’t looked at my watch since the first kilometre and so I had no idea if we were on pace for 26 mins or not!

We were joined by Jane, who had been near to us when I refused to answer Paul and I encouraged her to join us. With a kilometre to go, I thought it would be good for each to have someone else around to help them get to the finish. I gave them some coaching tips to get them through a section of the course where they can get extra speed without using up any more energy and very shortly after, we were back onto the North Inch and about  400m from the finish. We can often lose our pace in the latter stages of a run not from having run out of steam but from losing focus and not having a finish strategy.

We got to around 100m from the finish when I gave them one last piece of ‘encouragement’ and both Paul and Jane dug deep and made a burst for the finish. I was delighted with the way they had both held on and finished the run and also delighted to learn that Paul had taken over 40 seconds off his PB and that Jane had run her fastest time since October at her home Parkrun in Glasgow. All I had wanted to do was to help them to discover just what they were capable of and so for them to get great times was just amazing.

Pacing at Parkrun is not about being fast, it’s about being able to run at a steady pace and being able to help others. Getting the pace right is the biggest challenge that many of the faster runners I know have struggled with and it doesn’t matter if you run 22 minutes or 35 minutes, there will always be people who are delighted to have someone help them round and you never know, it might even make their day.

If you run Parkrun regularly and are reading this, I actively encourage you to ask your local Event Director to put you down to be a pacer next time they have them. You ARE good enough to do it and I believe it will make a difference to your own running as it will do to those you pace.

Go for it and let me know how you get on 🙂

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5 thoughts on “The Joy of Pacing

  1. I’ve only paced once but I absolutely loved it! It’s such a weird experience as you know someone else is relying on you…which can add the pressure! But often being a personal cheerleader for another person is the best fun 🙂

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  2. Yes, exactly! I felt really nervous trying to pace a much slower speed that I’m used to especially as people are relying on us to get it right. I loved it that first time and look forward to the next one as you never know who you meet or the difference you end up making by helping someone 🙂

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  3. You’d be really good at it Ella 🙂 The hardest bit is getting to know what the pace should feel like but they have a list of the exact split times so you will have a few minutes to get used to it before you run. The best bit is chatting to those who are following you and giving them encouragement 🙂

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