Paul the Pacer

Been a while since I got my electronic quill out and blotted my oul blog so thought I’d give a wee update on training…

Up until the last year or two, a permanent fixture on my running calendar would always be Belfast Marathon but due to being bitten by the Ultra/trail running badger (It’s definitely more like getting bit by a badger than a bug) I’d given it a wide berth recently.

Then, at the tail end of last year, I was given the chance to pace the 3hr 45min group at the 2013 race. Sure why not, something different eh?

The way it works is that runners that enter the race have the option to specify their targets such as 3hrs, 3hrs15mins, 3hrs 30mins etc. and we are basically given the job of pacing them in within this timeframe. We would have specially marked vests and a balloon floating above our heads to indicate what time we were pacing. Intriguing no?

We met up for a couple of runs on the towpath with these guys (One dude actually came over from London for a 20 mile training run. That’s dedication right there!) and we would also give a bit of advice over email – Disclaimer: Don’t listen to my advice.

I was looking at this as a great chance to get a good bonus long run in ahead of the Mourne Ultra and the 100 miles round Gosford, even though it is on road, it’s always good to get a regular dose of that oul race atmosphere!

So, all of a sudden it’s race day (6th May) and it was time to get pacing.

It’s all a bit strange as you know you’re just going out at a fairly comfortable pace and you have no actual personal target or expectations; although I’ll admit I did consider the fact I could just randomly blow up! Anything can happen, just depends on the day I suppose… What did excite me though was ‘mingling’ with the elites at the start, felt like a bit of a nob doing said ‘mingling’ with a balloon floating above my head but nonetheless it was pretty cool.

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Carrying the Balloon around the course wouldn’t have been as difficult if Evan would just have let go…

Myself and John (Pacer extraordinaire) then made our way back into the crowd of runners so they could see where we were just before the start. I tell ye, you get some amount of people sizing you up at this stage. I can tell what they’re thinking…

“Th’on boy has 3hrs 45mins wrote on ‘im…It must be a trick”

“Can that young fella get me in on time?”

“When did they get such attractive pacers?”….*ahem*

The start horn goes off & it’s time to give ‘er dixie! (Or evenly proportionate dixie across 3hrs 45mins to be exact)

It was a warm day, but the aid stations had plenty of water to go around. Mostly around my face, down my back, up my nose & in my eye, as I’m still to perfect the ‘drink-from-a-paper-cup-whilst-running’ technique.

The first few mile were comfortable enough but I never really enjoy the early miles of anything whether it be 10 miles or 100 that I’m running. It was great chatting to a few guys at this point about how they’d got themselves into running today and for most that I spoke to, this was their first marathon. Most of these guys & girls actually went on to duck in well under the 3hrs 45 as we found most stuck with us until about 23/24 miles & as they were feeling able they just powered on.

I found that I could keep the pace in around 8:30 fairly well but did go slightly too hard around the coastal path & coming into Duncrue which I reigned in as soon as I realised! Was doing 8:20 min miles…I think it was my body just wanting to get out of Duncrue to be honest!! Apart from that slight deviation, the garmin seems pretty much bang on pace.

The best thing I took from the day (Apart from getting a quality long training run in!) was seeing people getting across the line in the time they had been aiming for. It’s such a good feeling after months of hard graft!

In fact, a great story from the day, a lady from the south (Conlin) that stuck with me the entire distance had originally thought she might get under 4 hours when she rocked up to the start line…Well, she only went in under 3hrs 45mins and smashed her PB! It was class seeing that first hand. Myself & John then stopped on the final straight encouraging runners that their chip times will still get them in under the 3hrs 45mins and we followed them over the line. The finish line atmosphere was the best I’ve seen in any year I’ve run the race.

Shouting ‘Yeeeeeoooo ye boy/girl ye’ always gets a good response in Belfast!

So that was that. I’d met loads of new people, got a good quality oul road session in & had helped a load of people achieve their marathon target time. It’s a great feeling, not a PB kind of great feeling, but just a different type of great feeling altogether. It makes all the training worth it – but in a way that I’m giving back to running somehow rather than achieving a personal goal?

I don’t know, maybe I’m talking pure guff here and after reading that last sentence, I’m cringing a bit but being able to comfortably run at a pace that I would have struggled massively with a few years ago is only down to running loads. It’s an addiction (As Stace can testify to) but in the best possible way.

It’s set me up now to have a crack at my marathon PB in a couple of weeks, it’s pretty soft but after Mondays race, I want to race one more road marathon before I disappear into the hills for good…

Then it’s the Mourne Ultra followed by the 100 at the beginning of July…Some craic wha’!

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