For the fourth time in a row, I paced a successful 2:30 half marathon. The latest of these races was held Saturday, Sept. 22, at the inaugural Bethany Beach First Responders Sports Weekend Half Marathon. I really feel like I’m finding my groove as a pacer.
Obviously, I enjoy pacing, or I wouldn’t do it. However, just like at a race, it’s always a little bit nerve-wracking. I wasn’t too nervous before the race in Bethany, but I had considered the fact that the pace I would be running would be faster than many of my recent long runs. With the heat and humidity this summer, my long runs have been slower than they would have been otherwise.
A 2:30 half marathon is approximately an 11:27 pace, but because the half marathons that I do tend to show up as about 13.2 miles on my watch, that means I’m actually running closer to an 11:15 per mile pace throughout the half marathon. For this one, I logged 13.2 miles and an average pace of 11:21 per mile.
When pacing, the mile markers are a major consideration. When I’m pacing a 2:30 race for Beast Pacing, like I was at this race, I need to cross the finish line between 2:29:00 and 2:30:00 — not even 2:30:01. It doesn’t matter when I hit 13.1 on my watch — it matters when I cross the finish line. So, pacing entails mental math and careful consideration throughout the race.
I wear a pace band that has cumulative times that I should be hitting at each mile marker. I usually line these up to the mile markers, but there were a few mile markers at the Bethany race that were pretty far off. I took my best guess when I thought they were off, and tried to speed up or slow down accordingly, or just stay the same. For example, I figured the mile markers weren’t on the Indian River Inlet Bridge because there wouldn’t have been somewhere to put them on the bridge — so, I just waited till the next mile marker to make any major adjustments, and it turned out we were pretty much back on track.
As I mentioned, this was the fourth consecutive successful 2:30 half marathon that I have paced. Within the past year, I paced the 2:30 group for the Rehoboth Beach Seashore Half Marathon in December and the Coastal Delaware Running Festival Half Marathon and Island to Island Half Marathon in April. I say “successful” because I hit my pace goals on all of these races.
At the 2017 Island to Island Half Marathon, I came in a little over my goal on a hot day when other pacers struggled as well. I also successfully paced the 2:50 group at that race in 2016 for my first pacing experience. That 2017 race is something I always consider — because while I feel confident about keeping up this pace, I don’t want to take anything for granted.
My recent performance at the Rock ‘n’ Roll Virginia Beach Half Marathon — 2:18:15 — made me confident going into the Bethany Beach race because the Virginia Beach race took place on a very hot day, and that still gave me more than a 10 minute window for coming in under my pace time.
I had never paced alongside someone else before, but my friend and fellow Eastern Shore Running Club officer Lynn was assigned as a floater to this race and ended up running with me. I wasn’t sure how it would be to pace with someone else, but it was not a problem at all. Since she hadn’t been assigned a time ahead of the race, I was the only one with the pace band, but we were both able to keep the consistent pace, provide verbal support to runners and keep each other company when it was just the two of us.
Lynn and I started out with a good-sized group. One of the people that we ran with for the first few miles had actually started out with me at the Rehoboth Seashore Half Marathon last year. She ended up ahead of me in Rehoboth and behind me in Bethany, but we recognized each other at the start, which was cool.
At least a couple of the people in our group were training for fall marathons, as Lynn and I both have been — both of our races are this weekend. It was quite a talkative group, and I did say something somewhere around Mile 5 warning them that although they could talk if they wanted to, it might not be a good idea if they wanted to conserve energy. At Rehoboth last year, I’d lost a runner who I had been talking to around Mile 10, so I didn’t want the runners to use all their energy and lose me.
Unfortunately, it started to get hot as we kept running — particularly in the last hour or so — and we did lose the group we had started with. We lost the runner I mentioned above earlier and a couple more around Mile 9. We gradually picked up another runner or two as they dropped back from faster paces. We finished with one runner who was able to have a strong finish ahead of us.
However, even when I’m not running with anyone as a pacer, it’s still important to keep that pace, because people are likely using me as a guide, whether they are trying to stay in front of me or keeping me in sight.
Lynn and I crossed the finish line in 2:29:44 — perfect!
The course started in Bethany Beach, on the road not far from the bandstand. We headed toward Coastal Highway on Garfield Parkway and then made our way onto a trail I’d never been on before — Fresh Pond. Then, we ran up the highway, crossed over the Indian River Inlet Bridge and ran along the Inlet — a beautiful section of the course. Then, we headed under the bridge and back up and over it, following the highway back to the boardwalk finish.
There were definitely some highlights as far as scenery — like that Inlet section, the trail, running over the bridge and the boardwalk finish — but the highway section got a little boring. The course was flat aside from the bridge, but my watch logged 719 feet of elevation gain. It didn’t feel that bad to me, which hopefully was because I’ve been training on hills. However, it might have felt more difficult if I were trying to go all out. I was particularly impressed by one of the competitors who was racing in a wheelchair and made her way up that bridge on her own twice. She finished pretty close to us.
My legs did end up feeling heavy during the run, which I was disappointed by, as I hope to run a faster pace than this at my marathon this weekend. However, the week before, I had run a 45-mile week — a lot for me and probably my highest-mileage week ever other than seven-mile periods that have included two long runs (such as one on Sunday and the following one the next Saturday). So, maybe my legs were just tired from my training.
I felt strong going into the finish, and once finishing, I waited for my friends Veronica, who was pacing the 2:45 group, and Amy, who was pacing the 3:00 group. There was then a buffet and beer to enjoy inside Grotto Pizza. It was nice to have so much food after the race.
Swag included a red fitted shirt — I ordered a women’s large after knowing the size of my Coastal Delaware shirt, and I’m glad I did — along with a pint glass and the medal.
Mile 1: 11:15
Mile 2: 11:16
Mile 3: 11:40
Mile 4: 11:20
Mile 5: 11:11
Mile 6: 11:25
Mile 7: 11:09
Mile 8: 12:12
Mile 9: 11:18
Mile 10: 11:08
Mile 11: 11:31
Mile 12: 11:10
Mile 13: 11:10
Last part (watch had 0.2): 1:57 (10:00 pace)
Total: 2:29:46 on watch (11:21/mile), 2:29:44 on results