On-point pacing at the OCMD Island to Island Half Marathon

I took this photo of the sunrise from the bus as we rode to Assateague Island from Ocean City. (Vanessa Junkin photo)

You know you did a good job pacing when people ask to take their photo with you after the race.

That’s what happened to me last Saturday, April 27, after the OCMD Island to Island Half Marathon. Two people asked to get a photo with me, which was fun. One of them was a runner who was able to achieve a new personal record, and the other set of people had really been trying to stay in front of me and probably finished at least a minute or two ahead of me.

I returned to Ocean City on Saturday for my fourth year pacing this race. This was the first race I was ever given the opportunity to pace, and I enjoy running it each year. For my first year as a pacer, I paced the 2:50 group, and each year since, I have paced the 2:30 group.

Veronica (middle), Mike and I pose for a photo after pacing the OCMD Island to Island Half Marathon.

The morning started out with leaving my house in Salisbury before 5 a.m. I drove to Ocean City with my boyfriend, Mike, who paced the 2:40 group, and my friend Veronica, who paced the 2:20 group.

Once in Ocean City, we parked at the Inlet and boarded buses to take us to the start of the 13.1-mile race on Assateague Island. I wasn’t cold at home, but I was chilly in the parking lot. However, I was just happy that it wasn’t hot.

I was walking around at Assateague State Park before the race and ended up talking to someone about my blog. Then, another runner said she was a huge fan! That was a great way to start my morning.

I paced the 2:30 group, which means people can use me as a guide to get to the finish line in two hours and 30 minutes. I run a consistent pace the whole time and stop at water stops. To ensure that I am on track with the course and not just by my watch — I always have more than 13.1 miles show up on my watch for a half marathon — I use a pace band that has the cumulative time goal listed for each mile of the race.

I headed to the beach at Assateague Island briefly before the race to snap another photo of the sunrise. (Vanessa Junkin photo)

The course is mostly pancake-flat, with the only hill on the course in the first mile — the Verrazano Bridge that takes runners from Assateague to the mainland. There was no mile marker for Mile 1 that I saw, but my watch logged the first mile as 11:28. My pace band had each mile at 11:27, but I knew I would need to be a little faster, because in past years, I have finished this race with at least 13.2 miles on my watch.

I tried to speed up a little bit over the next few miles without doing anything drastic, but each mile, I was a little bit behind in cumulative time when I hit the mile marker. I was not worried that I would not make it on time, but I wanted to catch my watch up to the mile marker.

Here’s another photo I took at Assateague before the start of the race. (Vanessa Junkin photo)

The next few miles were all pretty consistent, at 11:20, 11:25, 11:18 and 11:15. Then, I ran a 10:54 mile for Mile 6, which caught me up to the mile marker perfectly — the time on my pace band was exact when I got to that mile marker. Mile 7 was also right on.

At some point, I started getting to the mile marker slightly before I hit the time on my pace band, which made me feel secure that I had a bit of an extra cushion. As a pacer, I can come in slightly under 2:30, but I can’t run 2:30:01. The goal was to come in between 2:28:00 and 2:30:00.

I did not have one pack of runners with me the whole time, but there were several people who were near me the entire race. At one point, I talked to a runner who said the last three miles are where he usually drops off. His plan was to stick with me till the end and then speed up, but he ended up speeding up on the bridge into Ocean City and finishing well ahead of me.

Of course, I had to take a selfie with my pace sign.

There was another runner in an orange shirt — one of the ones who got a picture with me afterward — who kept saying he was going to finish ahead of me. I cheered him on and hoped he would be able to. Whenever I got close to him and the woman he was running with, they would take note of me and speed up, and they finished at least a minute or two ahead of me.

Once we take the bridge into Ocean City, the course goes toward the Inlet and then up to Shenanigan’s Irish Pub at 4th Street on the Boardwalk and back. The last mile is always the toughest when pacing, because I know that it will probably not be precisely 13.1 on my watch. This race includes a run around the pier area, so it’s a little hard to judge the distance by sight.

I didn’t want to go too fast, but of course, I wanted to make sure I came in under 2:30. I tried to keep up a consistent pace, and I was able to do so, finishing the race with a time of 2:28:58 (2:28:57.8) on my watch. The results have my time about a minute faster, but I’m confident with what my watch said, and others’ results were off as well.

The pace team gathers for a photo before the race.

Right as I was running toward the finish line, two women, one of whom I’d been running by for the entire race, passed me, which was great — I encouraged them as they did. It seemed like a lot of people had a successful run on Saturday.

It was windy, which made holding the sign more difficult than usual — I wasn’t able to hold it up as high. However, I was wearing a Pace Team shirt and people could still tell what I was doing. Before we got into the neighborhood slightly before Mile 6, I was worried it was getting hot, but thankfully, the weather was nice and it turned out to be a great day.

Here I am after successfully pacing the 2:30 finish at the OCMD Island to Island Half Marathon. (Veronica James photo)

After the race, there was beer — including Evolution Lot 3 (I always prefer craft beer, such as Evo) — and pizza. Veronica, Mike and I then went to the Bayside Skillet after, which is now a delicious tradition.

Here’s the race shirt along with my finisher medal. (Vanessa Junkin photo)

I paced two races in April, but I’m thinking the next race I’ll be pacing will be the Rehoboth Seashore Half Marathon in December. I’m looking forward to seeing what I will be able to run at the first half marathon I’ll be racing for my own time in a while at the St. Michaels Running Festival Half Marathon in two weeks. (If you want to join me at that one, save $10 with code AMBJUNK.)

I got a photo of my delicious Bayside Skillet breakfast and my finisher medal. (Vanessa Junkin photo)

Splits:

Mile 1: 11:28
Mile 2: 11:20
Mile 3: 11:24
Mile 4: 11:17
Mile 5: 11:15
Mile 6: 10:54
Mile 7: 11:17
Mile 8: 11:06
Mile 9: 11:10
Mile 10: 11:25
Mile 11: 11:17
Mile 12: 11:10
Mile 13: 11:23
Last part (watch had 0.22): 2:25 (11:05 pace)

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