After two years, I had a successful return to pacing at the Rehoboth Beach Seashore Half Marathon

Vanessa Junkin puts her arm up holding a pacing stick while running, about to finish the race, with a happy runner in front.
Here I am finishing the Rehoboth Beach Seashore Half Marathon in one of the free race photos.

Since the pandemic began, there have been fewer races and, of course, fewer pacing opportunities. So, when I held up my 2:45 sign in the corral of the Rehoboth Beach Seashore Half Marathon on Saturday, Dec. 4, it would be my first time pacing a half marathon in two years.

My last time pacing was at this race in 2019. This year, I asked if I could pace the 2:45 group instead of the 2:30 group, which I paced at this race in 2018 and 2019. I’ve gotten a little slower and wanted to make sure that the pace would be comfortable for me. The 2:45 half marathon pace is approximately a 12:35/mile average pace, though I knew the average pace would end up being a little bit faster on my watch, as I usually end up with about 13.2 miles.

I drove up the morning of the race and met up with the rest of the Beast Pacing team and got the sign I would carry along the way, making myself a moving target for other runners. Since I left so early, it was super easy to park.

This was the 11th half marathon I’ve paced, and I kept to my usual strategy of wearing a pace band that has the elapsed time I should be at each mile marker. I also walk through the water stops.

Runners found me in the corral, including a runner who ran a good portion of the race with me when I paced the 2:30 group in 2019. Unfortunately, at that race, she had a bad fall and was unable to complete the run. This year, I ran with her for nearly eight miles. She finished the race, which makes me so happy.

There was another runner who was running near me early on, and a pair of runners who were doing run/walk intervals and would catch up to me regularly.

Runners Jenn and Vanessa pose for a photo before the race.
I got to meet Jenn from Team BibRave before the race!

The course was different this year, taking runners a different way in town before heading on the boardwalk and up to the Gordons Pond area in Cape Henlopen State Park. We then turned around and continued to run on roads before entering the crushed-stone portion of the Junction & Breakwater Trail for about 1.5 miles out and 1.5 miles back. This year, we also took a different way back to town once we exited the crushed-stone portion of the trail.

Unfortunately, one thing that could not be missed on the “out” part of the out-and-back to Gordons Pond was a medical emergency. A medical golf-cart-type vehicle passed us, an ambulance went by, and when we came across the scene, I saw a man lying on the ground to the side of the course, with some kind of medical contraption over him and emergency medical personnel.

After the race, I was happy and relieved to see in the race Facebook group that there were two nurses running who provided CPR until the EMTs arrived, and that the person survived. How amazing!

It was a beautiful day for a run. I wore a jacket before the race started, but with the sun coming up and knowing it would be in the 50s later in the day, I took it off before I started running. I knew I’d be fine in just a short-sleeve shirt and shorts. This also made my neon yellow Beast Pacing shirt, which says “PACER” on the back, fully visible.

A group of pacers — runners wearing neon yellow shirts holding signs with numbers on them.
Some of the Beast Pacing team poses for a photo before the Rehoboth Seashore Marathon and Half Marathon.

I was able to see some friends running the race on the out-and-backs. Karla even stopped to take a photo of me while she was running. One fun part of the second out-and-back is the Surfgimp Foundation’s Flag Alley, which was right before the turnaround this year and features numerous flags hanging across the trail above the runners, along with motivational signs.

After I lost the person I’d been running with just before we hit the Mile 8 marker, I was pretty much running alone until about the last 1.1 miles. Numerous people commented on this, saying things like, “You lost your group!” A handful of marathoners also passed me, which I knew would happen, as this has even happened when I paced 2:30. Six marathoners finished under 2:45, though I started further back in the corral than the fastest runners, so a few more than that passed me.

Once I hit that Mile 12 marker, I came across several runners. Having me right behind them with my 2:45 sign was motivating them to stay in front of me, as at least one or two of them said something like, “Now I have to start running again,” which I can totally relate to! I think all, or at least most, of the people I came up to at this mile marker were able to stay in front of me.

A group of seven runners pose for a photo.
Some of the Eastern Shore Running Club group poses for a photo before the race.

For pacing, it all comes down to the end of the race. As I mentioned, I always end up with about 13.2 miles on my watch for pacing instead of 13.1 — this can happen because of not running the tangents (the shortest possible route), water stops, weaving between other runners or the GPS not being precise. I needed to make sure that I came in between 2:44:00 and 2:45:00 — not over 2:45:00, but also not below 2:44:00.

I’d been looking at the time when I hit each mile marker, and many were right on or right before. Then, in the middle, there were a few where I hit the mile marker slightly after, so I had a mile that was a little bit faster after that, to make sure I wouldn’t be behind. By this last mile, I felt I was in a good spot, but it’s never really final until that finish line is in sight. At that point, it’s easier to adjust the pace to fall within that minute window.

My friend Karla got this photo of me pacing — while she was running the other way!

I tried to slow down to ensure I did not come in ahead of 2:44, and I felt like I was going at a slower pace. But looking at my data for the last quarter-mile of the race (my watch logged 13.25 miles), somehow, my average pace for that part was 11:37, which was faster than my overall average pace.

I crossed the finish line 32 seconds before 2:45, with a time of 2:44:28. It was exciting to be able to cross that finish line as a pacer once again and meet my time.

This race has an awesome post-race party, and this year, the food was in a separate buffet-style area outside the main party tent, which was great, because it allowed for more room in the tent and space to sit down. I filled a plate with food, including mac and cheese, a waffle, bacon, a biscuit with gravy, meatballs, coleslaw and cookies. Then, I went into the tent and had a Dogfish Head beer. While I was getting the beer, I ran into my friends Lynn and Karen, and I then went to sit with them. There were also cans of Dogfish’s non-alcoholic beer, Lemon Quest, and I had one of those, too.

Runners Vanessa and Bill pose for a photo. Bill does a peace sign.
Here I am with fellow BibRave Pro Bill, who paced the marathon.

After hanging out some at the after-party, I went back to the finish line. There, I ran into my friend Melissa, and we cheered for runners finishing the race. I got to see my friend Jenn from BibRave finish the marathon, as well as Chris (Melissa’s husband, who is also a friend). I also got to meet Jenn in person for the first time that morning.

On my way back to my car and to take finisher medal photos at the beach, someone heading the other way stopped me by saying, “Vanessa Junkin.” He said I didn’t know him, but he loved my writing. Someone else on the course shouted out “Vanessa She Runs by the Seashore” (or maybe the other way around). I am so flattered — these kinds of things made my day! So if you’re reading this, thank you!

It was so nice to have this annual tradition back after it was only able to be held virtually last year. I have participated in every in-person version of this race since my first full marathon here in 2013. I hope to pace the half again in 2022!

Vanessa Junkin takes a selfie with her 2:45 pace sign. Text reads "13.25 mi Distance" "2:44:33 Time" and "12:25/mi Pace."
I was happy to complete the race on time!


Mile 1: 12:07
Mile 2: 12:19
Mile 3: 12:41
Mile 4: 12:12
Mile 5: 12:38
Mile 6: 12:20
Mile 7: 12:45
Mile 8: 12:37
Mile 9: 12:21
Mile 10: 12:31
Mile 11: 11:55
Mile 12: 12:40
Mile 13: 12:26
Last part (watch had .25): 2:55 (11:37 pace)
Official Time: 2:44:28 / 12:33 pace; Time on Watch: 2:44:33 / 12:25 pace

I’m pleased to see that my official splits were:

5K: 37:30 / 12:06 pace
9.5 miles: 1:59:10 / 12:33 pace
13.1 miles: 2:44:28 / 12:33 pace

Rehoboth Seashore Half Marathon medal in front of the beach.
I got a photo of my finisher medal at the beach.

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