“Selfish isn’t a bad thing. Remember: Secure your own mask before helping others.”
I’m a selfish runner. Yes, it’s true. Running is all about me. My goals. My pace. My comfort zone. My accomplishments. I run alone, don’t join race training groups, it’s very much a solo effort for me (except for my dogs, of course). When I showed up for today’s half marathon and 5k, that was going to be the plan. Business as usual, two races for Lindsay, as fast as I can go.
That all changed very quickly and very drastically – and it was great.
A few weeks back, I was in the midst of training for the Fargo Mini Marathon; an annual half marathon I’ve run several times. Training was going well and my goal of finishing under 1:40 seemed promising. One random day, I received a message from an acquaintance, asking if I’d be interested in joining the Twin Cities Pacers and coming onboard right away as a pacer for the Fargo Mini Marathon. I was so excited; just a week or two earlier during the Dick Beardsley Marathon, I was thinking I should look into being a race pacer. How cool, right?! I always idolized the pacers; to be able to run a race in an exact time like that, you have to be the best of the best.
Upon signing on, I received an email letting me know all the spots were full for this race (bummer) but would I be willing to be a reserve pacer and jump in last-minute, if needed (yes!!)? In reviewing the pacer slots, I noticed the fastest pacer was a 1:40 – perfect! I’d be a little nervous to pace that group if asked but I’d feel confident that I’d be able to do it. And, I’d be comfortable doing any other level, if needed, so I felt great that I could offer that versatility for the group. I didn’t hear any updates the days leading up to the event so I figured, oh well, I’ll just run for my PR in the half then run the 5k later that morning for extra fun.
I arrived at the race early to meet the director of the group and the other pacers, at least introduce myself and make the connection with the team. To my delight, I was told a pace slot had opened up and would I be willing to take it? Awesome? Maybe the 1:50? Or possibly the 2:15? The open spot: the 2:45 group. An onset of panic and fear immediately took over. I had never run a race at a 12:30ish minute/mile pace before – what if I messed up? What if I ran too fast, then pulled it back too slow? What if I let down these people who were counting on me to bring them across the finish line in that time?
I had never run a race for anyone other than myself (other than the wheelchair race a few weeks back). If I had a bad race day and didn’t meet my goal, I’d be upset with myself but it would just be me. Now other people’s race and finish time, goal and accomplishment, it felt like it was all in my hands. I realize that’s a tad dramatic and this really wasn’t about me at all but it was just the combo of surprise and the unexpected. I’m not a “go-with-the-flow” kind of gal, I’m so planned, so scheduled, so anal that I don’t do well with plans changing at the last minute.
But once I got over that initial sense of panic, I turned around my thinking: maybe I could help someone finish. Or keep them from stopping to walk if they were tempted to give up. If nothing else, I’d have a smile on my face, be encouraging and at least help motivate other runners to keep going.
That’s exactly what happened.
At mile 12, I looked over at a gentleman who had been running close to me since about mile 8 and smiled. He took out his headphones and said, “I feel like giving up and I almost did there.” I smiled even bigger and said, “I’m glad you didn’t! Stick with me one more mile, and we’ll finish together.” “Yes, okay,” he said and later told me this was the first half marathon he hadn’t stopped to walk and he really wanted to finish it out, running the whole time. He did!
Then there was a woman who was with me from around mile 4 to the very end. When we finished, she hugged me, thanked me and said she enjoyed the run and did so much better than she expected.
And my fears of going way too fast or way too slow? I crossed the line in 2:44:21 – so pretty much bang-on!
Today wasn’t about me at all. It was about every runner out there. Well, I can’t say it wasn’t about me at all; for the first time in a long time, I took the time to look around, give high-fives, enjoy the scenery, cheer on other runners and appreciate the simple joy of fall running at its finest. When I’m racing, I get so focused that I miss a lot of the race itself. Not saying that’s a bad thing, I love racing. But this last-minute change in plans? Today it worked out pretty well. Already looking forward to pacing again!
Have you ever run with a pace group in a race? How did it help or motivate you? Leave a comment or tweet me @runlikeagirl311 on Twitter.