I don’t have to run fast to be competitive, and the Surf City Marathon was a perfect example of that. I was the official pacer for the 3:30 group for second straight year, and my goal was simple. I wanted to come closer to 3:30:00 without going over than I did last year. Last year, I went 3:29:54.
When pacing, I run by pace, not by heart rate. I keep an eye on my Garmin and do my best to keep my average and current pace right on the money depending on how long I think I’m going to run with the tangents. 26.2 miles required an 8:00 pace, 26.3 needed 7:59, 26.4 needed 7:57 and 26.5 needed 7:55. I planned on getting rolling at about 7:59 or so per mile and then adjusting based on how straight my lines were.
I explained my strategy to my group before the start of the race. I told them I was going to attempt to run as even as possible. There’s one decent downhill that I would take advantage of and we’d run about a 7:35, but on the way back up the hill, I told them we’d be a little bit slower. Aside from that, I’d be shooting for miles right around 8:00 and I promised them if they stuck with me, I’d get them to the line at the right time. I told them about my 3:29:54 from last year, and they seemed relieved.
But then a friend of mine who was running with was was talking to me about my run in the Diamond Valley Lake Marathon the day before. My group looked a little panicked when they heard that I was responsible for pacing them even though I had run a marathon the day before, but I told them not to worry. This was my fifth double, and the slowest I’d done in any of the second-day races was a 3:21 in Mobile this year, but the 22-degree temps (11 with wind chill) probably had a little something to do with it.
I told them I was so sure I’d run a good race, that if I did, they owed a visit to operationjack.com, but if I didn’t, they could go curse about me to everybody! And then, we were off.
I was a tiny bit slow out of the gate, but I’m not worried about five seconds after one mile. A marathon is a long, long race. I got heckled in the second mile, which surprised me. Some guy was flying buy, yelling that the 3:30 pacer was going too fast and killing his people. The funny thing was, I was actually slow. I don’t normally get mouthy on the race course, but I told him what my time was when I paced last year, and that I was pretty sure I’d be just fine.
I was a little off here and there on my early miles, but I settled into a routine. It looked like we were going to be running 26.4 miles, so I tried to keep my average pace at about 7:57. I got it there by about mile 8 and held it. I got a good feel for the effort I needed to run the right pace and locked into a zone. We hit the half in 1:45:03 and I jokingly told the group we’d make up the three seconds.
The more we kept rolling, the more it actually started to look like I was going to run about 26.35 miles. I figured I was probably going to be 20 seconds fast, but I didn’t change anything up. Less than a second per mile probably isn’t all that bad. I’m competitive with myself, so I’d rather be one second fast than 20, but there was no sense slowing people down if they were locked into a groove.
I started to fatigue a little bit over the final two miles, but the sun came out, and let’s be realistic … I was pretty close to the completion of my second marathon of the weekend. I tried to start motivating people, telling them to stick with me and they’d be in the 3:20s. Of course, it’s tougher to hit a pace when the sun’s peaking and you’re near the end of 26.2 all-out miles.
I ended up crossing the finish line in 3:29:39. I was a little bummed, because it was too fast for what I wanted to do. I really wanted to be in the 3:29:50s, but I expect a lot out of myself. I know that there’s really nothing wrong than being fast by less than one second per mile over the course of a marathon. Individually, I was pretty happy about my heart rate. Last year, I averaged 161 when I paced. This year, 153. I’ve suspected from my morning runs that I’m getting into better shape, but it’s going to be tough to see results because I’m not going to be fresh until next year.
Anyways, I had a lot of fun out there on the course today. For starters, it’s very rewarding to help people achieve their goals. Lots of people thanked me afterwards, and that was pretty cool. Also, I saw a lot of people I knew over the course of the race — probably at least two dozen yelled hellos. At one point, somebody running with me asked, “Is there anybody you don’t know?” It was a fun day. Good or bad, aren’t they all?
If you want to see my splits, they’re here.
Eight down, 52 to go. I can do this! Next up, Austin!
Me and two my biggest fans: My brother Josh and my good friend Ben
Me and Train 4 Autism founder Ben Fesagaiga