After having a bad day at the Lehigh Valley Marathon I decided that I was not going to do more races this year. I got very emotional and thought that I should give marathons a break. It’s funny because I feel that the message I promote is in part to never give up and to fight for your dreams but I was doing the opposite. I guess we are all humans and when we experience downs in any aspect of our lives we don’t feel like fighting for what we want or love anymore.
A couple of weeks later I received a text message from Chris from Fleet Feet Savannah asking me if I wanted to be a pacer for the Rock ‘n’ Roll half or full marathon. If you don’t know what pacers are here’s a quick explanation: they’re people who run a race at a certain pace so people who want to finish on a certain time can follow and rely on them to achieve their goals. These people carry a stick indicating their finishing time so runners can identify them during the race.
I told Chris I’d love to help others achieve their goals because I had a great experience doing so at the Publix Savannah Women’s Half but that I didn’t know if I was mentally ready for another full. I took a couple of days before getting back to him in order to evaluate things.
During these days I realized that if I did the full it’d be my 10th marathon, my first time pacing for 26.2 miles and also what could break my post-race depression. Also in 2011 I qualified for the Boston Marathon at this race thanks to a pacer. It was such an unbelievable moment for me that I liked the thought of helping others feel the same way I did 5 years ago. I realized I had nothing to lose so I said yes!
The group they had available for me to pace was the 4:45, a very challenging time for me because I’ve never ran for so long in my life. I’d say that my average time for a full marathon right now is around 3:45 so this was an hour longer.
Some people told me it was going to be super easy for me and others said that I was going to suffer because of all the pounding on my joints. I tried to focus on the idea that I was going to help people achieve their goals and then I could worry about recovering.
I didn’t know how to train for a 10:53 min./mile run so I did some research and talked to my friend/coach Drew who suggested to just do an easy 16-miler before the race.
I logged 12-15 miles a week for 6 weeks at whatever pace I felt like, didn’t do any speed work and focused on doing yoga, strength training and spinning because that’s what I felt like. I did the 16-miler while in Miami and that was it.
Since I didn’t follow a training schedule I got to the starting line feeling a bit anxious. 26.2 miles are rough; it doesn’t matter if you sprint them or walk them… You’re putting a lot of stress in your body!
I went to the expo the day before, picked up my pacing sign, a few gels and met with my fellow Savannah Striders for a group meeting. The speaker was Ivan Levinrad and I love something he said: start with your head, finish with your heart. Such a real and beautiful quote!
Race day came around and I woke up with a big smile on my face! I couldn’t wait to meet my new friends that will keep me company for almost 5 hours while running through Savannah!
We had a beautiful weather with temperatures around the 50s at the start. I got to the starting line and people began to introduce themselves and taking pictures with me! I asked them about their goals and told them that they were in for a treat… Savannah is such a beautiful city!
When we started I had about 12-15 people in my group, or at least that I knew! A lot of people follow pacers without telling them so it may have been more.
Coming into this I knew I was not going to bring my iPod to be more approachable so people could talk to me and also to suck in all the experience. During 50% of the race someone in my group wanted to hold a conversation with me and that was nice… I made so many new friends!
I had a few people who were running their first marathon, a couple that were doing their 3rd, a man who was doing his 2nd, a woman who was doing her 47th, a man that was doing his 29th, another one who was running his 201st (yes, you read it right 2-0-1) and then there was me and my big #10! I felt no different than them!
During the first 18 miles I got to know everyone a little bit. My new friends came from South Carolina, North Carolina, Georgia, Illinois, Idaho and the list goes on!
I know I’ve said this multiple times but one of my favorite things about this sport is the precious friendships and relationships it’s brought into my life.
During the entire 26.2 miles I was smiling. I was so happy that I was running in Savannah, with great people while helping them achieve something great… How rewarding!
When we got to mile 18 I started seeing how a lot of them started to fall behind, which is pretty normal. I wanted to stop and walk with each of them and encourage them but I knew I couldn’t because there was still people depending on my performance.
At mile 23 it was only John and me. John is the guy who was about to complete his 201st marathon. I told him “It’s just you and me” to what he replied with the kindest words expressing how grateful he was for me and how my presence and positive attitude had made the race so enjoyable and bearable.
I don’t know why but my eyes got teary and I felt I wanted to cry of joy. This person whom I just met and who’s a marathon veteran was just being so sweet to me!
Towards the end he got to finish around 4:44 and I decided to wait for some of the other people to push them through that last stretch. I ran with a couple of them finishing in 4:45:15 and waited at the finish line for one of the guys who wanted to PR. He finished in 4:48 shaving 12 min. from his first full marathon… Wow!
I finished my slowest marathon, my 10th marathon and the less selfish and most rewarding race I’ve ever done. See, we are creatures with ego and most of the times we want to do better for ourselves. There’s nothing wrong with that. But when we leave our ego aside and put our energy into helping others succeed that’s when magic happens!
I’m so grateful I had this opportunity and look forward for more pacing in my future. Congrats to everyone who completed this challenging race!