Event number 299
The life of a pacer
With pacing week coming up how appropriate that we should receive this insight from regular parkrunner and pacer Carl Carey.
Burnley Parkrun- Life of a pacer!
Seeing how its coming up to 100 park runs since I first started doing the Burnley park run in July 2014, which was also my first ever run, as it was for Judith my wife, I thought it would be interesting to do a report from a pacers point of view, what we think of, how we prepare and the highs and lows of a Saturday morning!
When I did my first run in 2014, I did it in a time of 33 minutes. I thought I was going to die! First words I remember on that blurry day was of our beloved race director Karen. “Did you enjoy that?”
My reply was nearly unintelligible as I could hardly breathe!
After that, we were away the following Saturday, but came back after that, with a determination on our part to get better! Which we did, i’m pleased to say, and we’re still trying to do even better!
Fast forward a few years, having knocked minutes off my time, I tentatively volunteered to pace, wanting to help Burnley Parkrun as much as it had helped me, and hoping to not let anyone down with a wrong time. Having enjoyed the experience, I now try to volunteer whenever I can, and enjoy seeing peoples faces when they realise they have a shiny new PB!
So, to the present: Preparing to pace! When the email comes, I try to reply straight away and get a pacing time thats easy to set my watch to! Also, that pesky Paul Marsden usually gets in there early, so have to get my name in quick!
Email fired back to Karen, yes i’m available to pace, can I do 28 or 30 etc and then wait for the reply. Now, whoever the race director is during that week usually doesn’t answer the emails until Thursday, so I also try to remember to ask which time i’m confirmed to be doing so that I can set my trusty watch. And then to be patient. We all have day jobs after all!
Yes! Confirmed! 30 minutes pace it is! Now to set my watch , lets see, 5k, thats 6 minutes a kilometre (checking on google in case i’m wrong..) just a few days to go before Saturday.
Friday night checklist: Watch, check. Trainers, check. Running top, check. Barcode (mustn’t forget that!) check. Socks, check. Buff (also known as comfort blanket) check. But what if it rains? Running jacket just in case, check. Think thats it. Going through my list, checking my alarm is ready, check. Somethings missing. Looking at the list again… Shorts! Or if its cold and raining, running pants. That would’ve been embarrassing…
The morning of Parkrun comes, i’m up earlier than I would be, getting myself ready go. Trying to rush my wife, gets greeted with a stern look as its only 8am. Ok, I’ll make sure everything else is ready (this was all pre daughters by the way) then finally, we (Judith) are ready to go!
We set off from home, I switch on my trusty Garmin watch to make sure it gets its signal before we get to Towneley otherwise lots of waving arm in the air/panic/switch-off/switch-on, and then we’re there. Check watch, its working, remembered to put Car Park pass in so not to get a ticket, off to the team briefing and to pick up my number!
Gets the number, decides to warm up a bit and get ready to go. At the start, this seems strange to everyone but I like to get as close to the gate as possible when i’m pacing, otherwise my timing will be off by the time i’m finished. So if I start further back, the distance will be longer (sometimes it can take 15 seconds to get through the gate) so my projected time of 6 minutes per Km will be inaccurate. Cue the strange looks and comments as i’m going down the avenue in front of some of the faster pacers! But i’m calm, checking i’m doing my 6 minute pace, assuring people it’ll sort itself out, theres 5K to do yet. Lets get past this runner, he’s doing really well but he’s holding me up. Don’t want to have to speed up to maintain time! By the time i’m down by the river, the faster pacers have overtook me and everyone is in their natural order. Sorted! Now to keep in time!
The 2Km marker comes up and I check my watch. About 15 seconds too fast. I slow, not wanting to lose people watching the number on my back. There, steady now. Constantly asked if i’m on time, to which I reply yes, well done, keep going! Remembering to encourage people, as it makes them feel good (well, it does me) and then I get to the crossroads. Shouts of encouragement from the marshals and spectators always encourages me to speed up, but I can’t on this occasion, I need to keep the pace! Its around this distance that I tend to find myself either catching people who set off too fast, or being on my own for a bit. Depending on what time you pace at, it can be a bit lonely being a pacer, until the end, when everyone suddenly sees the end in sight and goes for it! Even then it’s hard to resist the urge to sprint to the finish!
Back down to the river, looking at my watch and nearly run into someone who’s dog is going to the toilet, about 10 seconds slower, need to bring it back to 6 minute pace. Runner with dog passes me, and I remember when our dog could run with us….pushing my sad memory aside, I concentrate on doing my job, getting to 30 minutes on the time required. I finally get to the bottom of the avenue for the last time, going up and passing people who are now feeling it and slowing, but still pushing on! Shouts of well done and nearly there almost go unnoticed as they concentrate on trying to breathe getting up this beast of an avenue (i’m sure it gets steeper as we go up it for the last time) I start having doubts about whether i’m speeding up the avenue as I seem to be passing a lot of people...a quick glance at my watch reassures me the pace is the same, its the other athletes who are slowing down, making me seem quick. Going down towards the bandstand for the last time, I steal a glance behind me to see if I can see people who has stayed with me. There’s 3 or 4, and I quickly look at my watch to see what time i’m at. 20 seconds quicker. Arrgghh! I slow down a bit, but not too much to make it obvious, but making sure i’m still on time. The trick I pull here is to let them catch me, then quietly speed up, unknown to them, so that they stay with me, and they then try to keep in front of me. It works! I’m shouting that i’m catching them so don’t slow down, there’s the finish line! They speed up, thinking they’re just in front of the 30 minute pacer when in reality they’re 30 seconds or more quicker by the time I finish! It works, and 4 people have shiny new PB’s! One of the cheeky timekeepers suggest I need to go around again as I don’t look tired, but thats part of the fun.
The best thing? When other runners come up to you and thank you for getting them there. But really, they’ve done all the effort, so well done to them! Parkrun has done so much for me and Judith, the least we can do is give a bit back. All i’m doing is what I enjoy, and thats whats good about Parkrun. All of us who volunteer, whether we run, marshal, scan your barcodes or hand out the finish tokens in all sorts of weather, we enjoy seeing people achieve, whether they’re doing it for the first time or the hundredth time, quick, slow, it doesn’t matter. Theres no last places at Park Run, only finishers!
Roll of honour
(Full results here)
This weeks rapid runners are -
- 1st Luke Turner (Clayton Harriers) 17:10 PB
- 2nd Danny Collinge (Burnley AC) 17:12
- 3rd Callum Holmes (Clayton Harriers) 17:44 PB
- 1st Helana White (Clayton Harriers) 19:37 PB
- 2nd Rachel Villiers (Barlick Fell Runners) 20:01 PB
- 3rd Sophie Ashworth (Clayton Harriers) 22:56 PB
Congratulations to Keith Parkinson and Gareth Berry on completing 50 parkruns.
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