I’ve never been one for number watching. My PBs are simple rewards for gradually becoming a better runner. I’ll run on feel, rather than tirelessly calculating splits and squeezing seconds out of miles. I collect stories, friends and photos rather than smaller digits.
That doesn’t mean I disagree with those that do. It’s admirable that some runners can be focused on becoming so precisely fast (and that they can do the vital running maths). It’s just not for me. What I do love, though, is watching and helping others achieve their goals.
My most rewarding races have been those where I’ve run my absolute slowest times. The ones where I’ve run with friends in their first event, where I’ve slowed my pace to accompany struggling runners or encouraged complete strangers to start running again. So when I was offered the chance to run as an official pacer for London’s biggest half marathon, I jumped at the opportunity.
I’m not sure I’ve ever been so nervous before a race. Although I was more than comfortable running the required pace, I’d never aimed for a specific time before. People would be relying on me to get their cherished PB. Being just a few seconds off the prescribed time could throw months of training out the window. I couldn’t fail.
Talking to the group of runners who quickly gathered around me at the start put even more pressure on my shoulders. Whether they were attempting to beat a family member’s time, grab a hard-trained-for fastest half or just seeking support through an intimidating distance, they all trusted me to run the perfect pace.
Armed with a very technical cheat sheet in the form of times scribbled next to miles, I ran my first event with a tribe of runners following my every move. I felt like I could break into the Macarena and they would copy me…I was definitely tempted.
Once I’d settled into the perfect pace, the nerves disappeared and it felt like I was hosting a moving party. As the host, it was my job to make sure everyone was happy and having a good time, make small talk to keep them comfortable. From the number of high-fives, thank yous and fist-bumps I was showered with at the end, it would seem I throw a pretty good party.
Give me helping ten strangers achieve PBs over getting one for myself any day!