Back in September Pacer Jim organizer of Marathon Pacing asked me to pace the Soldiers Marathon in Georgia. I have been pacing Jim's marathons for a few years now. Because of how far his marathons are from my home area I don't get a chance to pace races for him often. The majority of Jim's marathons are on the East Coast, Midwest, and in the South. Jim has very few marathons on the West Coast where I live. Whenever I pace for Jim it always involves quite a bit of traveling. I really don't like to travel but since I thoroughly enjoy pacing marathons I put up with the travel part.
I arrived in Atlanta and drove the 100+ miles to Columbus GA. I got in to late to pick up my packet or attend the Expo. Thankfully my Pace Team Leader Pacer Jim took care of all of this for me and also booked a room. Jim had my bib, shirt, pacer sign, and a Spibelt sitting in my room when I arrived. Spibelt sponsored all the pacers for Soldiers Marathon. They gave all of us one to wear during the race. These are very cool, a great way to carry your keys, GU packs, S-Caps, cell phone, or whatever else you might need, they stretch out big enough to just about fit a VW Bug!
I finally was able to hit the sack about 11 pm East Coast time. Because of traveling I wasn't able to eat much that day, and since I went to bed so late my sleep was deprived as well. Gotta love runs in the East Coast time zone. My wake up time was 4 am, for a 7 am race start, man that came too soon. As most runners can vouch it's important to get up well before the start of a race so "Everything" moves and evacuates your system, very important. Who really needs sleep anyways?
Soldiers Marathon was held in Columbus GA on Fort Benning. Many of the aid stations, course volunteers, finish line volunteers were Army guys and gals dressed in full uniform. It was cool to have them volunteering in the race, very much appreciated! The race started with a soldier singing the National Anthem, and a 1. 2, 3, GO! The race start was very congested, it took our 3:45 pace group 3 miles to reach our desired pace. I had 12 -15 people with me through mile 10 when all of a sudden our group shrunk down to 4 or 5. The runners that left the group were running the 1/2 marathon and ran their final 3 miles on their own. 4 of the final 5 runners left were Carey & Chris Lovejoy, Pete Malenowski, & Lara Campen, they stayed with me for the majority of the race. Carey and Chris dropped back somewhere around mile 22, Lara dropped back about 1 1/2 miles from the finish, and Pete stayed with me to the end. Around mile 23 I picked up a few runners who were walk/running, Dennis MacVittie & Arthur Zaricor. Once they joined our group they didn't walk another step.
The last few miles pacing are always the hardest for me mentally; to have people who started the race with me fad the last few miles sucks. It happens in every race despite trying to encourage them to hang with us, sometimes it just isn't possible, they've given it all they had. Only one of my original runners stayed with me to the end, Pete a 26 years old marathon veteran. His best time prior to this race was 4:06. We crossed the finish line together, in fact he carried our pace sign across the finish line. We finished in 3:44:54, he managed a 21 minute PR (personal best). What an amazing moment and a great PR. Dennis, who is a 60+ runner, was the only runner in my group to finish with a Boston Qualifier. Arthur finished his 1st marathon and placed 1st in his age group, impressive! When I pace a race I usually have a lot of cool conversations with my runners. I always wait around for all the folks that dropped back and congratulate them on finishing. After all, we enter marathons with a set of goals, #1 is time based, #2 is to just finish, and #3 is to have fun no matter what. Finishing and having fun is really what it is all about, time goals fly out the window when we realize that goal is shot.
Soldiers is a new marathon, in fact this is only their second year. It was very impressive how well organized everything was, water stations fully stocked, mile markers in the right place, the correct USATF distance, finish line food galore, and best of all free BEER!!
I’ll be back next year!