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21K Pacer Duty at the 6th Run United Leg 1

Crossing the finish line always gives everyone a different high, most specially if you have conquered what seems to you an impossible feat. But being a pacer has a different fulfillment on its own, although you are self-bound to the runner beside you, it is a duty that doesn't feel like a duty at all!

Owing to the success of the Run United HP Recovery Run last year, the previous Run United's race last Sunday, March 8, 2015 gave us select bloggers and runners another chance to become a Pacer once again to its Leg 1 Participants. Unlike the Recovery Run, the choices of target finish time and pace for this event are much more competitive. Thinking back about my previous personal bests and previous distance that I raced, I opted to sign-up as 21K Pacer at 2:06 target finish time or 6-mins per kilometer target pace. I was not able to foresee if I would still be able to fit in some trainings despite the busy timing preparing for the then upcoming Sierra 51050.

Less than two (2) weeks before the race, I was feeling pressured that I wanted to change to a lower distance or lower target finish time already. Nevertheless, 3-days before the race I was able to have a solo training of three (3) simulation pace trainings ranging from 10K to 15K distance, one (1) short speed workout, and one (1) conditioning run (all in no particular order). Finally, two (2) nights before the race, I went to visit our neighborhood Spa to treat myself with a painful full-body deep tissue massage (I've been needing this for the past 3-months already). I've also traded some Social network and Blogging time for a good rest and sleep, and remembered also to take my Multivitamins for the whole week prior to race day.

Our Lead Pacer

Race day came and I was still a bit nervous knowing that my co-Pacers are also fast runners -- Rolly and Noel Camarillo. Not personally knowing how strong and who our Lead Pacer will be also added to the pressure that I was feeling. When I heard that Noel will no longer arrive due to medical reasons, I got more pressured due to the fact that there will only be three (3) of us who have to lead the pace for the runners -- more reason not to bonk nor slowdown in any part of the race.

Before gun-time, all the Pacer groups were introduced by Sir Boy (RunningHost) in-front of the crowd at the starting line, complete with flashing of high-res photo and an introductory description of each Pacers. Every group consists of a Lead Pacer (mostly a member of the ULAH Team) and two or more other Pacers. Following the introduction, each pacer assembled ahead from the starting line, our group where situated at exactly 200-meters away. While waiting for the gun-start, our Lead Pacer Sir Ed Francisco (who just recently came from an out-of-Country Marathon) lead the brainstorming on how are we going to strategize at the ascents and descents on the two flyovers along the route, how are we going to execute our pace, and as well the slowing down on hydration stations.

When the race started, we've waited for some runners to catch up on our location then slowly built-up our target pace. In less than 1-km, we are already racing and pacing with a few runners on our back. I have noticed that some runners also used our group to gauge if they can sustain or surrender from our pace as I've seen some going ahead after a few kilometers while others just lagged behind (and probably joined the other Pacer groups).

The runners who stayed on our pack got more than the target finish time as Sir Ed, who is really a strong runner, was still able to share his knowledge and tips about running while maintaining an average pace of 5:30-min/km. to 5:40-min/km. Me and Rolly can't help but to be amazed with his speed, strength, and endurance in one. From proper drafting, breathing, running form, nutrition, recovery, and training -- all of these you will learn while a fast pace.

It was a competitive pace that we have accumulated a reserve time of 3-minutes on the first 7-kilometer, 5-minutes as we reached the 15th-kilometer, when we got back to Seaside Blvd. about more than 1-km. from the finish line, we just slowed-down to 6:30-min/km. pace and let the runners in our group go ahead. Some of them went ahead while one particular runner (forgot his name) also deliberately slowed-down to wait for her Girlfriend's arrival at the finish line (who was supposed to take his photo upon crossing). About 200-meters away, we were cheering every runner who is about to cross the finish line, shouting encouragement to give their last push.

2:06 Pacers crossing the finish line - Me, Sir Ed, and Rolly

As we cross the finish line, though most of the runners from our group has already crossed ahead, we were surprised that they went back to thank us with their own stories to tell -- how such finish time was previously unbelievable for them, how it felt running with a group or with a pacer, and how greatly it felt for them crossing the finish line with a new PR. You can truly see in their face and eyes the happiness that they have! It was a mark of new achievement for these runners, a priceless achievement for each of them.

While resting and gathering our own stories at the Pacer's lounge, some runners still kept popping at our tent looking for their own pacers to thank each of them. In our group, there was this "Allan" who told us that his last 21K PR was 2:20 and he never thought that he would be able to sustain a consistent pace and finish at 2:08 for this race - Run United 1. After a few more minutes, my previous co-officemate (Danz Gonzales) who also joined the 21K category (he paced with 2:26 group) happily shared that he finished his 21K at 2:26 and has achieved a new PR.

with Danz Gonzales
2:06 Group

The Run United 1 2015 has created a new milestone for many runners, if not all. It was also a priceless moment for us Pacers who were able to witness the joys of the runners as they achieved this new milestone for them. It was a realizing moment that a lot of runners are still aiming to get a new PR each time, and that pacing them was a great way to help them achieve it, if not in training.

Each race and each challenge that we have surmounted has its own level of "runner's high", and being a Pacer has a different high on its own. Once you've become one, then you will know that running is not a solitary sport at all!

Route Map and Pace as captured from Suunto Ambit 2S
The Pacers of each group and category (phot by ULAH)

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