When I lived in Ottawa, I took on the responsibility as an assistant pace leader. Throughout our training, I frequently helped pace the four hour marathon group and my responsibilities included; keeping everyone on pace (obviously), announcing walk breaks and adjusting when necessary (i.e. delaying a walk until after we reached the top of a hill), having added awareness and calling out possible hazards (bikes, pedestrians, ice, pot holes, Sasquatch, etc), and checking in on the runners throughout the run. It was a responsibility that I found very empowering as I learned what is meant to be accountable. I held the trust of roughly thirty to forty people who were counting on me to keep them on track in order to focus on their performance. It was very rewarding to help other runners; in addition, it allowed me to quickly learn the importance of maintaining a consistent rhythm‒something I never mastered during choir practice. Although I only stepped in when the pace leader was absent, the experience allowed me to uncover a new appreciation for pacers and race bunnies. On race day, pacers hold a lot of responsibility in order for other runners to achieve their goals. They truly are incredible humans beings who work very hard to find their ‘pacing Zen’. Once I get a little more running experience, I think this is something I would love to try since you also get the added challenge of running a perfectly even pace which in case you didn’t know, is not easy to do!
In the mean time, here in Toronto I have taken on a new role: The ass-monitor. Essentially, my running mates are part cheetah, part gazelle and I swear their ancestors were of Kenyan decent. That being said, we have very speedy runs! One of the runners, for example, usually starts with the group and during the run he manages to have a coffee, use the washroom, grab a banana from a grocer, catch up AND pass everyone while running the steepest part of the route! This morning at the end of our run he said “In the last few k’s I was about to ‘hit the wall’ so I decided to run faster in hopes those emotions would subside”. WHAT?! Most people who say their going to ‘hit the wall’ (i.e. reach a state of total exhaustion) usually start slowing down, crying, complaining and, in turn, stop running. However, this guy runs faster during those dark times. Another man in our group, who I believe is Brazilian, ran this morning (26km) without water‒casually saying “I don’t need it”. Of course, my sarcastic comment that followed his statement was “Obviously he’s Brazilian. Didn’t you know they have an inner hydration system? Water is completely unnecessary”. This is the same guy who signed up for a marathon, only trained 8 times before the race and claimed the furthest he ran in training was 23km. Of course, I learned later that his dad was a famous Olympic runner, or something as equally amazing, so running is intertwined in his genes. That being said, everyone in my running group are people I truly adore and admire; they just happen to be very humble roadrunners.
So in my new role as the “ass-monitor”, which lucky for me required no application, the responsibilities include; not falling further behind because as a new resident in the city, I am not very familiar with the streets, trying to stay close to the packs ‘comfortable’ 4:55-5:10 pace, ignoring the little voice in my head that tells me ‘I suck’, keeping myself entertained with silly thoughts and lame jokes, and the list goes on. I must confess, initially I found myself frustrated when I was no longer the steam engine, but I’ve come to happily accept my place as the caboose. That being said, since I’ve started running with this group I’ve definitely improved which is what every runner wants. One of the lines in that motivational video I posted a few days ago said “When you’re not pursuing your goal, you are literally committing spiritual suicide”! My take on this is that in order to improve, I need to push past my comfort zone. Of course, I’m not going to kill myself in order to achieve an average kilometre time of 5:05 on a 26km run, but there is a fine line between knowing your limits and pushing yourself that extra bit in hopes to improve and succeed at a new level.
Moreover at the end of our runs, everyone (ass-monitor included) congratulates the other on their success, no matter how fast or slow. After a dozen high five’s, we all go for coffee and TOGETHER we recount the kilometres.