on... Pacing

Last Saturday, I volunteered as a pacer at Newport parkrun. This fitted well with an aim of mixing it up a bit – covering a few goals of mine - volunteering, paying back for other runners that have helped me, helping a friend (Jo) achieve a PB and getting in using parkrun as part of a long run – i.e. running the 4K to parkrun, running and then running home.

Unsure of etiquette, I put a sign on my back, with the target time (26 minutes), followed by the times that we should hit each kilometre (much to my teenage son’s disgust – “wow” was the expression that he used). The idea was that I shout out the time at each kilometre for my pack to see how we are doing, and remember the times for another week.

I lined up with my fellow pacers, we were announced, and then we hit the start. I held my little flag for the first 400 metres, then proceeded to translate my watch’s “Virtual Pacer” function into human movement, keeping within a few seconds of the target at all points, with a running commentary. The pack were great – not missing a beat, even through the tricky third kilometre.

I must say, Jo was amazing, matching me stride for stride until 4.5kilometres, at which point she was caught by lactic acid, said something that I’d never heard from a lady before and bailed for a “break” in the woods.

By then, I'd picked up a collection of other 26 minute wannabees who I took up and over the line, calling the minutes and seconds on the home straight. Jo returned with a remarkable recovery. Not far off the mark, though a PB will be coming another week.

Had plenty of thanks just over the line – lots of smily happy people with new times on their watches. Now, I know that parkrun’s not a race, but it’s a good place to compete with yourself.

Checking the results later, five people achieved PBs just before and above 26 minutes. They all worked so hard, and I’m really happy for their achievements, especially if I helped a little along the way. It’s fun to get a PB, but to get five – wow! (meant in an old-fashioned, non-teenager way).

Having tried a few volunteering jobs at parkrun, this felt the most direct. Not only that, it took the pressure off me pushing for a PB of my own every week.

Thanks again for parkrun UK, and parkrun Newport for letting it all happen. parkrun rocks!