Pacing for the 2016 Vitality Oxford Half

A very chilly pre-race pic.
A very chilly pre-race pic.

There is something special about running a race in your home town. Oxford has been my hometown for the past 6 years now. And I still love its quaint streets, historic buildings and green parks as much as the first day I arrived here.

No wonder I loved running the Vitality Oxford Half marathon on Sunday. With so familiar faces around, friends, family and runners from Oxford Brookes Uni and Headington RoadRunners, the support along my neighborhood’s streets (the new course passes through Old Marston and right in front of Oxsrad, my running club’s headquarters) was incredible.

This year I was lucky to be a pacer for the 2.15 group, so about half an hour slower than my current half-marathon time (much easier to control the pacing when you are running at about half an hour slower than capacity!). I did it in 2:14:52, eight seconds faster to help everyone get a PB!

I did not want to run a race so close to the Berlin marathon and I was grateful when the chance to pace arose. I did not take it lightly. I did my homework before the race, and I had my splits written down on a piece of paper, just in case something went wrong with my Garmin (nothing went wrong of course, although having additional chip time mats placed before the actual start of the race by the organisers meant that I pressed my start button too early and had to compensate for this throughout the run).

My splits, as I carried them with me on the course. The piece of paper was tucked in behind my race number. It didn't escape unscathed.
My splits, as I carried them with me on the course. The piece of paper was tucked in behind my race number. It didn’t survive unscathed.

 

The quality of the race organisation has gone up a notch or two over the past few years. I am happy to report everyone looked satisfied after the race. The music bands played nice tunes along the way, the new route, heading to Summertown and the old Marston village, before turning around and going through Oxford University Parks and finally around the magnificent Radcliffe Camera, was mostly fast and downhill.

I loved the Lucozade drinks, expecially the new Brazilian guava taste, the small bottles of water were efficiently taken, and the Gummie Bears a welcome detail. Not to mention the weather, which was absolutely perfect, with sunny blue skies and not too warm, excellent for running.

Support along the way was substantial and especially for the pacer lady, as I was often called.

Pacing in particular was a very rewarding experience for me. I felt like I had a responsibility to the other runners and that I should not let them down. I was there to help them accomplish their goal by running as evenly as possible, while at the same time taking into account the nature of the course and such technical details as having to run somewhat slower inside Oxford Uni Parks, due to the change of terrain and the narrower paths.

The complimentary running kit (high viz top and summer weather running tights) and shoes (the soft and comfy Brooks Ghost 9, review to follow soon) were an added bonus and I was happy to receive them just in time (very efficient logistics!). So, thank you Brooks (the official race sponsor).

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You still get the bling as a pacer!

 

My take from the race:

Knowing your course definitely helps with pacing it right. In addition, holding up to what the pace dictates, even when you are feeling that you can set off much faster, is also critically important for achieving a slightly negative split.

Hopefully, a lesson learned for my own next marathon.

 

A lovely post-race hug with my two favourite little people.
A lovely post-race hug with my two favourite little people.

 

 

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