Pacing a Friend to a PR

Way back in June when I ran the SFM half, I decided to sign up for the Berkeley Half Marathon (put on by the same awesome folks from SFM!!). I knew that I wouldn’t be racing it since I would have just raced Big Sur the previous weekend (and well now we know that didn’t go so great), but I still thought it would be really fun to be a part of the first ever Berkeley Half. I thought it would be great if I could find someone looking to PR in the high 1:40s or 1:50s range since I knew that would an easy pace for me to keep. Well, a few months back I convinced my new running pal, Ashley, that she needed to get rid of her old half PR (about 2:00) and that I would help her do that at this race. And then this past week, I also convinced Hillary to join us in the fun.

Saturday afternoon I drove up to Berkeley to pick up the race packets for Hillary and I (Ashley opted to have her mailed to her house) and spend the rest of the day with friends who live in the city. (Ok, so I also totally signed up for this race knowing that I could get to hang out with them too!) We had a great time eating food, drinking wine, and shopping (Wendy came with me to get some new lights for the new house). They are great hosts and I’m excited to have them come visit this weekend!

Pre race

Pre race

Luckily, my friends live just about a mile and a half from the finish so I decided to drive to the finish to meet Ashley and Hillary (who drove up from Santa Cruz that morning). We left my car at the finish and then headed to the start. I love point-to-point courses but it does make it a little difficult to figure out parking/driving (they did have a shuttle to alleviate this problem). After parking fairly close to the start and visiting our friend Port-a-potty, we headed over to the corrals. We were in the 2nd wave and it was PACKED! We couldn’t see the entry gate for the waves and ended up hopping the fence as the race started. So exciting to see such a big turn out for inaugural event! The first 3-4 miles wind through the city portion of Berkeley – I love running the streets much more than driving them! Then we headed out to a run/bike path that parallels the bay and the I-80. Our plan was to keep Ashley at an 8:45 pace for the first 5 miles and then evaluate from there. Like all runners, Ashely felt great in those first few miles (not to mention it was mostly downhill), so we had some speedier paces.

Mile 1 – 8:42
Mile 2 – 8:39
Mile 3 – 7:58 (whoops! bad pacer!)
Mile 4 – 8:12
Mile 5 – 8:39

The stretch between miles 5 and 8 are pretty nice. While the course is next to the freeway, there is a great view of the bay and SF. Thankfully the fog was clearing and we could even see the Golden Gate Bridge. Around this time I also saw some of my favorite running friends/fellow SFM ambassadors: Chris, Alisyn, and Paulette! Then we entered Cesar Chavez park. At times we were on some gravel and dirt trails, but the race did tell runners to expect this. We also took our fuel at this point (unlike when I skipped that part at Big Sur). It was pretty but the course was pretty flat at this point, so there was some leg fatigue. Ashley was feeling good at the pace we had kept in the first 5 miles, so we tried to keep around that same pace for these five as well.

Mile 6 – 8:37
Mile 7 – 8:40
Mile 8 – 8:47
Mile 9 – 8:52
Mile 10 – 8:58

Screen Shot 2013-11-25 at 10.29.54 AM      Screen Shot 2013-11-25 at 10.28.03 AM

(I had WAY too  much fun cheering for Ashley as we ran!)

As we ran out of the park we did a couple of U-turns and hairpin turns. I think Ashley just wanted to be headed toward the finish, but hey we had to get in all 3 miles. Unfortunately, we also saw that a man had collapsed and was being given CPR (I looked it up Sunday night and it said his condition was improving in the hospital). Hillary and I encouraged Ashley not to look his way and to keep her focus on her race. At this point she was definitely tired, she had been rocking a great pace and was in the last 5k (the hardest part). I tried to keep her spirits up and even welcomed her to pull my hair if that would help – she did not take me up on the offer. I knew that at this point she would PR no matter what, but both Hillary and I wanted her to finish strong too. Right before the 13 mile marker, the course climbs up a hill. Not exactly what you want to see as you are nearing the finish. But Ashley rocked it and was able to sprint down the hill to the finish chute. She finished with a brand new PR of 1:53:42!!!

Mile 11 – 8:55
Mile 12 – 8:55
Mile 13 – 9:01
.10 – :44

Hillary was so excited she couldn't keep her eyes open ;)

Hillary was so excited she couldn’t keep her eyes open 😉

I am so glad I got to be a part of Ashley’s awesome race! I would recommend pacing a runner at some point – to see them accomplish their goal is an amazing feeling. It reminded me of all the great parts of racing (something I definitely needed after last week). We celebrated with brunch and mimosas. The Berkeley Half was also a great race. The course is pretty flat overall and has nice views. There are a decent amount of turns and turn-arounds but my guess is that will get worked out as the race grows. The shirts were really nice (sorry no photo – I immediately wore mine and now it’s in the laundry) and of course they had great bling – I had two medals one for the race and one for finish the SF/Berkeley Challenge.



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