My debut as a pacemaker

The morning today was spent at the Martinslauf 2014 race with a group of friends and good weather. The Martinslauf (St. Martin’s race) is one of those special races in the calendar year, as since I moved into Germany I haven’t lost a single edition. It slowly starts feeling like a tradition…

For November in Germany, an aprox. temperature of 10ºC and a sunny blue sky was a true Sunday gift. In past years we’ve had everything, from truly raining days to blizzard cold with puddles of snow here and there. Let’s just say that aside from the chilly breeze the weather was great! 😉

I’ve always loved challenges and the idea of hitting my personal best was always one of them. How fast can you really go? How much better can you really get? I’ve set the goal to reach 2000 Kms this year and have been putting in a quite high amount of kilometers lately, hence going for speed didn’t sound like the right thing to do. I’d decided long past that today’s goal was to act as a pacemaker for my good friend Ashley, have fun all along while supporting him to reach his target time in the half-marathon.

A few days ago the idea of being a pacemaker struck me. How can I really support? Which pace should I go? How can you motivate your buddy to take it to the next level? Besides a general promise to keep cheering him and pushing the talk on a frequent basis, which I’ve been promised to be cursed back especially in moments of pain, I didn’t really know much about how a pacemaker should behave.

Friends at the Martinslauf 2014 finish

Friends at the Martinslauf 2014 finish

You can find a lot of information online on different strategies you can take to support your fellow runner. With it you find interesting stories as well, of famous races which allow or disallow the participation of pacemakers in general. Commonly called rabbits in the case of elite runners, they support its peers into going beyond limits or, even better, break course or distance records. In some particular cases, rabbits end up winning the races.

The biggest challenge I felt in supporting my fellow runner is that you don’t focus on listening to your body and mind any longer. You shift your whole attention to the body and mind of the runner going side by side with you. That is however not an easy thing to do, as you rely on communication rather than getting the feelings and emotions first hand. Lots of thing to learn ahead to keep up with that game.

We crossed the finish line at 1h55m. This is a great time for a HM yet we felt 5 min short from our target. Aftermath and time will tell how successful I was in my mission I guess. Most of all we had fun in the race and it was a morning very well spent – aside from some particular tough periods Ashley had to go through. In any case, you only truly go through those if you’re doing a good job pushing beyond your limits, right?

The overall race was super nice as expected. The organisation moved into a rural open area compared to previous years so there was plenty of space for the facilities and to move around. The track was a mixture of forest, asphalt and good landscapes around the Unterbacher See, a lake in Düsseldorf’s vicinity. After falling in love with trail running, getting to see all the aid stations trashed with water cups throughout the floor shocked me beyond belief – lots of improvements to be done there, especially on the runners community side of things.

Lots of friends and colleagues achieved new personal records at the race today. My true congrats to all of them!
To Ashley, it was great fun to ride along you!

Oh… and if you’re wondering why I’m drinking beer at the end of the race: alcohol free beer is usually offered and/or sponsored in German races. This surprised me at first, especially as I never thought I’d take it. However (alcohol free) beer is a great isotonic drink which boosts your energy recovery after a long race, rises your motivation, facilitates socialisation and… just… feels… fantastic!

  2 Replies to “My debut as a pacemaker”

  1. Ashley
    November 11, 2014 at 20:46

    First of all I have to say the following.

    The reason we (I) did not hit the target of 1 Hr 50 Mins was because
    a) I did not train enough and
    b) combining a low carb diet with a half marathon is not the best idea (save your comments please)

    Secondly – I would not have had Joao as a pacemaker I would not have made 1Hr 55 Min. Period.
    I was truly .. err how shall I say it tired (spelt k n a c k e r e d) at KM 16.
    My body was saying “stop” (well my legs) but a voice (guess who’s) was saying “you can do it, concentrate, look we just passed another KM sign, only 5 to go,..)

    Thirdly – how can anyone talk (continuously) and run for 12 KM at 5:15 pace and look so “relaxed”

    Fourthly – I admire you – your discipline, your physical condition, your attitude – and most of all – because you didn’t leave me over 21 KM – even when I was really hurting (5:38 / KM)

    I spent a fair few KMs just watching your feet … yes I admit I ignored what you were talking about (sorry) but I just watched your feet — left, right, left, right – pumping, moving – I became mesmerized .. hit the “flow” .. that helped me — that helped me through KM 16 & 17 then 18 & 19

    I apologise for not preparing enough to get near 1Hr 50 Min — I ask you to be my pace maker again (and next time I’ll be better prepared)

    I thank you for pushing me to make 1 Hr 55 Min ….

    But next time please just say once “I’m feeling it too, I’m hurting”

    Thanks !!

    • November 27, 2014 at 20:43

      Thanks for the comments and the blunt statements Ashley! It was fantastic to run with you and I look forward to beating the 1h50m together.

      I guess there’s a lot to learn indeed on how to be a pacemaker… during the race I’ve been faced with lots of doubts, most of them not related to the physical effort but rather on how to properly support my running partner. “Should I keep the pace? Should I slow down? Did I provide enough words of encouragements? Shall I provide them again? He’s in pain now… do I acknowledge? Better to keep myself on the positive side perhaps? Should I slow down? Should I keep the pace? I should stop talking… no, I should keep encouraging… oh my… oh my…”

      Listening to another’s senses and emotions is not easy in this case but it is a very interesting challenge. Bring it on Ashley! Looking forward to our next try 🙂

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