I completed my eleventh marathon. My goal wasn't to PR. My goal was not even to race. My goal was 4:30 and bring as many runners with me along the way as I could. I crossed the finish line exactly 4 hours, 28 minutes and 40 seconds after I started (0.49% off - no one is perfect).
The Colfax Marathon is the only marathon in Denver, Colorado. It is an out and back east-west-east course that takes runners through a fire house, Empower Field at Mile High, and downtown Denver - literally none of the places I enjoy running everyday in this beautiful city. It's not an easy marathon. The elevation, lack of shade, high temperatures, turns and hills make it a tough course to PR (personal record) on.
A 4:30 marathon is a 10:18 per mile pace, which is right around what I do my recovery runs at. At that pace I can usually keep my HR well below 135. I can have a conversation comfortably. It is about 2 minutes per mile slower than my marathon race pace and about 4 minutes slower than the pace I can hold for 1 mile.
As a pacer I got free entry including a Colfax Marathon T-shirt. I got a special pacing singlet. More importantly I got a supported long run with traffic controlled streets and aid stations.
In return for these perks, all I had to do was carry a little flag labeled "4:30," set a steady pace, share some of my marathon experience with my fellow runners and run 26.2 miles.
At the start of the marathon I tried to keep people from going out to quickly. It is a long race, after all.
In the middle of the marathon I helped people dial in to their pace. I made sure they didn't burn out on the hills. I reminded them to stay loose and think about their form. I walked them through the aid stations.
At the end of the marathon I acknowledged the dreaded wall that many of them were coming up against. I encouraged them to be great.
There is only 10k left - the warm up is over. It is time to stop holding back. It is not everyday you get to do this. What are you grateful for? Dig deep and finish.
Whether you are pacing or racing, every step you take in a marathon is an attestation of strength, a measure of grit, and a celebration of spirit.