On the 1st March 2020 I took part in the Big Half as an official pacer. Having paced every Big Half marathon (take a look HERE for last years review), I was really happy to be able to do so again this year. However, this was not the original plan. I had managed to get a place in Tokyo Marathon for the first time, and so I was going to miss the Big Half for this once in a lifetime race. Unfortunately it was cancelled because of coronavirus fears, which was upsetting. I decided to look for positives, and it meant I could run the Big Half Marathon, which I didn’t want to miss in the first place. I was offered places, but I contacted Runners World to see if they needed any Pacers, and they had a drop out at 3:30. This is not in my comfort, but I decided to do it, and have a different experience at the Back of the Pack.
This was the 3rd time I have paced the Big Half marathon. It was my 86th race as an official pacer, 46 of which have been for half marathons. This is the first time I’ve ran the #backofthepack.
As always I got my kit ready the night before. I decided to wear some older trainers, as the Newbalance 5280 that I was sent are designed for sprinting and I would have probably injured myself if I wore them.
I made my way to the start line and met up with the rest of the Pacers. It was a brief meeting before we went to our start waves. I usually start in the Orange Wave as the 1:45 pacer, so it felt strange going to the back of the Green wave with 3:30 on my back. There are toilets in the waves which is good, but it meant the back of the wave was full of queues. I had already gone before I got into the pen, when there weren’t any queues.
The race starts at 09:00, and I got to the start at 08:30. We didn’t start until around 09:40, so it was a bit of a wait. I decided to run in my waterproof jacket. I usually just wear my tshirt as I get hot when running, but I was conscious that I may get cold at a slower pace. I am glad that I did, as although it didn’t rain, and was the nicest weather the Big Half has had, there was a cold breeze.
At the start I had a good group around me. I explained that my plan was to cover the distance in roughly an even pace of 16 minute miles. I had considered run walk, but there are so many variables, so I told people to use me as a guide if they wanted to run walk. The idea being that you could run, then walk until I catch up and run again.
Many people have asked “how” I would pace 3:30. I’ve been asked if it would be hard, whilst others have inferred that it would be really easy. The answer to all the above is simple. Pace is relative. I approached the 3:30 pace the same as I would 1:45. I got to the right pace and then stuck with it. The 16 minute mile is slower than my natural walking pace, but my job is to be consistent, so once I got to the pace, I just stuck with it. I had a good small group with me throughout and they helped keep me in line. We got to mile 1 in 15:56, pretty spot on. The pacing was no harder or easier than normal. My usual pace is my natural pace, therefore it is more natural to stick to that pace, making it easier to naturally keep to it. I just had to concentrate more to ensure I was at the right pace.
Shortly after mile 1 we got into Lime House tunnel, which always messes with GPS, and being inside the tunnel longer messes with your watch for longer. The GPS for the few miles after the tunnel is also poor because of the tall buildings, so my splits aren’t a true reflection of what happened. At one point my watch varied from 7 min mile to 34 min mile. I’m pretty confident we stuck to roughly 16 min miles from start to finish.
It was much quieter at the back than I’m used to. At the start we saw the lead runners pass, and then my usual 1:40 and 1:45 groups ran by with lots of shouts of encouragement. I had two runners walk with me from start to finish, and they kept me going. A few others who were around us all the time. There were a lot who ran ahead, and we caught up later, some other groups kept us just behind, so every time I overtook they ran ahead again.
It was good to see spectators still out on the course, and every water station had plenty of water. The volunteers were all great and we had a good time running. The mile markers did not seem consistent which meant that the time I ran varied between mile and km markers. It wasn’t too bad though and I think I noticed it more because it took me longer to get between markers.
It was cool to see the Little Half start and lots of little ones and parents running past. Last year it was cancelled, along with the event village. The roads were quiet at the #backofthepack so when we were 5km from the finish it was great to see all the 5km runners run past.
There were those that stayed ahead of me, those that kept running after me, and those who unfortunately fell behind. But it was good to finish with a small group from the start in an official time of 3:29:12. We managed to #pickupthepace a little towards the end, and it was good to finish together.
The event village was getting quiet when in arrived, but it was good to see that it was back up and running again this year.
How did you get on today? Where did you run? As you can see I was wearing my Tokyo print #runr hat, and I am sad I couldn’t run it, but I made the most of it and so pleased to be running #bighalf.