Asbury Park Half Marathon Pacing Gig

I paced another race on Saturday: the Runapalooza Asbury Park Half Marathon, which took place on the New Jersey shore. I was part of the Marathon Maniacs/Half Fanatics pace team. My pace group was 3:00 hours, which equates to a 13:44 minute mile. I paced 3:00 hours previously on a hilly course in Atlanta; this time the course was mostly flat.

Pacer Sandy before the race

I drove up to New Jersey on Friday and met up with other pacers at the small race expo. Then pacer Will and I went to dinner with Peggy (my local Maniac friend who was not pacing, but ran the full marathon relay). We had local beer and great pizza at Pete & Elda's Bar/Carmen's Pizza. I had been eating mostly healthy food for two weeks, so the pizza and beer felt like such a treat. After a fun dinner, Peggy and I said goodbye to Will and drove back to her place and got some sleep.

I needed to be up and at the Asbury Park Convention Hall early because I had the pace team signs and t-shirts for a couple fellow pacers. About 15 minutes before the race start we walked outside to the start corral. We pacers self-seeded ourselves by pace. It was a little chilly, but looked like it was going to be a beautiful day for running. I introduced myself to a few people in the corral who said they wanted to run in my group. Among them was Peggy's friend Lauren. I explained that I would be doing 2:30/1:00 run/walk intervals, and that everyone was free to run or walk more as their body preferred, but to keep an eye on me and my sign to finish the race just under 3 hours. And then we were off.

With pacers Tom, Kim and Will

With Pacers Kino and JC

The race was good. The course was nice, winding through some neighborhood areas and along the oceanfront, including some parts on the boardwalk. There were a couple out & back sections where I could see our other pacers. I saw everyone on the course twice, except for Will, who was our fast 1:50 pacer. It was fun to cheer each other on. A few of the runners who started with me got ahead or behind, but there were three who stuck with me the entire race: Lauren, Bill and Angelica, who was doing her first half in 5 years and hadn't trained much (she did great). We also picked up another runner in the last few miles who stuck with us to the end.

Beautiful day on the Asbury Park boardwalk

Just like my first pacing gig, I enjoyed the opportunity to inspire others to achieve their goal of finishing a half marathon. I once again was able to put my own physical needs aside and focus on my runners. I was feeling pretty good, in fact. I got plenty of sleep, did not have a headache, and had no injuries. My only mistake was not taking in some calories in the form or gels or chews in the first half of the race. I waited a little too long to take a Gu, and began to feel a slight lack of energy, but it was *only* a half marathon and wasn't a big deal. If I ever start pacing full marathons I will need to ensure I get enough mid-race calories.

Peggy and one of my runners

With about two miles to go I saw Peggy on the course waiting for her relay leg to begin. By that time everyone in my group was ready to finish, but they were still looking strong. We were on the boardwalk, so we had a beautiful ocean view. I kept close watch on my GPS to ensure I'd be finishing just under the 3:00 hour mark. My mile splits had not been perfectly even throughout the race, but they weren't far off. In the last couple miles I found that I was ahead, so I added an extra 30 seconds of walking a couple times, and that just about did it. My finish time was 2:59:00.3, so I was happy! We got a few post-race photos and I said hello to Peggy's mom who was volunteering at the finish line. Then I collected all the pacer signs and took them to my car before heading into the convention hall to pick up my finisher shirt and get some food. There was pasta and bananas, and evidence that there had also been bagels and yogurt. After eating, I went outside and hung out with Peggy's mom for a while, and then I saw a friend cross the finish line. Fellow Marathon Globetrotter Cowboy Jeff was a participant in the full marathon. I didn't realize individuals could run the full marathon; I thought that was only for relay teams. But on further examination of the website, it does indeed say "teams of 1-5", so Cowboy was his own team of 1.

My finish pic and medal

With Cowboy Jeff

With my runners Angelica, Lauren and Bill

As far as the race was concerned, it was a nice course and fairly well organized. The shirt and medal were nice. The few critiques I have are: the race website is poor and lacking in important race details, and the information that is there can be better organized; also, the aid stations needed more Gatorade - only one of them had it - and possibly a station with gels or bananas. But overall, a great morning and I look forward to pacing again at another half marathon (I'm currently not consistent enough to pace a full marathon, unless I have a really slow pace group like 7:00).

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