I absolutely loved my first experience as a pacer at the Chichester 10k. I arrived feeling nervous but excited to return to Goodwood Motor Circuit, (the place where I achieved both my current 10k and half marathon PBs), to hopefully help some other people to run their own personal bests.
I hesitantly put on the backpack with the enormous yellow flag sticking out of it, but it was so light I almost immediately forgot it was there. Because I am not very tall I didn’t even have to worry about ducking under the start/finish line! I was assigned as a 55 minute pacer which was at the quicker end of the range I'd offered to pace. I was a little bit anxious about that as a first timer, as the finish time would less than 10 minutes away from my own PB. But thanks to the pancake flat course and perfect weather conditions, alongside the help from my fellow pacer, I had no reason to worry.
I was actually partnered up with a particularly experienced pacer who gave me loads of advice both before we set off and as we navigated the course. I was slightly intimidated when I noticed he was wearing two watches (one for miles and one for kilometres), but he put me at ease straight away. The most important tips he mentioned were to calculate the splits in advance, (which I had written on a scrap of paper and tucked into my leggings pocket!), and to look out for the kilometre markers on the route instead of relying on GPS. He also recommended sharing the splits with the group running along with us, but not to necessarily expect much response from them as they would most likely be running all out to aim for those new PBs.
I found it quite difficult to hold back from going for a sprint finish over the last couple of hundred metres, but he also encouraged me to actually slightly slow down at the very end. This would give more people the chance to chase us down on the final strait and finish ahead of us, giving them an extra boost at the finish line. It was great to see our group start to move off into the distance over the last couple of kilometres, knowing that we’d done our job of motivating them around the majority of the race.
The course itself was slightly different from the previous year (although this was actually my first time taking part in this race), but it was absolutely lovely. Starting alongside the grandstand with a great crowd and atmosphere, venturing out onto local roads for some short out and backs before returning to the motor circuit for a partial lap leading back up to the grandstand. I really loved looking out for the other pacing groups on the out and back sections, and there were plenty to look out for! At five minute intervals ranging from a super speedy forty minutes right up to seventy minutes, everyone was so smiley and supportive of each other. Having chatted to most of the other pacers before and after the race, most of them had paced a few races before, but there was one other first timer like me. It was lovely to meet a few new faces and share our own upcoming goals and races too.
We came in at 54:38, just 20 seconds under our goal time, which I didn’t think was too bad at all, especially for a first attempt! The course, weather and pairing gave me a lot of confidence, as well as 10k being my favourite distance to run, so I would definitely be willing to volunteer to pace another race - hopefully in the not too distant future!
What I loved about it the most was taking the pressure off chasing my own PB and instead helping others to achieve their goals. It was a great feeling to see people we’d run almost the whole race with crossing the finish line ahead of us. Lots of them approached us after the finish to say thank you, and one man even asked for a photo with us after smashing his previously longstanding PB as well as having recently recovered from covid.
Just before I left I also saw the presentations for the top 3 male and female finishers - the first finisher’s course record breaking time was under 30 minutes!
I will without a doubt be flying the pacing flag again in the future, but for now, the first of my goals for 2023 has been ticked off, so it’s time to switch the focus to training for my own big races coming up later this spring. Maybe I will be following another amazing pacer there!
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