So Spring of 2016, I ran the Fargo Marathon as the 5:30 pacer.
The morning we woke up to run the race, it was projected to be very hot as the day warmed up. Low 80s in some parts of the country isn't that exciting, but in the spring where I live it is sort of unheard of. I was still going to pace a relatively low-key time for me so I wasn't too worried about it. Despite the fact I was told explicitly, that it was worth worrying about.
Anyway, for the first 16 miles, I ran with a delightful group of people and felt totally 1000% fine. Those runners then lagged behind and I accumulated another group of sorts around mile 18. I have since learned that this is a really common pattern when pacing marathons. At around 20 miles I decided it was finally time to take a bathroom break. In doing so, I felt it was necessary to skip a water stop (bad move) to keep up the pace.
So then around mile 22, I was sick, felt like I was going to throw up or something. I would later learn this is how dehydration feels. I just thought I was out of shape and felt terrible for over-committing myself, as I was no longer holding my pace. Even though I had banked some, I was overriding that cushion. I walked, I moped, I became a difficult person. I told my remaining pace groupers, I wasn't holding my pace anymore, and encouraged them to go on ahead. They didn't seem to care, but I felt bad anyway.
After a few rough miles, I probably regained hydration (not sure), but I started to pick it up, and felt pretty okay again, considering how far I'd run. I gained strength and started being able to actually run. I even ran passed the groupers that I originally pushed ahead, and I gave it my all for the last mile and a half...
and I came in at 5:35.
Now, when I tell non-runners about this time, they are always like "whoo-hoo you did it!"... but most runners realize, I did NOT do it.
Here are the lessons I take away from the experience.
1) Stay hydrated to the best of your ability. The truth was that hubris made me think I could sail through that water stop, and I paid for it.
2) Stay positive, even when it's not looking so good. I was soo upset with myself, that I wasn't being that fun to run with. Additionally, I had more ability than I thought to stay steady, and sending those people ahead didn't necessarily end up helping them.
Despite this "mess-up", I've now paced this time and distance 3 more times, and it's gone rather well. Second chances almost always exist and it's good to not let failure determine what you're capable of. More importantly, pacing races has lead me to meet some of the most amazing friends and have some of the best experiences.