Tomorrow I’ll be doing my 13th half marathon as a walker.
This one will be a little different, though — I’m doing the race as a pacer.
It’s common in half and full marathons to have pacers for the runners. A pacer leads a group of runners to a specified finish time. Say you want to complete a full marathon in 3 hours. You’d align yourself with the 3-hour pace runner, who runs at a speed to fulfill that finish time.
It’s virtually unheard of to have pace groups for walkers. But the race I’m doing tomorrow — the Delaware & Lehigh Heritage Half Marathon Run/Walk — is pulling out all the stops to attract and support walkers. Registration categories asked if you would be running or walking, awards will be given to top walking finishers, and pace groups will be on the course for walkers specifically.
So I’ll be leading the 4-hour-finish time pace group, which translates to about an 18-minute mile. This might seem incredibly slow to some experienced half/full marathon runners and even walkers. But it’s accessible for beginners, and we all have to start somewhere and tackle our first race experience. It will be a bit of a challenge for me to pace myself at that speed — it can be difficult to walk slower than normal, and do so steadily. (My average race pace is between 13- and 14-minute miles.) It’s important to me, though, to help participants meet their goals and have a rewarding experience.
As I posted the other day, a 15-minute mile is just as far as a 7-minute mile. Ditto for an 18-minute mile. Walkers in races train just as much as runners do, and it’s no less an accomplishment to participate as a walker. We all cross the same finish line.