My First Official Marathon Pacer Assignment as featured in Running Malaysia Magazine Issue No.17 (Sep/Oct 2016)
Being a Pacer for Standard Chartered Kuala Lumpur Marathon 2016 (SCKLM 2016) certainly rates as one of my favourite personal ALL-TIME Running Achievements. It was an extremely thrilling and rewarding experience from start to finish. The icing on the cake was that I was able to proudly share my Pacer Story in the Running Malaysia magazine in Issue No.17 (Sep/Oct 2016).
If you cannot get a hold of the magazine, then you are in luck because you can read my featured story here below – ENJOY IT!!!
When it comes to the definitive Marathon event, it doesn’t come any bigger than the hugely popular Standard Chartered Kuala Lumpur Marathon (SCKLM). This year, celebrating its 8th Anniversary, on 7th August 2016, a record-breaking 35,000 runners took part and ran their hearts-out on the famous streets and closed highways of Kuala Lumpur for personal pride and national honour.
Since I started running regularly in 2011, I can honestly say that Running has improved my life in so many ways. In particular, through my running, I have met many new amazing friends, traveled the four corners of our beautiful countryside, and of course, Running keeps my health in the pink, even as I grow older.
Since Running has benefited me significantly, I felt that it was only right that I give back to our local Running Community. In the past, I have volunteered to help out in the staging of running events. However, this time, I was looking to make an even bigger personal contribution. Perhaps, there is something that I could do to directly help Runners, especially those Beginners, meet their running goals. Suddenly, the idea of becoming a marathon pacer popped into my head. Next, I wondered if I was good enough to be a pacer. Besides, who would give a Happy-Go-Lucky Runner like me such an important task?
WHAT IS A PACER?
Frankly, at that time, my knowledge of what a Marathon Pacer actually does, was very sketchy. In past events, I have seen Runners follow Pacers during Marathons. To help the runners identify the different Finishing Times, the Pacers always carry along a huge helium balloon marked with the number of hours it will take him or her to complete the race.
According to Diana Afandi, SCKLM Pacer Team Manager, “Your role is to act as pacemaker for runners to follow in order to achieve a particular finishing time, e.g. if you are a 4:30 hour pacer, you have to forgo your personal best and fully focus on serving and pacing the runners following you in order to finish the marathon within that said finishing time. You must be comfortable in achieving that finishing time on Race Day.
She added, “You need to complete the marathon in a consistent pace with the pace group with chip time of 30 seconds to 1 minute ahead of the pace group timing.”
Good fortune must have been smiling down on me because it so happened that Dirigo Events (SCKLM Organiser) were coincidentally searching for additional new SCKLM 2016 Pacers. Armed with only 8 Full Marathon under my belt, I applied for the job without any high expectations. To my delight, I was invited by Dirigo Events for two Pacer Training sessions which was conducted by SCKLM Head Running Coach, Mark Williams. These sessions were used to assess and evaluate the candidates to determine if they had what it takes to be a Pacer.
In June, I attended the Pacer Training sessions which also coincided with the SCKLM Running Clinics at Bukit Jalil Park. In total, there were 28 pacers divided into Finishing Times of 3:30, 4:00, 4:30, 5:00, 5:30, 6:00, 6:30 and 7:00 hours respectively. My 7-hours group consisted of experienced pacers Alwin Tan from Penang, Chooi Wan from KL, and Barkely Wong from Klang.
Coach Mark made us run 4 loops totalling 10km at our fixed pace. For my group, our pace was 9 minutes and 57 seconds per kilometer. Fortunately, we were only a few seconds off our pace which was still within the permitted guidelines. Mark explained, “At anytime during the race, if a pacer is running outside 5 minutes of their expected Finishing Time, then they must release the balloon in order to avoid confusing the runners”.
Coach Mark also reminded the slower pacers to give ourselves more time in order to take into account such factors as more time will be taken to reach the Start Line from the back of the starting pen, and the extra time needed for brief stops at each water station for a quick drink.
One of the privileges enjoyed by the Pacer Team is the free Pacer Kit of new shoes, shorts, vests, socks and head visors provided by the official kit sponsor, Adidas. One week before Race Day, I broke in my kit by running in the Bintulu 21km Run 2016 because I wanted to make sure that the new Adidas Ultra Boost shoes performed well and all the running gear fitted me well in actual running conditions. Thankfully, the Adidas shoes and outfit performed as good as it looked.
On race morning, the Pacer Team gathered at race venue for a group photo session and to collect our helium balloons.
Since my group was the last pacers, it took us several minutes to just cross the Start Line because we had to let all the runners run ahead of us. By the time, we turned into Jalan Sultan Ismail, there were no more runners in sight apart from the handful of late-starters rushing to catch-up with the tail-end. It was a surreal feeling because in the Start Pen, we were surrounded by 7,000 Full Marathoners but within 20 minutes after the flag-off, Jalan Ampang was deserted again except for four uniformed pacers with huge white balloons.
By the time, we entered AKLEH Highway, we had caught-up with the stragglers and we blew our whistles as we urged them to the first cut-off point.
At the DUKE Highway, my pace was too fast, and I was separated from my other 3 teammates behind. When the runners saw my white balloon, they panicked and remarked, “Oh no, if we don’t keep up with you, we will miss the 7 hour race cut-off time!
I replied to them, “Don’t worry, the actual 7 hour pacers are still behind us.”
With a sigh of relief, these Runners kept running, and a few of them even decided to follow me.
At KTM Headquarters and 500 metres from the Finish Line, I persuaded a big bunch of runners to pick-up their pace in order to finish strong.
“Let’s finish together!,” I shouted. Spurred on by our collective fighting spirit, we ran past many runners to cross the Finish Line at 6 hours 38 minutes.
Clearly, as a 7 hour pacer, I had failed in my duties. However, I will never forget the moments immediately after having passe under the Finish Arch, when several ecstatic runners came-up to me and said, “Thank you for being our pacer, and can we take a Selfie with you!”….
About The Author
Gus Ghani is a HIIT Fitness Coach and Ambassador for Elliptigo Malaysia, N8 Sports Nutrition and AfterShokz Malaysia.
You can contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org.