A lot can go wrong with race pacing. Going out too fast could lead to an almost-certain wall-hitting, crash-and-burn scenario. Going out too slow could lead to a goal finish time slipping out of grasp. Pacing correctly can seem like a perfect science — and luckily there are some runners who work to master it and lead others to reach their goals.
Many pace group leaders around the region work hard to put other runners’ needs before their own and see that participants are set up for success.
“We have a chance to help someone achieve a goal — really, how precious is that, right?” said Lara Mish, a pace group leader who has worked at races around the region for the last seven years. Mish will lead a pace group at the Rock ‘n’ Roll Half Marathon in Washington, D.C., this month.
Kate Murphy’s legs were burning.
It wasn’t because she had just run 4:07.21 to qualify for the 2016 Olympic Trials in the 1500 meters. Or had just run against a professional field to make it to the semifinals of those trials. Or any of the performances over three years that made her one of the University of Oregon’s top recruits in 2017.
No, this was happening months later. She had just run a routine workout around the Lake Braddock High School track, notching times she could hit in her sleep. The speed was there, but the sensation was enough to shake her. For a while, it came and went. Then, it stayed. Running, which made it worse, didn’t seem worth it.
“I just wanted to quit,” she said. “Not quit the sport, but I needed a break from racing. It was getting too frustrating.”
She hasn’t quit, but she’s spent more than two years running in circles while trying to get back to what felt right. As a college sophomore, she has retired from competing at the University of Oregon, where she never got to put on a uniform, but she’s not exactly moving to Del Boca Vista any time soon.
The real story starts years ago. But the immediate story begins in 2016, when I finally put together a season of consistent training after years of battling injuries. Much to my surprise, I ran 2:49:21 in the 2016 Chicago Marathon, and felt great doing it. I spent a day enjoying the accomplishment, and then began to wonder if I could go faster. What else could I achieve? I felt a fire within me.
Name: Nick Reed
Self-described age group: 25 – 30
Residence: Fairfax, Va.
Occupation: Substitute teacher with Fairfax County Public Schools, Pacers (Fairfax) employee and assistant coach for cross country, indoor and outdoor track at Robinson Secondary School
Volunteer roles in the running world: The Robinson team volunteers at Potomac River Running races as a fundraiser where we course marshal the courses for specific races in the area, generally races held at Fairfax Corner.
Why you run: I run for the pure joy I get from it and more importantly for the competitive spirit I get from running races and having the chance to go out a beat the runner that you used to be and see improvements in yourself.
Ten years ago I became a trail runner.
I got started the way that most people do: I found a trail, then I ran on it.
(And then I probably fell down, more on that later.)
I was lucky enough to find myself on trail that day in May 2009 with two very experienced trail runners. I didn’t know either them when we met by accident in a parking lot, but after 10 miles of casual conversation (them), and some wheezing and shortness of breath (me), I had their contact information and plans to meet the following Saturday for more miles. I was hooked.
- The legal bib transfer period for the Credit Union Cherry Blossom Ten Mile runs through 11:59 p.m. Monday Feb. 28. If you miss this deadline, don’t run with someone else’s bib.
- The National Park Service will not plow the D.C. portion of the Capital Crescent Trail during the predicted Wednesday, Feb. 20 snowfall. Crews will wait until all the snow has fallen.
- DDOT will hold a public meeting on the Palisades Trolley Trail feasibility study 6:30 p.m. – 8 p.m. Thursday, March 7 at the Palisades Neighborhood Library, Meeting Room, 4901 V Street NW.
Alexandria’s Bethany Satchleben can do it all, from a 6:21 beer mile to a 2:31 marathon. And also some accounting.
I tried to get at least one photo of everyone about two miles in. Click here to see them all in our Facebook album.
Name: Caitlin Kovalkoski
Self-described age group: 30-39 F
Occupation: Federal Policy Director, Corporation for Supportive Housing
Volunteer roles in the running world: One of six DC/MD/VA Oiselle Volee leaders
Why you run: Stress relief