Tuesday, April 17, 2018

The Pacer

The vast majority of our world will never run a half marathon (or farther) simply because they believe they can't. It feels daunting. The training seems endless (and feels that way sometimes). It seems like a chore. Lonely. Boring. But I have found running to be much more relational than I expected. Every Saturday, after I put my son down for a nap, I run alongside a friend. We share our life updates, our hopes, and our fears as the miles tick by- and they truly do tick by. Sure, we're a little out of breath, but we fall into a comfortable and familiar rhythm.

For this last race, my goal time required me to stretch and push a bit harder. This meant foregoing racing alongside my running buddy, and instead striving to stay up with the pacer. If you've done any longer races, you know that the pacer exists to help bring you in at or below your overall goal finish time. They run each mile at a specific time, based upon the elevation of the course (slower on the ups and faster on the downs) and help you succeed by literally running right alongside you, with a pacing sign high in the air. As long as you follow them, you'll meet your goal- a shiny new personal record and a race well done.

Another beautiful thing about the pacer is this: one of their main goals is to keep you from going too fast too quickly. Many runners make the race day mistake of shooting out of the starting line like a light, and then regretting it miles down the road. Pacing is all about actually taking the first few miles slower, so that you have more to give once your body is warmed up and you're a little farther along. The pacer is constant and steady, consistent without being controlling. Ultimately looking out for your best.

For this particular chilly April morning race, my 1:50 pacer was a woman named Kelly. I told Kelly about two miles in that she was my temporary running buddy for the day, and apologized in advance for how much I'd be talking to her. I needed that positive distraction. One other female runner fell into step with us, and together we spent the next hour and 48 minutes talking about a little of everything. We strategized, we laughed, and we grew to develop a relationship of sorts- grateful for the company of one another during this huge race.

Kelly was constant. She reassured us that we would indeed meet our goal time. She told us how great we were doing, and that we had this- easily. She distracted us in the best of ways, chatting and answering our questions while checking our pace. And she was there- running this race right alongside us.

As I took the hot shower I so desperately needed later that afternoon, I couldn't help but think of the beautiful picture this pacing story gave me. An image of faith. Of empathy and relational pursuit, a small representation of the love of our creator himself. That every day, as I run the race quite literally laid out for me, God is there, cheering me on, encouraging me, and helping me push through the pain, as mile by mile I draw nearer to the finish. And most impressively, he is right there beside me the entire time. Just as my pacer had run this race before, and knew how to help me navigate it, He's lived through the heartache, the sadness, and the joy of this world too. He gets it.

I can see him doing just what Kelly did that day- only on a broader scale. Helping me remember that slower and steadier truly is the best approach, even when I'm discontent in a season of waiting. Showing me how to navigate the ups and downs of life, and giving me the energy to chase my dreams. Telling me that, though it may not be comfortable, there are times I have to kick it and give it all as I near the finish. That he'd stay back for now and I'd go on ahead and be just fine. To trust. Staying the course with me, and then letting me fly to the finish all on my own when the time came: challenging and cheering me on with each step I took.

I saw Kelly a little later, when we were picking up our sweats from the bag check. She asked me how the finish went. When I told her of my new PR, she gave me a huge hug and celebrated right along with me: sweat, shivers, and all. This woman, who I literally had never met before this day, and likley will never see again, had just become such a great picture of the Lord's love for me.

When I'm unsure, scared, and anxious, he's there- right beside me. When I'm doubting, yet finding strength to trust as each mile of this "race" ticks away, he's there. When I'm starting to believe that I can really do this, he's there- assuring me that I will indeed. And then, when I finish, he watches me fly on ahead, then comes alongside me again to celebrate with me. He is strong and steady, comforting and caring. And in this race of life, there is no one I'd rather have pacing me, each and every mile.



  1. Congratulations on your PR! I stopped doing road races years ago, but I never came across a pacer, even when my husband was doing marathons. I am sure that makes it much easier to get your target time.

  2. Congrats on the PR!! Pacers are wonderful. I don't do too many races that have them, but I wish they were more common in this area - I always tend to push out too fast and end up slowing down. Your time is amazing!!

    1. Thank you so much, Becky!! It is so so helpful to have one!

  3. Pace bunnies are amazing (at my half in October they all wore ears!) you’re right, it helps keep you in check at the start when you’re full of adrenaline, and keeps you motivated when you’re nearing the end and have so little left to give.

    Congrats on your PR <3

  4. I like you maximizing the relational aspect.


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