Above: Pre-Race with Greg
He gave me my first race. I would help him to a new PB.
Greg has been working hard on his fitness over the last few months and it’s really showing. On the eve of the inaugural Frozen Bonsai Half Marathon in Central Park I re-iterated my offer:
If you really want to break your old personal best, I’ll pace you.
Happily Greg accepted.
Race morning was a very cold grey affair. But even with little in the way of crowd support the atmosphere that shapes the iconic Central Park is more than ample in its ability to buoy one’s energy and adrenaline. I do some quick math, our bib #’s each break down to the number 11. Our fates, at least as far as this race is concerned, are linked. Morever, 11, a “master number”, is a strong portent of auspiciousness in the field of numerology. According to Token Rock, the number 11 is indicative of
enormous potential, accompanied by a high level of inner tension resulting from an overwhelming desire to achieve something extraordinary.
I look at Greg and tell him
Today will be a good day
The first kilometre passes in 5:29. A full 12 seconds faster than we need to go under 2 hours. I admonish Greg to slow down, quelling his instinct to accelerate so early in the race. We’re way ahead of pace. Greg has never been under 2 hours before – his personal best from 2009 being 2:06:45. We maintain our pace, each kilometre going by in the 5:20’s. As Greg’s pacer I’m in charge of everything from telling jokes to keep the mood light, to monitoring Greg’s physiological responses to the demands of the course, to being a strong mathematician, calculating with each passing kilometre what we need to do to break 2:06, and what we would need to achieve in order to go under the mythic 2 hour barrier.
On one hand there is an enormous sense of responsibility in pacing someone. Maintaining their morale. Carving a path along the course not only for myself but a swath large enough for both of us to make our way through the crowds. But mostly pacing is like anything in friendship. You help each other through tough times and you cheer each other through triumph.
With 16 kilometres safely under our belts I once again look at the time and calculate our progress. I check in with Greg. He gives me the thumbs up and more importantly is talking with me. His cardiovascular system is still strong even this late in the race. Gently but definitively I start to pick up the pace. Not only do I know that Greg’s got his first sub 2 hour marathon well within reach, I realize that we can do even better. But I cannot afford to jeopardize Greg’s efforts by going out too hard. We’re less than 30 minutes away from eclipsing, shattering Greg’s old pb. I have to continue to monitor Greg. Make sure he’s still strong the rest of the way home.
Kilometres 18 and 19 are our fastest yet. 5:00 and 5:05 respectively so deep into the race. Well ahead of the 5:41 average we’d need to go under 2 hours. Greg is still with me every step of the way. One more check in.
When we get to the end, do you want me to run ahead of you, with you, or chase you? Which will get the most out of you to finish the race?
Greg elects to chase me. With 200 metres left I yell out to him
200 metres to go. COME WITH ME!
And with that I throw down the hammer and launch myself passed the runners ahead. Hurtling myself to the finish. Greg is on my tail. Right there with me. We go on to finish #’s 36 and 37 in our age group. Separated by one fragile second. But forever united in victory.
Greg’s new personal best: 1:53:21.
Above: As realization sets in, Greg begins to comprehend what he’s just achieved.