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If You Can’t Race, Pace

No matter the reason, it’s always hard to miss a race — particularly one that you put in months of training and hard work for. Even if you know that running would be stupid, even if the forecast for the day involves rain, wind, and more rain, and EVEN IF you had spent weeks coming to terms with the decision to DNS…when race morning rolls around, it’s hard to escape the depression. Because the truth is, on race morning, no matter what the conditions or how I’m feeling, I’d always rather be running.

But we can save the dramatics for another day. Because although my birthday weekend went nothing like I had originally planned (and may have included a slight emotional breakdown on Sunday), I still had a great weekend at the races. Only this time instead of racing, I was pacing.

Girls on the Run 5K

Saturday was the Southern Vermont Girls on the Run 5K. As a first year coach, I really had no idea what to expect. I knew the girls were all excited about it (even the ones who aren’t really too keen on running), but I didn’t really comprehend the level of pride they would all get from completing the race until I was a part of it.

The weather on Saturday morning was awful — cold, rainy, and wet (which had basically been the theme all week). But that didn’t stop them from running around excitedly getting their faces painted, hair sprayed, and bodies tattooed. Then again, it’s hard not to be excited when you’re wearing one of these.

GOTR_unicorn hats

Nothing says, “Race Ready” like a pink sparkly unicorn cap, right? These were the girls’ idea and ended up being a huge hit. I’m actually thinking about making it a permanent addition to my race day attire.

GOTR_5K startWhy yes, those are whiskers on my face. Haven’t you ever seen a whiskered unicorn before?

The 5K course basically made three loops around Brattleboro, with the first loop being the longest and the last one finishing around the track. The design was perfect. It was so much easier to keep the girls motivated by counting our “laps.” And I quickly mastered the art of making deals to keep them motivated.

“Okay, we’re going to run to that corner and THEN we can walk.”

“See that sign up ahead? That’s where we’re going to start running again.”

Essentially the same concept I’ve used for years to keep myself motivated during tough runs, races, and workouts — break up the torture by creating mini-goals.

We may not have run fast, or even run the whole time, and I may not know our finish time (I think the clock said 40 minutes when we crossed…though we had to have been about a minute back from the starting line), but I had a blast. Probably the most fun 5K I’ve ever done. Though I can’t say for sure whether that’s because I was running with the girls or because of our amazing hats…

GOTR_unicorns startWe definitely stood out in the crowd

All in all, I’m so glad I got to coach GOTR this season. Do I agree with every single aspect of the program? No. But then again, can you really expect to (unless it’s something you created yourself)? Seeing the impact the group had on the girls’ self-esteem and strength over the past 10 weeks was pretty incredible. This is our final week of practice and I already know I’m going to miss them.

Vermont City Marathon

The GOTR 5K on Saturday was just the warm-up. We left the house just before 5:00 am on Sunday for the main event – the KeyBank Vermont City Marathon. Stephanie and her husband Derek had been staying with us for the weekend, and although I felt bad that I would no longer be standing on that starting line with her, I was excited to go cheer. Again, the day was windy, rainy, and cold — not exactly ideal marathon conditions. To her credit, however, Steph didn’t seem to let the weather get her down, and was noticeably more calm than I’ve ever been before a race…or at least that’s how it seemed.

Unfortunately, the second we arrived in Burlington all those feelings of jealousy and regret that I had been anticipating gathered in the pit of my stomach. I tried to push them down, rationalizing that this decision had been for the best. But it was hard to push the sadness away.

And then, because things were already going so well that morning, my iPhone slipped out of my pocket during a quick run to the port-a-potties and landed face down on the pavement. The screen was completely shattered. Such a fitting disaster, I suppose.

Anyway, the plan was to see the runners at the start and then move up the street a bit to catch them between miles 3 and 4, and again between 8 and 9. For the most part, VCM is a super spectator friendly course. There are some loops that are harder to get to than others, but with just a little walking, you can easily see your runner at least 3 – 4 different times. That’s my kind of marathon!

Steph_mile9_VCMSteph cruising along to Mile 9

My original plan was to jump in with Steph around mile 20 and keep her company for the last 10K. However, we quickly realized that the design of the course and current road closures would make it really tough to get up there. So instead we waited around mile 16. I told her I’d jump in for a little while, leave if she was doing okay and meet her in a few miles when the course doubled back.

I will let her tell you her own race story, but suffice it to say — it was a difficult day. The conditions were tough and the course isn’t exactly easy (though what marathon is, really?). I ended up staying with her for the entire 10 miles. I’ve actually never run with someone for so long during a marathon. It can be hard to walk that fine line between being encouraging and annoying, especially since I hadn’t been with her the entire way. When we joined up, I felt great. I had been standing around in the cold and rain all morning and was itching to run. Steph, on the other hand, had already been going for over 2 hours by this point. I’m not so sure my chipper tales of our morning were completely welcomed…but she’s also too nice of a person to tell me otherwise. I tried to push a little when I thought I could, but mostly I just followed her lead — encouraging her as often as I could and providing moral support just by being there.

Getting to run the last 10 miles of the marathon with someone who was working so hard to achieve a goal offered some much-needed redemption. I was so glad I got to be there for Stephanie as she pushed through with incredible determination toward the finish. Often watching other runners push their limits and excel can be far more inspiring than doing something yourself. And I loved every second of it. By the time she got to the finish, I was filled with so much pride and excitement. All thoughts of my own missed race were gone.

Plus, getting to see the last 10 miles of the course made me even more determined to return to VCM someday.


The afternoon ended with pizza and beers at American Flatbread — one of the most delicious pizza places in the world. Seriously, if you’re ever in Burlington (or Middlebury or Waitsfield), I highly recommend giving this place a try. It’s everything a wood-fired pizza should be.

And then a drive back home to binge-watch the new season of Arrested Development. After a disappointing first episode, I was happy that things started getting better. I think we’re 11 episodes in at this point and although I’ve found certain episodes pretty funny, I have to say that I miss the old format. The interaction of the entire Bluth family was what made the series great in the first place. (Anyone else??)

Congratulations to everyone who ran VCM this weekend! It was fun to see some of you out there and cheer from the sidelines as you all dominated! And a very special shout-out to Anthea, who crushed her marathon PR only a few weeks after racing Eugene — CONGRATS on an amazing race!

28 Responses to If You Can’t Race, Pace

  1. I completely agree that pacing/running with someone else can be just as satisfying as running your own race! When I ran with my friend Char for the last 10 miles of her BQ race, I don’t think I have ever felt so good or so proud of someone else in my life. Definitely a cool feeling! Sounds like a great weekend! Can’t wait to read Steph’s report!
    Corey´s last post ..Redemption

  2. Ahh, this just made me cry and I have no idea why! I had an amazing weekend with you guys and I’m so sorry you didn’t race. I know it was a tough decision and you were so selfless to run with me for the last 10 miles. I SERIOUSLY could not have done it without you and I can never thank you enough.

    Whenever you decide your redemption marathon is, I will be there cheering my head off for you!! You and Evan were nothing, but spectacular this weekend and we are forever grateful.
    Steph´s last post ..VCM Update: 4 Days to go!

    • I would do it again in a heartbeat! Running with you was so much fun (well…for me anyway…haha). And I’m so glad I got to be there for you this weekend. We miss you guys!

  3. This is my first semester coaching for GOTR too and we have our 5K on Father’s Day. I’m excited for the girls to run it! As coaches we don’t run with the girls unfortunately, but I think it’ll be really fun to cheer them on and see their faces as they cross the finish line.
    Glad you got to experience the VCM in a different way even if you couldn’t run the whole thing!
    Gabby @ Marathons and Macarons´s last post ..My NYC Summer Checklist

    • Oh, that’s interesting! I didn’t realize that some programs don’t have the coaches run with the girls. Do you know why that is?

      At our 5K, we invited family members/members of the community to run as well. Is yours for the girls only?

      • Good question – I’m not entirely sure. I thought I was going to get to run with the girls but we were told coaches are asked to cheer and help with organization at the event. Maybe because it’s a relatively big race with a lot of NYC schools participating, but most likely because running buddies (even parents/guardians who are encouraged to run with their girls) are required to pay a registration fee (donation) to run. Was that the case for your race too? I’m honestly not totally on board with that but I guess it’s a non-profit and the whole race is a fundraiser. Oh well!
        Gabby @ Marathons and Macarons´s last post ..Why I’m Not Running a Marathon This Year

        • So we also had a fee for other people who wanted to run for the same reason (donation to the program), but the coaches and all the girls got to run for free (well…it’s not really free for the girls, but it’s covered by their program fee). There were volunteers at the event, but that was all coordinated by the GOTR Vermont staff. Maybe it’s just because our program is generally smaller? We have 3 5Ks throughout the state that the GOTR VT program organizes, but I can’t imagine the turnout is anywhere near what you’d get in NYC.

          That’s interesting though. Since this is my only experience with GOTR, I don’t know if our program is abnormal in that way or not. But I am sorry you won’t be able to run with the girls. That was my favorite part — and it was great for them too, because not every girl had a parent/buddy running with them.

  4. That unicorn hat is awesome! I ran VCM as well and it was a tough day. That rain and wind was brutal. I saw Steph early on, and she was look strong and smiley :) More importantly, gutted I missed American Flatbread. I’ve heard multiple reports of it being the most amazing pizza pretty much ever :)

    Your race will happen. The DNS is tough, but you did an awesome thing pacing Steph through as well. Running karma is coming your way.
    Fiona´s last post ..A Bittersweet PR: Vermont City Marathon Race Recap

    • I’m sorry you missed American Flatbread, but congrats on the race! I’ll have to go read your race report. :)

  5. Have you discussed more of your experience with GOTR on your blog? The program interests me and I met with a chapter to possibly extend their chapter into our area but I walked away not really sure I wanted to get involved. It didn’t seem to be hitting the right people that I actually wanted to help. I ran a 5K a couple of weeks ago that happened to be one that several GOTR programs were running and it was great to see them out there…just one of those things I’m torn about so I love to hear from people that may have some real thoughts on it (not just, it’s awesome, I love everything about it!).
    abbi´s last post ..Volunteering at the Sole Challenge 24 Hour Race

    • I actually haven’t talked about it on the blog much. I wasn’t really planning on it (didn’t think people would be interested!), but I’ve actually gotten a few questions about my experience, so now I’m changing my mind. Like I said, I did like the program overall and want to coach again, but I don’t think it’s for everyone…especially depending on the population you’re trying to reach.

      If I don’t end up writing a post, I’ll definitely shoot you an email! And feel free to email me any specific questions/concerns you have about it: lauren [at] healthontherun[dot]net

  6. Yes, that’s exactly what I was thinking when watching the new episodes (the lack of full family interaction)! I heard it was too hard to align all the actors’ schedules, though. If that’s the case, I think it was a clever way of getting past that. I though eps. 2-7 were a snooze fest, but it’s been great since then!

    I’m so jealous you got to spectate at Burlington! I was supposed to run it last year but was sidelined two weeks before by a stress fracture. I ended up watching my friend I forced to sign up run and had an AMAZING time just watching. Plus, it was so hot out I was sort of relieved not to be running!

    I miss Flatbread SO much! Punctuated Equilibrium with sausage is where it’s at ;).
    Jean´s last post ..Embracing Hills (and Great Weather)

    • Yeah, I heard that too…which is too bad. I love that we have new episodes to watch, but there’s just something missing. It does make me look forward to the movie even more, though!

      Hope you get your redemption at VCM and get to run someday! I’m hoping to at least try and incorporate the relay into my spring schedule every year from now on.

  7. Those unicorn caps KILL me. I’m so copying this idea when I coach GOTR again. Brilliant!
    Jen´s last post ..Busting out of my running rut

    • Haha – I was telling my co-coach that I wouldn’t be surprised if we saw lots of unicorn caps at the GOTR 5K next year!

  8. I would be really interested in your thoughts (reservations, things you love) about GOTR. I don’t know that much about it but love the idea in principle!
    Cathryn´s last post ..The World Premiere of our AMR Ragnar application!

    • I’m thinking about writing up a quick post about my experience, just because of the questions I’ve gotten. But like I said to Abbi above, if I end up changing my mind and don’t post, I’ll definitely send you an email!

  9. I can only imagine the heartache involved with the decision to DNS. I had to do it last year for a series of races over 6 weeks – and that was hard enough and that was half marathons…a marathon…whole different ballgame.

    I’ve paced someone before in a race I wasn’t gunning for one myself and I do have to say there is something so satisfying in being a part of their achievement and watching them accomplish it! She was lucky to have you there!
    Gianna @ Run, Lift, Repeat´s last post ..I’m an ULTRA MARATHONER: Dirty German 50K

  10. So happy to were able to pace your friend for a bit. I’m sure she really appreciated it. My son jumped in for the last three miles of one of my marathons and I really appreciated having his positive energy.
    Rebecca´s last post ..Putting some junk back into the trunk

  11. I am definitely interested in hearing more about your experience with GOTR. I am intrigued about getting involved, but I don’t know much about it. How did you first get involved and what was the time commitment like?
    Renee @ Renee Runs Miles´s last post ..Six Years

    • I’m going to put a quick post together about my experience, but I’ll say that getting involved was relatively easy. I had actually wanted to coach for awhile but there just wasn’t a program in RI (and I didn’t have the capacity/connections to expand it to the state on my own). Fortunately, the program in VT is very well organized, so I contacted the woman in charge of the coaching aspect of GOTR and expressed my interest. She told me more about it, and then I basically had to apply and get matched with a school that needed another new coach. Most coaches are associated with the school system in some way (just because programs are usually affiliated with an elementary school), but I wasn’t…and was happy that they were so welcoming despite that.

      The time commitment isn’t too bad. We met twice a week for about 1.5/2 hours each time. In VT the program only goes for 10 weeks (because of our long winters) but I think other areas have 12 week programs. There’s some preparation time involved too, but even that doesn’t take up much time since all the lessons are written for you and GOTR pretty much supplies you with all the materials you’ll need.

      Let me know if you have more specific questions!

  12. Love the unicorn hats! Having done runs in the past, I can totally relate to creating those mini-goals while running. It makes everything so much easier and keeps me motivated to continue on to the finish line.

  13. I’m obsessed with Arrested Development and I agree with you about missing the fabulous family interaction. I also can’t get over how much plastic surgery Portia got. It is KILLING ME.
    Ashley´s last post ..2013 NYC Marathon opening day

    • Ugh – YES!!! I could barely stand to look at her at first (sorry, I know that’s mean but it’s true!), especially with that awful wig. She looks better with the short hair, but I miss the old Lindsay. It’s especially crazy when they have the flashbacks – she was so beautiful before!

      Although I found it kind of hilarious how she was on the boat looking naturally beautiful, and then suddenly off the boat with a completely different face.

  14. Unicorn with whiskers? LOL! 😀 That’s funny and unique. You really had fun at Southern Vermont GOTR. I admire how you inspired those girls. You are truly a motivational coach. 😀
    Kelly Yamauchi´s last post ..How to Remove Skin Tags At Home

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