Our Taste Agent Naomi Plasterer recently paced a friend at the Western States 100 and learned that sometimes, pacing can be more challenging and more rewarding than racing for yourself.
By now you've likely heard stories of amazing ultra-running athletes; those who attempt to conquer distances that range from 31-3,100 miles in a single run. (Really, The Self-Transcendance 5000k in New York is that long!) But so often what's left out of these stories are the tales of their crews; the pacers, family members and friends who keep runners on track towards the finish line by providing encouragement, data feedback and pacing support. Without these crews, many ultra-running dreams would never become realities.
Our Taste Agent Naomi Plasterer was one such crew member as she recently paced a friend at the Western States 100 in California. An ultra-marathoner herself, Naomi knows something about the way a 100 mile race ought to be run, but, she says pacing is different than competing for one's self. "Pacing has all of the pains of an ultra without any of the glory." she says. "For me pacing a friend made it easy. I wanted to see her succeed and that was my motivation to keep going even when the trench foot and hip pain became excruciating. It's easy to find that motivation [to keep running] when racing because you want that belt buckle or that finish. But when pacing you have to dig deeper than your psyche wants."
The motivation to keep running, even when your body is hurting is just one way that pacing challenges a runners psyche. Even if the starting gun goes off at a "normal" start time (between 5am-8am,) as a pacer, you may begin your run at any time of day. "For me," says Naomi, "while pacing the WS100 from Foresthill to Auburn, (a grueling 40 miles) I didn't start running till 9pm on Saturday and I didn't stop running till 9am on Sunday."
Still, through the pain and the dark of night, Naomi finds great gifts in pacing. "The most rewarding part about pacing for sure is getting to share in someone else's accomplishment. Getting to help support someone in there goal. Getting to see someone else succeed. To me pacing the Western States felt more rich and more meaningful than any race I’ve ever done. There’s no doping, no cutting course, no glory, no finish line... the selfishness that has made me hate running sometimes was stripped away. I'd pace again in a heart beat." she says
Congratulations, Naomi, on a great race at WS100, and thanks for sharing your love of running!