On Being a Pacer at the Rumspringa Half Marathon…

I needed a purpose for this race.  Two weeks prior, I set a PR at another Half, and I was in the middle of a taper for my upcoming marathon.  So, the Rumspringa Half would be my fun race: My “race between painful races.”  It was also the first time I have ever traveled to such a race with three friends.  The four of us, collectively known as The Cemetery Runners (since we do many of our runs in a cemetery) had this race circled on our calendars for a couple of months.  However, without a race goal, what would be my purpose?

My purpose evolved into three tasks:  Bus driver, DJ and Pacer.  Since I was relaxed for this race, I offered to drive, which meant coming up with a Pump Up Playlist for the car ride.  My additional purpose came as a pacer for my friend Chad who wanted to go Sub 1:30.  It was only his second Half, but the way his training had been going, he figured himself for the 1:32-1:34 range.  Once he mentioned 1:30 as a goal, the 1:32-1:34 range became irrelevant to me…Chad would be going Sub 1:30 today

So, we set out for Amish country to Adamstown, PA (just over an hour from Philadelphia).  It was a chatty ride full of laughs and conversation you would expect from men aged 40ish, complete with body function talk.  We are all roughly age fourteen mentally, aren’t we?

Upon arriving at the registration gazebo, we were met with the following:

New start time 8:15am” is what the sign said.

“Hmm,” my first thought was, “I guess they are more laid back here in Amish Country.”

The start and finish are in Stoudt’s Village, all part of the Stoudt’s Brewery complex of buildings.  The village has a very “Germany at EPCOTesque” feel to it:  Beautiful, clean and fun yet not quite real.  The perfect weather helped add to the Disney-like atmosphere.

As we lined up at the start, we were made aware of why the race was delayed.  The officials had to push back the race fifteen minutes because it would otherwise run head on into an Amish procession traveling to church that morning.  We were told that the frontrunners might be able to see some of the buggies but progress would not be impeded (for either the runners or Amish churchgoers).

So, at roughly 8:20something (because who’s keeping track of time anyway?) we were off…

Generally, I get the chills at least once just before or during every race; however, seeing dozens of Amish buggies and bicycles heading towards us gave me sustained chills. What a sight it was.  I will never forget this.   Two worlds collided but everyone was smiling, and observing each other.  Our common bond: No mode of transportation required an engine…only the heartbeats of horses and humans.

The course itself was challenging.  The first six miles were flat to downhill, but the remaining miles more than made up for it with rolling hills, and some were doozies.    It was when the hills started that I began to worry about Chad.  His breathing was labored, and he was struggling.  A couple of “F Bombs” may or may not have been dropped.  I tried my usual motivation tricks as a pacer.

Generally, I have learned when to tell the person I am pacing the truth, and when to blow sunshine up their hamstrings.  I knew that unless Chad bonked, we had some money in the bank on the cumulative pace through the first seven miles, which should still make it possible to go Sub 1:30.

Somehow, Chad mustered up a second wind, and despite a couple of slower miles, he managed to finish in 1:29, winning his (our) age group in the process.  Chad was thankful, especially when he learned he won our age group…he gave me a big High Five.

I like to help others because every one of us can use some help once in a while, no matter what our perceived ability is. There is always something to learn…there is always room for improvement. Running is such a solitary sport, but it’s hard to improve by always going it alone.

Being able to assist and witness someone reach or surpass a goal, whether it is a PR or finishing a first race, is a tremendously gratifying experience.  For me, in some ways, it can be even more rewarding than finishing my own race.  Imagine being able to do the thinking for someone and live vicariously through their achievement.  It is a very nice feeling. My bonus reward was the fact that I had a ton of fun throughout the race (and got a six pack of beer as a “thank you” later that day).

Post-race food included Bratwurst and German potato salad, and both were delicious, even at 10am in the morning.

The Rumspringa Half Marathon is put on by Uber Endurance Sports. If you don’t know their races, I suggest signing up for one.  Their events are smaller, more laid back, more low key and more fun.  It is the Anti-Rock N Roll Race series.  For me, that is ideal. Oh, and the age group awards?  German Cuckoos!!!

…and no Uber race would be complete without Lederhosen, dancing and beer….lots of selections from Stoudt’s Brewery from which to choose.


Cemetery Runners


The Playlist


Post-Race Fun

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