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STEAMTOWN MARATHON: Pace Teams Help Keep Runners Going

October 6, 2018
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STEAMTOWN MARATHON: Pace Teams Help Keep Runners Going

Each runner has a different reason for competing in Sunday’s 23rd annual Steamtown Marathon. For some, it is crossing an item off their bucket list. For others, it’s trying to hit a qualifying mark for the Boston Marathon. Still others, a chance to set a personal-best time. Whatever the case, there are individuals who want to help these runners reach their goals. This is the third year Steamtown will feature a pace team from MarathonPacing.com. Based in Pittsburgh, the group was started 15 years ago by owner Jim Crist. “Marathons would supply ‘rabbits’ to help the runners up front chase fast times,” Crist said. “But there was nothing for the middle-of-the-pack runners.” Pacers are experienced, having run an average of 30 marathons. They are well-disciplined and run paces designed to finish within 30 seconds of their target time. They also act as coaches and motivators. They remind the runners to pay attention to their breathing and to stay hydrated. “The last six miles, it’s hard to keep your mind off the pain,” Crist said. “So the pacers will help the runners focus to the finish line.” Most of all, the pacers want the runners in their group to have fun and enjoy the experience. Some even wear silly outfits to keep the mood light and festive. Their sole satisfaction comes from helping those runners in their group attain their goal of reaching the finish line. “It’s a good feeling to help someone achieve a PR,” Crist said. “Or when they post something on Facebook about their run. It’s a lot of fun to see after sharing 26.2 miles with them.” Ten pacers from Marathon Pacing.com will participate in the Steamtown Marathon. Most are from the region — Pennsylvania, New York, New Jersey, Virginia, Maryland — but one is from Mississippi and another is from Alabama. Each has run Steamtown in the past, which means they are familiar with the race. “The Steamtown course is tricky,” Crist said. “At Mile 24, where they have one of the best block parties, there is an uphill. There’s another slight uphill at Mile 25. They’re in spots on the course where you don’t want them. So it gives the runners two times to let the pacers help them handle the topography of the course.” The course is downhill, dropping in elevation almost 1,000 feet from start to finish, including a drop of 600 feet in the first six miles. “The first couple of miles, the pacers will remind their runners to run slower and deliberately hold them back,” Crist said. “If you go out too fast too soon, your quads will be screaming before it’s over and it will be an ugly finish to your race.” Last year’s race was run in unseasonably warm conditions and Sunday’s forecast is calling for similar temperatures. Here, again, the pacers can help. They may advise the runners to slow their original goal in order to have a safe race. Target finishing times begin at 3 hours, 15 minutes and increase to 3:25, 3:35, 3:45, 3:50, 3:55, 4:00, 4:15, 4:30 and 4:40. Runners, especially those running their first marathon, are encouraged to run with a pace team. There is no cost, and Crist said they shouldn’t be intimidated or embarrassed to run with a pace team. “I talk to a lot of runners who are doing their first marathon and they’ll say, ‘I’m not good enough to run with a pacer,’ ” Crist said. “We want to let them know we’re there to help you run your first race. It’s not just for experienced runners.” MarathonPacing.com will be at the Steamtown Marathon Race Expo at Scranton High School on Saturday from 11 a.m. to 5:30 p.m. There, it will help runners determined their pace team group. Otherwise, about 30 minutes prior to Sunday’s race, pacers will gather near the starting line holding signs with their group’s target time. “Just find the pacer holding your sign, come up to them and say you want to be part of that group,” Crist said. Contact the writer: swalsh@timesshamrock.com; 570-348-9100 ext. 5109; @swalshTT on Twitter

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