A couple of weeks ago I paced for the fabulous Niagara Falls Half Marathon*. This was just my second time donning the famed ears. I like pace bunnying. It’s a nice way to get in a sold training run, without the effort or pressure of racing. I like the challenge of running perfect kilometre splits and the fun of offering up motivation without being too annoying. I think I succeeded;
my evidence includes a metronome-like ability to run even splits (I would show my Garmin output, but I don’t take pictures of my gadgets), my finish time, the number of pictures I posed for with satisfied runners after the race, and general feedback from runners -and onlookers- regarding my pacing. As one spectator said, I could set my watch by your splits. People love a good bunny.
Surprisingly, there were very few pace bunnies in the race – only one running faster than me – so I had a big crowd for a small event. Lucky for me, there were no high maintenance runners asking about pace every 2 minutes, mostly just a lot of keen runners hoping to set a PB. I only accidentally impaled three people with my giant sign pole. The sign I carried for the entire 21.1K. I’m that good.
I used the strategy of running a couple of secs/km fast so we could cruise through the aid stations for about 15 sec every 3K. It seemed to work well. After the early drop off of runners around 8K, the pack stayed solid until about 18K. That’s when the “are you going too fast” questions started increasing in frequency and urgency. No, I reassured, the pace is the same it just feels faster because you are tiring. Two minutes later, “are you sure you haven’t sped up”? Yes, I’m sure. “Oh”. I called out the splits at every marker, which seemed to demoralize those who hoped it was me, not them. We’ve all been there.
The best thing about being a bunny? The groans, jokes, and even some (mostly) playful curses, when you pass runners who long ago said good-bye to their own goal time but maintained a faint hope of holding on to some slower finish time until they see an annoyingly chirpy bunny hop by. There are few things worse than being passed by a perky pink-eared bunny running slower than your anticipated pace in the final kilometres of the race. I’ve heard this referred to as “open season” on rabbits. Fortunately no one shot me.
Those who stuck with me to the end seemed to have gas in the tank, so I sent them ahead for the final 500m push and I crossed the finish line, as one friend put it, spectacularly alone. The rest of the group crossed within the next couple of minutes. Mission accomplished.
*More to come, but this was a wonderful race. I don’t know why I’ve never run it before, but I will run it again.
Title: Crispian St. Peters – I’m the Pied Piper. 1966.