42. Jakob von Gunten – Robert Walser
week forty four – 53.3
2019 to date: 2,251 KM
You had me at Kafka was a fan and I’m glad that I picked up this somewhat obscure classic from Swiss writer Robert Walser. The title character is a broke runaway from a well-to-do family who enrols in a school for servants called The Institute. The book is quirky and strange and reads a lot like a diary because it is Jakob’s diary. I liked it but I think that its charm might have worn off if it had gone on for much longer.
Last weekend I did something that I’ve never done before besides run three races one right after the other; for the first time I paced a race. When I decided to attempt the Fall Classic hat trick (before it became the Hat Trick) my plan was to run a pretty easy half marathon to start. Now I know what I’m like, so I thought it might be fun to pace and thereby force myself to stick to an easy pace and actually give myself a chance to finish all three. So I sent an email to RunVan offering to pace 1:45 Fall Classic Half Marathon.
At first I was declined, but then a few days later they asked to have a phone conversation, which I think was an interview of sorts. Once I’d fooled them into believing that I’m not some hack I was in! I was paired up with another first-time pacer. No bunny ears and we would be sharing the pacing sign, but luckily we did each get our t-shirt with PACER emblazoned on the back. We met about an hour before the gun and decided to alternate holding the sign each 5 km and he would start. The gun went and we were off and I did my best to stick to about 4:55 pace but I think I was a bit quick. My partner with the sign, was quicker. I kept him in sight but hung back trying to stick to the pace. I set my watch to read cumulative average and it was saying that I was still a bit quick. Early on someone asked me what time I was pacing and I said 1:45 and not to worry about the guy way up ahead with the sign. We crossed 5 km and then 6 km and then 7 km and I was still a ways back so we didn’t swap sign duties and I really started to second guess myself and the accuracy of my watch and the stress that set in that I was potentially letting a bunch of people down was not very much fun. I had a few hangers-on and they seemed content with what I was doing compared to their watches and we slowly gained on the crowd around my pacing partner. I came up beside him at at 9.5 km and offered to take the sign for the rest of the race.
I really wanted to be close to pace so I was very curious and a bit anxious to see the clock at the 10 km mat. I called out to the group that the clock was coming up and to be on pace we wanted to be 49:40 – now granted that’s gun time and we were a few second behind the start, but that’s what I was aiming for. I came up to the mat and checked the clock when I crossed and it read 49:30 and I’ll tell you that was one of the best feelings I’ve ever had midway through a race. The second and half was a bit of a blur. A couple times I got a bit ahead of pace and my partner reeled me in.
We really started doing math in our heads over the last couple kilometres. We both knew we were going to come in a bit early and had a bit of friendly debate about by just how much. The last kilometre I was shouting at everyone around me to give it everything they had left and not let us pass them. With a couple hundred metres to go I was pretty sure that those still with us were in a good spot, and we slowed up a bit and just kept telling people to RUN! Still it was a bit of a relief to round that last corner with only about 50 metres left to go and see the clock counting up 1:44. I crossed the finish line at 1:44:38 gun time and I’m pretty satisfied with that aim. I really wanted to be 1:44:59 and I might have been able to stretch it out if the finish chute was a bit longer, but 22 seconds is still pretty good and I know there were a few people happy crossing the finish line. Thanks for RunVan for letting me give pacing a try. I look forward to doing it again sometime.