That was my 4th time running there. The first time was in 2010, when I did the marathon. In 2011 & 2012 I paced the 1/2 marathon (did the 2 hr group both times) and then this year paced the full marathon for the 3:45 group. This year I also took on responsibility for recruiting pace bunnies, so we had a much bigger pace team than previous years.
I'll back up my story to Saturday. On Saturday morning we head down to Picton (the town where the finish line is) to meet friends for brunch and to pick up my race kit. While I was the expo, I got chatting with the lone Kenyan runner (Gilbert Kiptoo) who had come to run, and it turned out that he didn't have a place to stay lined up, so I brought him home with me. It was really interesting to be able to spend some time with a guy like that. He's not a top tier East African runner (his PB is 2:14) so he makes his living travelling all over the world hitting the smaller races and picking up $1000 here, $2000 there- anywhere he can get a payday. My kids were fascinated by his stories about what life in rural Kenya is like- seeing lions, leopards, giraffes, elephants while he's out on his training runs. After dinner we went down for a walk on the beach, and as we watched my kids running all over the place, he commented how much he would love to bring his kids to that place- makes you realize what these guys give up so that can provide for their families back home.
I was pacing the 3:45 group. I knew that with this being a smaller race (about 200 in the marathon, and 1000 in the 1/2 marathon) the pace groups would be small, so I was quite pleased to have about 5 or 6 people drop in beside me. Some were experienced runners hoping to finally BQ, others with first timers who were just hoping to finish strong- a good mix of people. Up until about the 1/2 I had most of them with me, but shortly after the 1/2, the heavens opened and it started pouring! Like, buckets of rain pouring, with a nice strong wind mixed in. Slowly the crew started to drop off, until it was just 1 lady and I. At about 30K she had to stop for a bathroom break, so her plan was to make it quick and try to catch up to me. Unfortunately I didn't see her again until after the race (she did get her BQ though!) and I was on my own. I kept a nice steady pace through the pouring rain, and as the end got close I managed to pick up a few stragglers. I did pass a few people who would look up at the pace time printed on my bunny ears, swear, and then keep plodding on.
As I came down the finish line, I can't tell you how glad I was to get to the end. Even though my pace was over 30 mins slower than the marathon I ran a few weeks ago, it was still hard. I don't care what your pace is, 42.2km is a ridiculously long way to run, and when you add in nasty weather it makes it that much worse.
As I came across the finish line the clock read 3:44:58- you can't get much closer than that!
As for my new friend Gilbert, he did win the race by an impressive margin- he crossed the line in 2:38, 22 minutes ahead of 2nd place. He told me afterwards that he stayed on course record pace until about 30k- went through 1/2 in 1:10, 30K in 1:38, but then the rain hit and he realized that conditions weren't good for a course record, so he cruised for the last 12K to get an easy win and get his legs fresh for his next race- the Victoria Marathon, which is next weekend.
All in all it was another good marathon experience. I got to meet a new and very interesting friend, run a race, meet some more great pace bunnies, and help other runners hit their goals- not a bad way at all to spend a Sunday!