Categorized | Primary, Ultra Running Races

Angeles Crest 100 Racing Report by John Marnell

Posted on 16 September 2010

When I started running three years ago, I never would have imagined pacing at the AC 100.  Actually, three years ago I had never even heard of the AC 100 or of “pacing” for that matter.  Luckily, I have some great running mentors, one of whom, Cheryl, asked me to pace the last 25 miles of the AC course.

Initially, I was very excited to be asked to be a pacer.  I saw it as an honor to be asked  by someone who is very accomplished in running Ultra-marathons.  As the days grew closer to the start of the race, I was fairly nervous because I did not really know what to expect.  I hoped that I would be able to run fast enough to keep up with Cheryl.  I was  anxious about running through unfamiliar terrain, at night, and hoped that the trail would be clearly marked.  This was also a long run for me–I can count the times that I have run 25 or more miles on one hand!

As Cheryl and I left the Chantry aid station, the factors that caused nervousness were put aside.  They were replaced with feelings of admiration and awe at what Cheryl had already accomplished.  I couldn’t believe I was running with someone who had already run 75 miles.  I was just starting my run, with fresh legs, a few hours rest, and a good meal, and she had run nearly three marathons.  I had no reference (and probably never will) for what that must be like.  Regardless, the  focus was on making sure Cheryl made it through the next quarter of the race, in the time she had planned.  It was quite a unique experience starting a run just after midnight and then getting to run into the morning.  I thought morning would make a dramatic entrance, but it happened so gradually that it was really only noticeable because I no longer needed my headlamp.  As the hours and miles went by, as we made our two big climbs and descents, Cheryl ran closer and closer to the finish line.

As we left the trail and started running on the streets approaching the finish line at the park, Cheryl increased her pace to a sub 9- minute-mile.  Ninety-nine miles on her legs and she was running faster than I normally run on paved streets!  Adrenaline, meeting her time goal, and having her granddaughter and family at the finish line were probably all factors in contributing to this pace.  As she ran ahead towards the finish, and I saw her pick up her granddaughter so that they could run through the finish line together, I was so proud of her accomplishment.

The experience of pacing was meaningful not only because I was asked to run with someone that I admire, but also because I was able to play a minor role in helping her accomplish her goal.  I was also able to see how a race such as this is run.  How even when a person hasn’t slept or eaten a real meal in over thirty hours, and how even if every muscle in their body aches, they can still keep putting one foot in front of the other.  In the hours I spent on the AC course,  each runner that I saw showed determination in making it to the finish line.  I saw amazing endurance athletes that are so physically strong, but perhaps even stronger mentally.  Being able to be a pacer, getting to see the runners on the trail, and  having a friend cross the finish line is something that I was lucky to get to be a part of this year.  Hopefully I will get to take part in it again in the future.

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