Churchill’s 1/2 Marathon and MIT Recap

This was my 9th Half Marathon and my 4th running of this great race, celebrating its 50th year.

The first three years I ran this race, (2015 and 2016 pics above) each one was a PR’s for me.  Not sure what it is about this race that produces so many PR’s, because its not an easy course by any means.  It can fool you, it’s flat and fast the first 7 to 8 miles, then there are several “Hills” in the last 3 miles that can really seek up on you. If the hills don’t get you, the weather can.  Saturday’s race was one of the coldest in recent years.  It was 22 degrees at race time and with the wind produced a wind chill of about 17 degrees.

But this race would not be a RP attempt for me, which I am more than OK with that. Why you ask?  Well, let me tell you.

Back in May of this year, I was approached by one of the Head Caches for our local running store (Dave’s Running) asking if I’d be interested in being a Coach.  I agreed and my first assignment was to Coach in PR5K program, which I really liked.  That was an 8-week program that lasted until the last week of July. You can read the recap here. I’ts Ok, I’ll wait.  PR5K Recap.

Ok, thanks for coming back!

Before the PR5k program was over, I was asked to Coach in the Fall Marathon In Training (MIT) program.  This is a 16-week Half and Full Marathon training program.  The Fall MIT program actually overlapped the PR5k program by 1-week, so it stated the last week of July.

This program has two “A” Races, well actually three, but two are on the same day, so that kinda counts as one, Right? LOL.  At the 12-week point of training, we had the Detroit and Columbus Marathons on the same day, which many of my runners ran in one or the other of them, then we went right back into training for 4 more weeks and at the end of week 16, we had the Churchill’s Half Marathon.

So why was this not a PR Race for me?  Patience, I’m getting there!

During the PR5k program and had the opportunity to “informally” pace my group for the MI/OH 8K race.  This was my first time Pacing a group and I really liked it.  For those non-runners, pacing is were a runner runs the race at a set pace and others follow.  For a runner, following a Pacer takes a lot of the stress of  off of them, not having to watch their times and slits and allows them to just focus on running.   Many of the larger races offer this service.

At the end of the PR5K program, as I’m sure you read in the recap.  You did read it, right?  Ok, just checking.  I formally paced my group for their 5k race. Loved it!!!

Then at the 12-week point of the Fall MIT program,  I ran in the Detroit International Half Marathon and paced my Son as he ran his first Half Marathon.   Go ahead, read the Recap for this one too, I know ya can’t resist,  I’ll wait, I’ve got all day! LOL.

So long story short, I have really fallen in love with pacing.  There is so much personal sanctification in not only coaching my runners during training, but then to run with them as they test their new found skills, is just a joy for me.

Allison, Me, Nabil, Emily and Tina (L to R)

So, back to the Churchill’s Race.  While there were Official Pacers for this race (I was not one of them), I offered to personally pace any of the runners in my group that were interested.  The Official pacers, most of whom I know, are all very good Pacers, but as a Coach you get to know each of your runners individually.  You learn their strengthens and their weaknesses.  You kinda know what they’re are capable of.

So, I offered my services and several decided to run with the 2:10 group which I felt was right for them.  But one of my runners, Tina had ran one previous Half Marathon in the 2:36:00 range.  She worked very had during her workouts, which were set in the 2:07:00 to 2:12:00 pace range, but she was concerned that a 2:10 pace for this race was a bit too aggressive.  I knew she was struggling in the last few days before the race picking a goal pace, so I offered to Pace her at a 2:20:00 pace. At a 2:20 this would still be a 16 minute PR, which is huge in anyone book.

While I did think that a 2:10 was a bit aggressive for her a this point, I knew deep down that she was capable of more than 2:20.  So, unbeknownst to her, I developed a Race Strategy to get her to a 2:15:00.  I figured that if she struggled, I could always pull her  back to the 2:20, which again would be a huge accomplishment for her.

I also had a runner from my group, Nabil, who was in a car accident a month before this race and had not ran since the accident.  On race day he decided to run was us a well.

The race started and things were going great, there were a few times I had to pull the group back some, as we was going above even the 2:15 pace.  But as I said above, this race is flat and fast at the beginning but you need to save something for the hills at the end.

As we passed each mile marker, I gave the group an up-date and I was telling them we were just slightly ahead of the 2:20 pace, as I wanted to keep their confidence high.  But in actuality we were running at about a 2:17. Sorry, Tina!

As we progressed along we picked up another runner from my group, Allison, and two or three others that were not part of my group.

At mile 10 we hit the hills.  As part of our MIT workouts, we actually came out and ran this part of of the course twice, so they knew what to expect.  I told them that we on our “Home Turf” a this point.

Tina and the group did amazing on the hills, never stopped to walk once! At the top of the Monument hill, I had her walk for a few strides to catch her breath and reset by stretching so that she could tackle the last hill on the course.  She commend. “this is gong to kill my pace” and I reassured her that we had banked some time and that she was still on pace to meet or exceed her 2:20 pace.  What I did’t till her was that if we stayed on pace, a 2:15 was a real possibility. Sorry again, Tina!

The last mile was difficult.  I knew she was struggling and she had very little left in the tank, she was just running on shear determination a this point.

Tina crossing the finish line!!

We made the last turn and we ran up the finish shoot, I kept yelling at her to finish strong and I backed off some to let her finish on her own.

She finished in 2:15:27!  What a huge accomplishment for her.  I was so happy for her, so proud of how hard she and ALL of my runners worked this seasons and how they finished! One proud Coach Right here.

(front row) Tina, Allison and Emily. Chris and Me in the back row.

I would be remiss If I didn’t mention that I did not do this alone, as it may sound that way.  Chris Peiffer, my co-coach for this season, was a huge part of the success of this group as well. Chris could not run this race with us, because he was running a charity race in Columbus for his late Nephew.  I know Chris really wanted to be with us, but applaud his decision to support this cause.

So, hopefully I answered why this was not a PR race for me. On Saturday, after the race, as I reflected on the days events, I can honestly say that I received so much more sanctification from pacing this race than if I had ran a sub-2 hour race and PR’d myself.

Thank you to Tina and my entire group for allowing me to be a part of your life over the last 16 weeks and I look forward to our next challenge together.

As usual, Thanks for listing.

Until next time … Happy Running!


Have you ever paced a group before?

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  1. Wow, congrats to your whole group! What a great way to end the season. Loving the strong finish and PRs! You are definitely finding your place as a coach and pacer. Maybe next year you’ll be carrying a sign? (Which sounds tiring btw! Ha!)


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