I learned an important lesson at the Marin Endurance Festival… the lesson of what it means to have grit. By definition, grit is having courage and resolve. It takes courage to sign up for a half marathon. It takes resolve to make it to the finish line.
As a pacer with Beast Pacing, I have the distinct privilege of encouraging and pacing runners to the finish line. I’ve paced numerous races from when I first became a pacer five years ago, but this experience at the Marin Endurance Festival was one of my favorites.
A New Race Experience
I first learned of the Marin County Half Marathon through Beast Pacing when they sent out an all-call for pacers. Later, I heard about the race through BibRave as an ambassador. (Learn more about becoming a BibRave Pro (ambassador), and check out BibRave.com to review, find, and write race reviews!)
Prior to race day, I had never been to Marin County much less ever run this course before. I heard there was some elevation gain along the course and it was a mix of road/trail, but not much more. I am not one to shy away from new experiences and I was excited to get to explore a new race and course.
Race Morning at the Marin Endurance Festival
Most half marathons I run start at around 7 am. This run, however, has a starting time of 9 am. As Pace Team lead, I arrived at the starting line at about 7:45 am, 15 minutes prior to when the pacers were instructed to meet up. Since I arrived with over an hour to spare until the start of the race, I was able to find parking within walking distance to the starting line.
Speaking of starting line, there seemed to be some confusion as to where exactly the starting line was located. In previous years the starting line was located at the top of the hill separate from the finish line. After asking several people, it seemed as though the starting line was the same as the finish line.
As the time drew closer to 9 am we expected to see more people surrounding the starting line. I and the other Pacers asked one another where everyone was. Before long, however, the announcer came over the speakers and told everyone to line up at the starting line.
And We’re Off
As a pacer, you’re expected to be lined up at the starting line 15 minutes before the race starts. Most runners know to find the pace sign that matches their goal finish time for the race. We pacers are then instructed to introduce ourselves and explain our race strategy.
It was at this time that I first met Dana and her friend Jay. As a PACER, one of the things I like to do is to ease the nerves or worries of the runners around me. If you are new to the running scene or running a race for the first time, the starting line can be filled with a lot of anxiety. I, however, enjoy dancing, smiling, talking, and letting everyone know that we’re gonna have a great race.
After a quick stretch and singing the national anthem, we were off.
Hills, Trails, and Deer Oh My!
Since the race starting line was moved to the same as the finish line, this meant that we as runners experienced our first hill within half a mile from the race start line. Soon thereafter, however, we had a nice straight flat run with incredible views!
I love a course that has a few out and back turns to where we get to see the other runners on the course. Have you heard the phrase, “Once a cheerleader, always a cheerleader”? This is definitely me. I was a cheerleader in high school and I continue to cheer others on to be their best selves.
At about the halfway point of the course, we began our run on the trail. Running on trails can be quite different than running on the road. You have mud, dirt, rocks, tree roots, etc. to try to navigate. On this particular stretch of trail, we also encountered several mountain bikers. So many mountain bikers, in fact, that I lost count.
The Marin County Half Marathon Finish Line
The cutoff time for the Marin County Half Marathon was 3:45. As the 3:45 pacer, I am instructed to cross the finish line at 3:45 or with the last runner, whichever is first. Since the last runners were running with the 3:30 pacer, I stayed close behind the 3:30 pacer for most of the race.
At about mile 9, as we were ascending one of the many hills found out on the course, one of the runners fell back behind the 3:30 pacer. I, therefore, fell back with her. We stayed together until the end.
As a back-of-the-pack runner, you’re always worried about what you’re going to find at the finish line; Will there be any food and water left? Will I earn my medal? I’m very happy to report that not only was there food and water left, there was also cold beer!
Upon crossing the finish line, Dana and I hugged one another, snapped a pic, and celebrated making it to the finish line. I had the best time getting to know Dana and hope to run another race with her soon!
Final Thoughts on the Marin Endurance Festival
The Marin County Half Marathon course was beautiful (a mix of road and trail overlooking the water), there was great swag (long sleeve tech shirt and medal), and there was a cold beer waiting for me at the finish line.
I highly recommend the Marin County Half Marathon for all runners, even those who may be in the back of the pack. I plan to be back on course in 2022 as the 3:45 pacer once again!