For longer distance races, such as half or full marathons, there is someone called a pacer. What they do is run the race in a set amount of time, so that if you have a specific race goal all you need to do is stick with them and you will cross the finish line at the right time. Or if you wanted to break a certain time you just need to cross before them. They're basically a fancy watch.
I have always thought that pacers are so cool. They all have their matching pace shirts so you can pick them out of the crowd and carry a sign with the race time and pace on it for the whole race. I always thought, "Oh man, I hope I'm legit enough one day to be a pacer!". Well guess what, folks: either I'm legit now, or pacers aren't as legit as I thought they were!
A runner friend of mine (who is truly legit. He wins marathons. No big deal.) offered me the chance to pace the Halloween Half Marathon in Provo this past weekend. My PR is a 1:45, and I would be pacing at an easy 2:20 (pacers run at a time quite slower than their current ability, just to be sure that they will make it and still have energy to encourage people :). I was also put in charge of recruiting someone else to pace with me, so I got Poppa White on board!
I had a blast pacing! There was actually a third lady pacing with us who has run a lot of races. She had a very different method than I would use in the future, so I'm looking forward to trying out some new things. But it was a lot of fun talking to her and my dad-in-law about different running stories and race experiences! I am so grateful to have a DIL who has all of this running knowledge and experience. I have sure needed it as I have gotten more into racing!
I'm already signed up to do pacing for a half marathon in January, and there are several other halves in the works throughout 2012. I also might even get to pace a full in the summer.
Anyway, I'm pretty excited! The great thing about pacing is that you get to run the race for free, you can just have some fun, meet some people, and get more involved in the race community :)