I think you said it best when you said, “your courage in tackling an endurance event with the goals and hopes of others at the foundation of your efforts.”  When I started running 5k races back in 2008, my mom and I did a lot of events together.  I would finish my race and run back out to get her and encourage her to the finish line.  She would always say, “You should be a personal trainer, you are so motivating!”  I never gave it much thought, she’s my mom after all, but it stuck with me.  Flash forward 8 years: I found that my own running was stale and I was not as motivated to push myself mentally or physically in training/workouts.  I enjoy running races, but I didn’t really see a point to racing in such high volume if I wasn’t going to be at my best.  Then it all clicked: 1) I love working with individuals in a sport/activity setting (as a health and physical education teacher) because I love seeing my students make physical achievements that are significant or unbelievable for them and their bodies; 2) I love endurance events because I think they are motivating, inspirational, and, of course, FUN!; 3) I’ve always had a pretty easy time locking into pace and staying consistent in my runs and races; 4) I secretly hate running alone, even in a race; 5) My mom found me motivating, so maybe someone else would too!
At first, I was scared and hesitant to try pacing because I knew I would feel responsible for someone’s race outcome (it’s how I am) and just like I never thought of myself as a “real” runner, I didn’t feel qualified to pace others.  I finally decided to bite the bullet and try pacing a few half marathons, which was all it took to get me hooked!  It was everything I thought it would be and more.  I have met some incredible people doing incredible things through pacing.  I’ve been a part of several people’s first half or full marathon, personal record, long training run working on pacing or other race strategy for a bigger event in the near future, first run back after a significant life experience, marathon #378 for one guy, and so much more.  Everyone has a story – a reason – and I get to hear them every time I pace!  It is so rewarding to see others accomplish a goal and then have them feel grateful for you because you were there to help them.  There are always some runners who can’t stay with the pace group, but even that is inspiring to me because they had the confidence and courage to go for something that was going to push them to their limits mentally and/or physically.  To me, there is nothing more rewarding about running than helping someone else try to achieve their goal, especially on race day.
As a pacer, I have found that I am MORE nervous on race morning because I feel responsible for doing my best to set an even effort and/or time pace that can help others make it to the finish line feeling as good as possible.  I understand the hours of training and personal sacrifice each runner has experienced to get to race day and I want to make sure I do everything I can do help make all that work worth it by creating a memorable race experience.  They are doing all the work, but I feel valuable to them because I can help pass the miles, share some of my own experiences and running advice, and motivate them when they want to quit.
As for Cannonball, YOU GOT THIS, and the pacers are there to help you tackle it!
Sara Harmon
Junction 311 Endurance Sports