I had the opportunity to serve as a volunteer pacer for the 2017 Springfoot (Michelob Ultra) El Paso Marathon – a.k.a. we were part of the race itself! Ever since I had moved from San Antonio to El Paso, I had made an effort to get plugged in thru almost every aspect of my (former “south/east” Texan) life… That included: getting acquainted at work, getting involved with my church, trying to start CrossFit, and… joining a running team..
It was the crazy Manic Ed that introduced me to the Coffee Posse (CP) Run Club (running leggs and bacon) in September of 2016 when I passed through El Paso for the Franklin Mountains 50k. At that time, I had been “training” (when I’m not racing lol) with the Soler Sports team in Stone Oak for nearly a year. Prior to that, my marathon training was pretty much solo. But once I got into a group… I found myself very hard to go back to training solo, because of the comodares and the friendships that result… and somehow you go a little faster and harder than flying solo…
When I found about Up and Running on the west side, I began to run with them on Tuesday nights. At the Rock ‘n Roll Arizona marathon, I met up with a few of the Coffee Posse members, and started training with them after my PR in Phoenix.
When the CP group made the announcement of asking for volunteer pacers, I initially responded to ask if I could join the 11:27 group, but I haven’t heard back after a while and thought, “well they must have filled up all the spots…”
Until the Coffee Maker messaged me the week before the RnR Phoenix asking me if I could do the 12:01 pace. Hmm. Should I run a 4:15 or a 5:15 (to practice my pace) in Phoenix?? Lol…
I decided to race Phoenix (not just run it) and while I was cramping at the end, I still managed to get a PR of 4:13.
The Journey Leading up to Race Day
It was my first time meeting up with the CP group 2 weeks after the Rock ‘n Roll AZ. We started at The Hospitals of Providence East and ran the route of the first half. All I remember the beginning was getting turned around and around in the Tierra this and Tierra that 😂. I struggled the whole time with controlling my speed to 12 min/mi. It was painful but somehow I did it. So not only did everyone have to wait for me, I also got lost and ended up waiting around in Album Park instead of going to Eastwood High School! 😳
The following week, we all ran the second half. I was also notified that unfortunately the second half of the 12:01 pacer had to drop out, and if I wanted to do the whole thing (of course my Maniac self said YES!! LOL)… Now this route was more interesting! I also had a few following me (or was it me following them not getting lost??).
Expo and the Days Before the Race
I was really looking forward to the opportunity of serving as the pacer, no matter how slow 🐢🐌 I would get. Psoas (so as… lol) the flu season went on and I watched everyone around me getting sick, so I got sick on the Thursday before the race!! I was praying that the fever and chills would go away…
Friday was bad. I went to work until I had completed my duties by around noon, and then I was exhausted and weak and now started feeling more weak 😔 That night, I had bad insomnia as I was having fevers and chilly all night.
My Saturday plans got nearly completely derailed… I wanted to spend a whole day at the expo (after all, I had suggested earlier that we as the pacers should have a booth, and it surely did happen!), as it would be a great way to meet people and encourage them/boost their morale/etc… But instead, I showed up ill-looking and with feeling sick. Part of me felt bad that I shouldn’t even be there, but the other part I felt that my presence would be essential. As people were coming by and asking us what our group and the pace chart is about, I realized that more and more people were seeking our (and my) presence on race day. As pacers, even though we’re just ordinary runners, we were somehow looked up upon as someone extraordinary (At least that’s what I thought when I saw other pacers at other races).
And I had a prior event with folks at my church to watch bull riding that Saturday evening… I felt really bad when I called one of the brothers to cancel saying that I have to rest up to help pace the marathon the next day.
Oh.. not to mention, the weekend after the EP marathon is the Cowtown marathon, which I am excited to go see my family of friends and play catch up… Should I forfeit El Paso to run Cowtown, or should I forfeit Cowtown and wing El Paso (knowing that I’ll get worse from the cold/flu that I may have, and won’t have any energy the following weekend to do anything…) and be part of the race? After getting some advice from my brother in Dallas, I decided to potentially forfeit Cowtown in order to serve my fellow runners in El Paso.
The upswing to recovery that day…
Feeling sick, I parted goodbyes with everyone at the expo, went home, and attempted to rest. And I said, “God please help me recover. I may have to sacrifice my race at Cowtown next weekend, but it is my desire to BE part of this race.” As I was lying on my bed miserably, I noticed that I had a bottle of magnesium spray and was like… hmm could that calm me down?
Surely enough it did. So if the spray helped me a little… what about taking an epsom salt bath? So I filled up my bathtub with nearly a complete 2 pound bag of epsom salt, sat in it, broke into a huge sweat… and OMG feeling 10x better!!
I was probably magnesium depleted again. So I sat in there for over an hour before carb loading with Paul and Claudia at a Pho restaurant, and then off to my church’s group event that evening… and I felt instantaneous better!! While my sleep wasn’t that great, I had felt more relaxed and chill compared to the two previous nights.
It was about 45 degrees on race morning with sunny skies and a mild breeze. The starting line wasn’t that big to be honest, starting at the Hospitals of Providence were shuttle buses dropping runners off who were parked at the finish to the start. Of course, we met up as the Coffee Posse pacers and took a group picture before taking off…
Since the 5:15 group was slowest pace group (that’s like a record breaking 12:01 minutes per mile 🐢🐌), of course I was one of the last ones and there were several police motorcycles enforcing the end of the race… so one could say we were running from the cops ha!
I was able to encourage Kenny, who was doing his first road marathon in this day, amongst a few others, who ended up having to drop a little behind me. Though we were the last ones, I had ensured them that as long as y’all stay with me, you WON’T be the last ones. Lol.
At this point I met a rheumatologist who worked at Beaumont named Vonya, who waa able to keep pace with me for a good amount of the race to come. He and I had a good conversation and this turned out to be his first marathon as well!!
Finally, leaving Edgemere, I reached the relay point off Album Road, where I greeted the rest of the first half pacers who were already done by now… not me.
But I was determined to keep a positive attitude and address the concerns of others who started to walk by simply asking them “hey, you doing alright?” And such.
The second stretch on Edgemere was tough, for the wind was REALLY kicking in from the west. And holding that pacer sign sure was getting tough! I wish it was aerodynamic with wind breaking abilities… but at that point it was just wishful thinking lol.
However, my pace was doing good. When I would go a little fast, I’d walk a few steps after each mile. And surely enough by mile 18, my stomach issues and breathing went away.
As I crossed patriot freeway (US 54), it was a net downhill… At this point, I was noticing more and more people walking. They say they were doing alright but I was like “Come on brother! Run a few steps with me!” For I remembered the 5 hour pacer from Dallas 2015 be like “Come on, walker, start running, pickup those feet!!” It was encouraging but maybe borderline obnoxious, so I tried to avoid telling people what to do besides “C’mon man you got this lets run a few steps!” And I was calling hills “that’s only a bump in the road y’all! Nice and easy!”
I had a little pharmacy that I put to good use… there was a guy walking before I headed to Wyoming whom had IT band pain. So I popped two ibuprofen pills for him. At the finish line, he said that it actually helped!
After mile 25 coming down Arizona about to make a left on Oregon, I picked up yet another straggler, encouraging her to run! And surely enough she did! Oregon was all downhill. As I was about to turn onto Franklin Ave, Paul joined me (as he said he would over dinner!) a few steps before I reached the finish inside that Southwest baseball stadium.
This was an unique race in that you actually run across the baseball stadium like a home run ha… I could see folks from the CP cheering on from the side. Either the course was a little short or I was a little fast, or the combination of the above. But I ended up with a time of 5:12. A few minutes faster than my target time of 5:15.
Pictures from the finish line gathering… Yes, that one was Vonya and his family and little ones who photo bombed 😂. And there was Mike the race director, and a random shot with a few random pacers… No, I did not have a picture with the crazy Edward Broadnax (who had done a 100 miler and 50 miler in the 2 weeks before this!! 😱🏃🏿) and truly regret that!! Oh well… I’ll see him at Cowtown this upcoming weekend.
Although I did not expect anyone from church to come out for the race, I went ahead and texted Ruby that in case people were interested, I would be coming down Oregon thru I-10 at approximately 12:00 PM (mile 25). But I was really encouraged to see at least Emma out there watching me and the rest of the Coffee Posse pacers finish (including her mom lol).
My left leg and hip was shot… and it was painful. At that time, I wasn’t sure if I would be ready for Cowtown next weekend, but it doesn’t matter.
Take the Kingdom wherever we go
Long story short, although this was my 29th completed full marathon, this aint no race for myself and something to celebrate my victory. Nawww… I, along with other CP pacers, were part of the race. I am blessed to be a part of this race, even if it meant giving up Cowtown next weekend, and really happy for the individuals who completed their first marathon. Less than 24 hours ago, I had seriously doubted myself and expresses my doubts with multiple (some random) people, including those at the expo, that I wasn’t gonna be able to do it. Less than 24 hours later, God somehow made a way for me to recover, through my trial and error, and I was able to provide for the people running the race.
It wasn’t an easy one, for the wind kicked in and it felt like running against a wall the entire time! Yes even on downhills!
A marathon isn’t easy, and especially a slow marathon (you are out there longer). It’s always a test of perseverance with the unknown factor involved… Contrary to some may think, running marathons don’t get easier, the more you do. Often times, the more you’re in it, the harder it may get…
Being part of God’s Kingdom we ought to especially encourage those in the family of believers/disciples, but certainly, making an effort to encourage everyone else is of equal importance… Seeking first His Kingdom also means, taking His Kingdom out there wherever you go. Everyone need a little encouragement for something like this. To me it may be “nothing”, but for many, it’s a big deal. A pacer in the marathon is somewhat analogous to ambassadors for Christ in the Kingdom. Keep running and persevering that good race to the finish and never give up!
“but the one who stands firm to the end will be saved.”- Matthew 24:13
“but those who hope in the Lord will renew their strength. They will soar on wings like eagles; they will run and not grow weary, they will walk and not be faint.”- Isaiah 40:31