Race Review: St. Luke’s Half Marathon (1:45 Pacer)

I always pace a half-marathon the week before Boston (Garden Spot), but starting last year I began pacing one the week after, too. It is a race that holds a special place in my heart because it was my first ever half marathon. I wrote about my first experience pacing it last year here, when I was asked last minute to fill in as the 1:50 pacer.

This year, I was asked to pace the 1:45 group. That’s my favorite group to pace, and I knew I had the Kentucky Derby Marathon the following week and would probably run 10-13 miles around that pace anyway. When race day came around, I woke up and was less than amused with my decision. I wanted to sleep in, put on my iPod and go for a run – not go to a race. Why did I think this was a good idea?

I drank some coffee and headed out. I got to the race around 7am, and once I was in the gymnasium of William Allen High School (the staging area for this race), I was glad I decided to do it. Pretty much all of our local running community was out, whether they were running, volunteering, or spectating. We have such a wonderful community that I would have been bummed if I’d missed out on this event.

The race goes off at 8:10 am (there’s a 5K that starts at 8am) so we made our way to the starting line about fifteen minutes early. I had a fairly large group, and several runners asked my strategy. I always like to do even splits, but possibly a few seconds per mile faster until mile eight for this race to account for the Parkway. Most runners lose steam around mile eight because we enter Lehigh Parkway, which is a narrow cinder path with some moderate climbs. It slows you down to run on cinders, plus the climbs and the tight space means you expend more energy trying to pass runners and stay on pace. Whether I run the race myself or I pace it, I find those miles to always be the slowest of the race.

An older gentleman came up to me and told me he wanted to run an 8 minute mile and has been trying to hold onto that pace for years. He seemed familiar, and then it dawned on me: we ran several miles together when I paced the D&L Half Marathon in November! I reminded him of that, and he remembered me immediately. At the D&L, he ran exactly a 1:45. It was fun to see someone from a past race, and he seemed excited to see I would be his pace leader again.

The race went off on-time, and it was a gorgeous day. It starts with a steep downhill, so I focused on not taking the group out too fast. The first eight miles of the race are my favorite. Once you hit mile two and get on Martin Luther King Boulevard, you get to see the lead runners coming back from the turnaround so there is a ton of cheering. My good friend, Zafer, started with my pace group and running with him is like running with a celebrity. Everyone knows and loves Z (he is seriously the sweetest guy ever) and was cheering for him. He, in turn, was cheering for everyone – including the spectators. My mom got this great shot of us running together – it might be my most favorite running picture ever:


Once we could see the lead runners on their way back, I saw that my training partners were leading the women’s race! Megan was in 2nd (she ran a 1:23 and took second overall), and Cassie was in 3rd (she ran a 1:25 and took third overall). It made me extremely proud and happy to cheer them on as they came BLOWING past us. Watching them cruise back at their speedy pace made our 1:45 group look like we were standing still. It was awesome and exciting to cheer my friends on and watch them run such strong races. I cracked up as Chris G. came blowing by us – I’ve done a few long runs with him over the past year. He organizes the pace team and I thought he was pacing. Nope! He ran a 1:19 half marathon that day, but he also ran Boston in 2:55 a few days earlier! He told me after the race that the half was his first run back from Boston. Mind BLOWN! I love it!

Through this point and up through mile eight, I’d maintained around a 7:55 pace. The mile markers seemed slightly off so I relied on clock time and effort to keep the pace consistent. I saw so many other friends in this section of the race, and everyone was all smiles and cheering for each other. How could you not be? It was a gorgeous day, a great course, and our community rocks. If you live within a reasonable distance from me, I highly recommend coming to run this race next year. The Lehigh Valley is a great place to be a runner, and the St. Luke’s half  has been around for over 30 years. It’s a great place to be.

We entered the Parkway, and Emily came running up next to me! I knew she was trying to run somewhere in the 1:45 range but had a more casual approach to training this year. She was running with her fiance and looked great. They ran with Z for awhile, and were a little ahead of me through some sections in the Parkway. Once we crossed over the red covered bridge, there was still a few more Parkway miles left to go. That’s when the struggle seems to hit most runners. Z was feeling good and took off here, and Emily fell a little behind. I had a few runners from my original pack with me, but picked up a few new ones along the way. It was through this section that I began averaging a true 8 minute mile – some were even slower, 8:08ish pace – to try to keep the group together through the hills.

A local runner that I’d never met before, Nanette, caught me towards the end of the Parkway. I recognized her name because she works with my old coach, Kenrick. She had a tough winter and had the goal of 1:45 for the day even though she’s run faster half marathons before, so she stuck with me for a few miles. Around mile 11, most of the runners I began with had either fallen ahead of me or slightly behind me. I maintained an 8 minute mile pace and tried to motivate whatever runner’s were in my general area.


Chris G. gave our pace team the task of coming in around 30 seconds under goal, and I came in at 1:44:39 according to my gun time, but 1:44:22 according to my chip time. It was about eight seconds fast, but I didn’t seem to have anyone upset with me. Many runners came up and thanked me and told me that they had a great race. Both Emily, her fiance and Nanette ran 1:44:55, which was exciting.  Another local runner, Beth, sought me out after and said she made it her goal to keep me in her sights and finished in 1:46 – a PR! That made my day.

I truly enjoy being a pacer. You meet so many amazing, strong people and to have the opportunity to watch them achieve their goals is incredible. It’s the most rewarding experience and one of my favorite ways to participate in some of the local races. I love any chance I get to help out our running community. I’ve met some of my closest and best friends through running in the Lehigh Valley, and it’s a joy to watch my friends succeed and help others reach their goals. We are such a supportive group, and everyone is always cheering each other on. Great job to everyone who participated in the race this weekend – it was a spectacular event!

46 Replies to “Race Review: St. Luke’s Half Marathon (1:45 Pacer)”

  1. Hi! Love to read your race recaps because they give me a lot of inspiration! Sounds like a great race. 1:45 is my next goal for the half. I had a disappointing marathon on Sunday, so I’ll be recovering, and pouting, for a little while before I’m back at it!

  2. YES I AM RUNNING St. Luke’s next year!!!!! I totally felt like I was missing out seeing everyone’s pics. I do always lose steam in the Parkway, but for sure love that section. It’s fun ending in the stadium too (after the mean mini hill to get there, haha. The only reason I ever get up that hill is because of all the spectators!!) One of my favorite parts is cheering for friends on the turn a rounds, because you’re right….we are an awesome running community and everyone comes out for St. Luke’s!!!!

  3. I think it’s so cool you pace races because that’s a good way for you to get a training run in while helping so many others achieve their goals. It’s so much fun and motivating to watch others succeed. These runners were probably SOOO thankful you guys were there as pacers. And I *love* the pictures, they turned out great!

    1. You crayyyyyy – later I am going to clog up your Instagram messenger with my plethora of bad race photos, hahaha. There are some awesome ones, usually where I look like I sharted or I am really into my music. HA. My arm doesn’t get sore but a few weeks ago at Garden Spot my hand was numb from holding the sign and it being so cold out!

  4. You always look like you are having so much fun and truly enjoying pacing. I’m glad you were able to get out there and do it after your full. Am I the only one amazed of how fast you can bounce back from races? LOL…I’m in bed for at least a week after marathons.

  5. I am pacing a half marathon for the first time the week after Colfax! I’m pretty excited about it! It sounds like you did a great job and that you are a really good pacer. Too bad we don’t live closer! 1:45 is my goal time for a half by the end of the year. I’d love to have you as my pacer!

  6. Wow! You look like you are having sooooo much fun running! It’s incredible. I wanted to say, small world, but then I remembered that you like chatting with other runners, so no wonder you know so many people! xoxo

  7. There is nothing like meeting a blog stalker at mile ten of a half marathon — you only had to run 3 miles wondering how scared you should be of me😳😁😉
    Thanks for pulling me to the finish!!

    1. Ha! That made my day! “I stalk your blog”…I loved it!!! I am so glad we got to meet and run a few miles together. We should get together for a run this summer!! Great meeting you!!!

  8. Pacing must be truly gratifying. Helping people meet their goals, being a part of their success, and then getting to hear their thanks…That just sounds AMAZING to me. Someday I really hope to be consistent enough to pace a race – which I know I’ve said, but every time you post about it, I’m reminded. Your pacing posts may be my favorite on your blog (which is saying something, because I love your blog) – but they’re just so awesomely inspiring and motivating!!

    1. Awww, thank you SO MUCH, Ali! It is a really gratifying experience. I love seeing others achieve their goals. Plus, it’s motivating in a different way – when you witness the grit and tenacity of someone running towards a PR. Sometimes I think of those people and those experiences when I’m racing!!!

  9. I didn’t realize how long your hair is!! You look so freaking pretty in your pics, love it!!

    1:45 is my next half goal, but I’m so thrilled with my current PR though that even if I don’t get to 1:45, I’m happy with where I’m at 🙂 The marathon? that’s a whole nuther story, lol!!! PR or bust

  10. This isn’t really related to this post, but I accidentally found your blog, and you are very inspiring! I can’t believe how far you’ve progressed! I especially liked your post on the Monumental Marathon as I just had an incredibly disappointing marathon, and I could relate to your post so well.

    1. Hi Bethany!!!! Thank you so much, and thanks for reading! Ugh, Monumental was such a hard day for me, especially mentally. It took me a good six weeks of recovering both physically and mentally to get past it and ready to train again. What marathon did you run? I’m so sorry to hear you were disappointed. I read my Monumental post before Boston and I am going to read it again this week before my marathon in KY because it reminds me not to take that distance lightly (not saying you did by any means!!! It’s just easy for me to forget the bad experiences after I have a good one!!!) and that marathons can freaking SUCKKKK! I hope you are feeling better!

  11. I am so hesitant to recommend pacers. And yet, knowing you were a pacer, I was thinking that you are the “gold standard.” I feel like you posted about a bad experience with a pacer during your own race? Is that correct? But knowing you were doing the pacing, I knew you would stick to the pace and rock it. Awesome!

    1. I am SUPER hesitant to recommend pacers and yes, I had a HORRIBLE experience in Hartford with pacers! The 3:10 pacer ran like a 3:02 that day. The 3 hour pacer ran like a 2:57. But I’ve had several bad experiences – the 3:05 guy at Grandmas ran sub-3 pace for the first half (I didn’t stick with him though), another time the Marshall Marathon 3:25 pacer ran 3:15 pace and I passed him at mile 8 and he apologized to me…those are just a few bad experiences. I had great experiences with pacers at the Shamrock Marathon and the Long Branch Marathon in NJ. Although, at Long Branch I started with the 3:40 pacer (when I needed 3:40 for a BQ before they lowered the standards) and HE went out fast. I crashed but ran with the 3:45 pacer, who ROCKED. It was a super hot day, and at mile 20 we passed the 3:40 pacer walking. OMG. I can keep going. So yeah, pacers are a crapshoot! I don’t know about being the gold standard, but I try to always pick times I am comfortable pacing and take my job very seriously because I know how bad it can suck to run with a crappy pacer. I do the best with 1:45. 1:40 was okay when I did it recently, but I was a little more anxious since it was faster and my first time pacing that pace and fear I wasn’t as motivating to run with. I did 1:50 last year and fear I was a little fast that day because it just wasn’t as comfortable. I think that’s the problem with some pacers, too – they pick the wrong time to pace. Definitely important to pace something that you can run on effort without needing a watch to tell you that you are on pace, because mile markers are never going to match your watch perfectly. I totally wrote you a novel/rant. Ha.

  12. Didn’t make it to the Half this year ( I usually run it once every two years or so), but it looks like the weather was perfect and you had a good time pace it. As always great race recap.

  13. Being a pacer sounds so fun, but it would also be sooo nerve-wracking for me having so many people depending on you to run a certain time! Sounds like you know exactly how to nail the pacing to keep everyone happy though 🙂 My goal this summer is to train for a sub-1:45, haha maybe I should sign up for a race that you’ll be pacing! 😉

  14. You are such an awesome pacer! I’m sure it takes years of practice. It’s another one on my long list-of-racing things to do. Guess who ran this race? My parents! My mom ran the 5K and to her surprise got 3rd place in her age group (she’s 66) and my Dad finished the half marathon with rarely any training as he only has time to run on the weekends and during races. I think I mentioned before that I went to William Allen Highschool! Such as small world.

  15. Your race recaps are always so exciting – it makes me want to come run it! I think being a pacer would be so fun. One of these (healthy…) days I’ll give it a go. 🙂

    1. Thank you, Susan! You should totally come and run St. Luke’s next year! It’s a great race. And you would be a GREAT pacer. I have been thinking of you and I hope that you are feeling better and starting to get some answers!! ❤

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