Fall Classic 5k – My First Pacing Experience!


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Disclaimer: I received a free entry to the Fall Classic 5k as a result of volunteering as a pacer.

Although I had intended to act as a pacer in the 2016 Big Elf Run, the weather had other plans. Due to the snow and ice, there were no official pacers. And due to the road conditions, I was barely able to manage the pace I would have been responsible for! So when the opportunity to pace for the 2017 Fall Classic presented itself, I jumped at the chance!

Read on to learn more about the Fall Classic, and how things went from a pacing perspective…

I’ve run the Fall Classic Half Marathon once before, and its dreaded double loop inexplicably makes it one of my favourites! However, knowing that my training was not quite up to snuff, I decided to tackle a shorter distance for my first stab at being a pacer. Fortunately, the achievable 30-minute 5k slot was still available when I threw my bright orange hat into the ring, and I was ready to go!


Some races provide limited packet pickup options – but the RunVan crew provided ample opportunities for grabbing your bib…Thursday afternoon at Forerunners in North Van, and both Friday and Saturday at Forerunners on Main Street. I eschewed both options in favour of getting my bib pre-race on Sunday. Given that the 5k didn’t start until 11am, I figured there was plenty of time.

On Saturday afternoon, I decided I’d better give this pacing thing a trial run, so to speak. I programmed my Garmin to warn me if I was running too fast or slow, and set out for 5k along the Seawall. With a target pace of 6:00 min/km, I had set a slow pace of 6:10 min/km and a fast pace of 5:50 min/km. And the darn thing kept beeping at me. TOO FAST! TOO SLOW! PICK IT UP! SLOW DOWN! I kept cursing at the watch. I hoped this wasn’t representative of things to come!

Having said that, I finished my practice 5km with a respectable time of 29:45 – really, just right for a race!

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Race Day

It’s November. In Vancouver. Rain is pretty much inevitable. I had a fitful sleep, and I could hear the rain pouring outside. When I got up, however, it seemed to have stopped. Until about 9:15am, when I headed out to the car…then it started up again.

When I reached the Student Union Building at UBC, the half marathon was already well in progress. I headed downstairs to pick up my bib. It was a bit chaotic…cafeteria tables and chairs in the way, no one really directing traffic. But the volunteers did a bang-up job, and I had my bib – along with my nifty RunVan technical gloves – within a few minutes.

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Headed back upstairs to get my Pacer t-shirt and pace sign. Ran into some of my peeps – including Vivian, who placed right at the top of the half, and Allie, who completed the half marathon in record time!

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Joining me as 5k pacers were some familiar faces – Greg (25min), Dan (35min) and Vivian (40min) – plus super-speedy Michael (20min) who I met for the first time. We huddled inside until it was time to mosey along to the starting corral.

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The rain was coming down in earnest. We ran a bit to warm up (some more than others…Michael), jumped up and down, and waited for the runners to join us. They started trickling in. This was probably my favourite part of the race. Why? Because I got to meet these enthusiastic runners gunning for a PB!

  • Darla – who I knew from social media, but now got to meet in person!
  • Gayle – who stuck with me for the whole race
  • This young kid with glasses whose mom said: “Stay with the guy in the orange hat.” He did, until the end, and then passed me to get his own PB!
  • Yulin (aka Elena) – who in the middle of the race told me it was her first race ever. She finished in under 30 minutes and tracked me down afterwards to take a selfie
  • Melissa (never Mel) – Running in Red Lipstick was there, too! We grabbed a post-race selfie
  • And so many other keen folks who conquered the 5k – I’m so proud of them all!

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The Course

I always find it hard to describe a 5k course. It’s relatively short, and this one had a few out-and-back bits, too. I was pretty keenly focused on my pace, and on keeping the folks around me encouraged, so I didn’t pay a lot of attention to the scenery. However, it loops the west end of UBC campus, there are lots of trees, it’s pretty. And pretty flat…until it’s not. There’s a short but steady, steep hill at about 3km – and I lost a few of my pace group at this point.

As we approached the finish, a few of the folks still with me said: “Thanks” and sprinted off to the finish line. It was weird for me to maintain my pace right to the last when I’m usually trying to gear up for that final kick.

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The pacing piece was fun and fulfilling, but also challenging. Trying to maintain a consistent pace throughout isn’t easy. Plus, holding up that sign! It was windy on Sunday morning, and a couple of times I envisioned the stick snapping in half. It didn’t. I can’t imagine holding one of those things for a half marathon…or a full!! Kudos to those who do!

Although my average pacing overall was bang on (5:58min/km), I ran the course a bit long – and finished just a few seconds after 30 minutes. Not bad for a first timer!

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Hugs and high fives. Connecting with friends. The usual post-race celebration.

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The Fall Classic is great – in addition to bananas and granola bars, they have my favourite chips! Also, your bib gets you one of the following: free pizza, sushi or chilli. I opted for pizza, although I wish they’d had another vegetarian option. (I had two slices of cheese pizza…not that I’m complaining!)

Grabbed some group photos with my crews: West Van Run, and Forerunners!

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And then, it was time to head home, dry off, and take a nice nap!

Final Results

Chip Time: 30:08 (a wee bit slow…)
Average Pace: 5:58 min/km (right on pace…I ran the course a wee bit long…)
Overall Place: 181/514
Place in Age Category: 13/37

For full results, click here.

Quick Recap – Fall Classic 5k

Social Media: Really strong social media presence – not only is the website informative, the race itself is active on Twitter, Facebook and Instagram. Worth following, especially if you’re running!

Packet Pickup: With multiple venues and dates for pickup at Forerunners in North Van (Thursday) and Forerunners on Main Street (Friday and Saturday), as well as pre-race pickup on Sunday morning, they’ve got you covered! No frills in terms of pickup itself – just quick and efficient like the Turkey Trot.

T-Shirt/Swag: Registration includes a pair of RunVan technical gloves, which came in very handy on race day! A really nice t-shirt was also available for purchase, but I’ve got plenty of shirts so I was happy enough to not have it included. I love that whatever distance you run – half, 10k or 5k – you get an awesome medal!

Course: All three races run the streets at the west end of the UBC campus. There is a bit of hilliness, particularly near the end. The half course (which I ran in 2015) includes a double loop. Two water stops on the 5k route with very enthusiastic volunteers. A few out-and-back sections. Tree-lined streets. Reasonably scenic. It’s November, so expect the road to be wet!

Post-Race: One of the best post-race venues in town, since you can hunker down in the Student Union Building to avoid the weather, if necessary. Great food – I especially love the chips – including a choice of pizza, sushi or chilli. And all the awesome people!

Would I Run It Again? November is a funny time of year. Sometimes we’re travelling. The weather is unpredictable (although predictably sketchy). It comes on the heels of October…and I raced every weekend in October. But it’s an awesome race, a great wrap to the season. Maybe I’ll run the 10k next year!

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