True Confessions of a Pace Bunny

This month, avid marathoner and occasional pace bunny Dave Emilio shares what it takes to pace a race and why he loves running the Ottawa Marathon and the entire Tamarack Ottawa Race Weekend experience.
How long have you been running? What got you started with distance running?

Dave Emilio: I’ve been running seriously since 2006. It started as a get-fit plan. It was tough at first, given that I hadn’t run seriously since high school (I’m 44 now). But I gradually progressed to 5K steady runs, and then signed up for a half-marathon in the fall of 2006.

The half was a fun challenge and the momentum I gained from that carried me into my first marathon in 2007, which was in Ottawa. Basically, I was hooked after that and looked for any marathon I could run within a reasonable budget and availability. I ran my first Ultra Marathon (50K) in 2009 and then ran another in 2011. This year in addition to a few standard races like Boston, Toronto and Ottawa, I also ran my first 100K Ultra Marathon.

What prompted you to take on the responsibility of being a pace bunny for the Ottawa Marathon?

DE: I knew runners who had paced before and so I learned from them how enjoyable and rewarding it is to help fellow runners reach their goals. I love to run marathons. Being a pace bunny allows me to run a marathon at an easier pace than I normally would, while still having a goal to achieve. This keeps me from running too hard, too often.

How did you approach the task of pacing your group?

DE: Pacing, whatever the time you’re aiming for happens to be, is simply a matter of knowing your average time per kilometre and then adjusting accordingly for up-hills and down-hills. I try to run even splits as much as possible. Doing some specific race pace training in the weeks leading up to the event is helpful. So is using a GPS-enabled watch.

Best thing about being a pace bunny?

DE: The smiles, the “thank yous” and all the sweaty hugs after the race. Plus, we get to run for free!

What makes the Ottawa Marathon/Tamarack Ottawa Race Weekend event unique or rewarding in your opinion?

DE: Ottawa was my first ever marathon in 2007. I ran it again for myself in 2008 and have paced it each of the last 4 years. The whole Ottawa Race Weekend experience is something I enjoy, and I have a bunch of other friends who travel up from Toronto each year to participate and hang out. We usually have upwards of 20 running mates who make the trek up and run together each year.

Any distance running goals you’re working towards? Future pace bunny plans?

DE: In June I ran my 30th marathon at Niagara On The Lake. Actually, it was the 100K Ultra Marathon in Niagara-on-the-Lake, my longest race yet. I’ll pace Ottawa again next year. I might pace at the Hamilton Marathon in November as well.

What’s your most memorable or favourite running moment of all time?

DE: My favourite moment would have to be crossing the finish line of my first ever marathon in Ottawa. The Ottawa Marathon has one of the best finishes I’ve ever seen. Next best has to be running my first Boston Marathon. And of course, qualifying for my first Boston Marathon is a close third!

Anything else you want to share about your Tamarack Ottawa Race Weekend experiences?

DE: We’ve attended Ottawa Race Weekend for the last six years and now I can’t imagine missing it. We always have a great time in Ottawa. We enjoy the city and the organization and attention to detail that goes into the Race Weekend events. We always have friends participating in each event, so we get around to watch all of the races and the incredibly talented runners who show up each year. It’s just great to spend time in Ottawa with so many friends and fellow runners.

Thanks Dave! Check out Dave’s blog here.