As a pace runner in Sunday’s Prairie Fire Half Marathon, Hanna Rosov’s job is more about setting the tone than setting the pace.
Rosov, a personal trainer who has paced in other Wichita races, will be guiding runners trying to complete 13.1 miles in 2 hours, 15 minutes. Since many of them will be running competitively for the first time, Rosov’s responsibilities include creating a festive atmosphere.
“Anybody who’s in the 2:15 pace is going to have a blast,” Rosov said. “We’re obsessed with TV, so we’re obsessed with ‘Scandal’ and stuff like that. Runners talk about stuff that you would never talk about otherwise in polite conversation. Yeah, it’s kind of bad.”
Rosov is one of 12 pace-runners who will establish tempo in six times ranging from 90 minutes to 2 hours, 30 minutes. The group, which carries pace signs to aid runners, was organized by Lacy Hansen, who placed an emphasis on finding exclusively local runners for the first time.
Hansen possessed several criteria during her recruiting efforts. One of the most important was that pacers had to be comfortable with giving up their own races for the good of fellow runners. Since most of the pacers run competitively often and can race for personal bests at other times, finding those people wasn’t so difficult.
Hansen also searched for runners with personality and those who could keep runners of all levels at ease. Zach Bailor, joining Shults as a 90-minute pacer, donned a fedora and suspenders during the half marathon last fall, and the spring pacers are thinking about how to fit into the “Star Wars” theme.
“Most of it is just so our runners can have a better experience and want to come back year after year,” Hansen said. “... The ones that I do run with, we spend 20 miles training, but it’s really just a morning of chatting and laughing and telling jokes.
“Every once in a while there’s different personalities out there training, and they’re stone-cold serious. That’s cool. That’s fine. But they probably wouldn’t be the best candidate for (pacing).”
Joe Christman is in the final pacing group even though, as a competitive cyclist and triathlete, he could complete the race far more quickly than 2 1/2 hours. Christman also enjoys the camaraderie of the runners who stay at his pace, as well as the opportunity to encourage first-timers who may be struggling toward the finish line.
“I kind of start off at the beginning of the race when we get everybody together,” Christman said. “I just kind of let them know that this is an endurance event. I tell them what I’m going to do … and I try to have fun with everybody. I just talk and kind of be a goofball during the race. That way people get their mind off of running and the miles tick off a little bit easier.
“It’s just keeping everybody light-hearted and motivated until we get toward the end of the race and it’s a little more difficult to keep that up.”
Pacing isn’t a hearty occasion throughout the race, though. For runners trying to keep up with Bailor and Shults at 90 minutes, there isn’t as much conversation because those athletes are potentially working on personal-best times or trying to work their way closer to the front of the pack.
For Bailor and Shults, 90 minutes is a comfortable pace, so they could contend for higher finishes but find more value in giving up their race to help others along.
“As a pacer, that’s kind of your job is to remind people to stay loose,” Shults said. “We will be talking to them; they probably won’t be talking back, though.
“Coming into Prairie Fire, I needed to do something other than race it. I (paced) last October and had a lot of fun with it. They were working short of a 1:30 pacer, and it just seemed like the right thing to do.”
Rosov shares those sentiments. As a personal trainer, she finds herself motivating others in everyday life while forgoing personal achievements, a philosophy she continues on race day.
“That’s what I want to do,” Rosov said. “It allows me to run the race, and there’s no stress on me whatsoever.”