5 things I have noticed about being a back of the pack runner.

When I started running I was pretty slow… This was to be expected from someone who was over 26 stone and had not run much before. This meant that for the first few (read many) races that I participated in, I was at the back of the pack for the majority of the time. As I started to lose weight and run more I got faster, to the point where I was finishing around the middle of the standings. Since a loss in form and injuries etc, I piled the weight back on and my running has returned to being right at the back. So what is it like for us mere mortals back there? Here are five things I have found.

Sometimes there is a legit party at the back

I have run a fair few races in my time and honestly, while I did move up the standings as I improved and got fitter, it was never as fun as when I was at the back. In the middle and beyond, you are wanting to beat a time or the person in front of you. Your teeth are gritted and you are trying your very best to beat someone. But, in the back, you are happy to just finish (especially in a marathon) and other than the last few hundred metres (we will get to that part) you are mostly just happy in finishing and getting a decent time to try and improve on. Your performance is more about being in more control of your pace etc.

While back there, however, you encounter many funny situations. For example, when I ran in the Reykjavik marathon I was running along with a Scottish lady who was kitted out in full Scottish garb and taking pictures with everyone and anyone who was willing. She wasn’t there to get a PB, she was there to have a good time. You see videos or maybe encounter these types of runners during marathons. If there is music playing, some will stop to have a dance, some will be singing to something or chanting along and creating a fun atmosphere for fellow runners and the crowds.

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Lot’s of encouragement… If there are still people about

Obviously, it isn’t to be expected that people will be hanging around the side of a road for 5 or so hours cheering everyone that goes along, but for those that do stick it out, they really do keep us slower runners going. It might just be a little word of encouragement or it might be a big cheer and water and snacks. Whatever it is, it is greatly appreciated and it is far more likely that someone at the back of the pack will provide the high fives and give you the encouragement right back. Oh and on those boiling summer days, if you have a garden hose out to help cool down the runners, you can bet the slower runners who are out there for longer are going to live under that glorious water.

You support others struggling

During my last marathon, I was assisting my friend around for his first marathon attempt. He just wanted to finish so we were going at an okay pace when required. Around mile 8 or so we noticed a guy struggling, walk running, but running far too fast for his own good, thus the walking breaks. We would always go past him and vice versa due to this. It all came to a head when he asked if he could join us as we seemed to be sticking to a good pace. It was also his first marathon on that course and he (like us) had not trained sufficiently and he didn’t know the course at all. As I had run the course multiple times, I informed him of what was ahead and that he was more than welcome to join us to get him through the tough sections. We chatted a bit and learned about him, as he did about us and it was great. We would see others struggling and offer support, some others would join a little behind us, as I assume our pace was one that was suitable for them without them having to struggle. That is one thing I have learnt from others who run, if you are struggling, look around you and look at someone not going much faster than you and stick to them. I accidentally did this to two girls on the day along the towpath and kept a safe distance from them, but it might have look dodgy! They were just going at a pace that was not pushing myself too hard! Sorry to those two.

You meet truly motivating people

Now, this isn’t the case for everyone, but I found that a lot of the runners at the back that I have encountered are there in memory of someone and raising some funds for a charity or they have overcome something and just wanted to try and concur that distance. If you get the time to chat to those around you, you get some great stories and then if you hang around and see these folks finish the race, you truly see what it means to them. A lot of runners will run through the finish, spot their times and that is it. But for those who struggled and this was something that they could never think they could do then it is a triumph and you see it on their faces.

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I remember finishing my first marathon, it was a way of celebrating my weight loss progress. I was still very overweight, but I was getting there. I was struggling, and it was plain to see (I hadn’t trained right, I will get into that’s tory another day) but once I hit 24 ish miles, it hit me. I was finishing a marathon and yes I was slow motion slow and the time was shocking, but I was finishing this race. For the next mile and a bit I was holding back tears as people cheered me on (not many, but enough) it felt amazing that there were people still about cheering others on.

Now knowing that feeling and even though I am a jaded soul nowadays I see these runners finish their race and I see that emotion and it really does motivate me to keep at it. If they are going for it, then why can’t I? Anytime I get down about my current running condition, I try to think of them and to younger me and think about how I have to keep going. Motivation is a wondrous thing sometimes.

You still sprint on the home straight

No matter who you are, the fastest runner, the slowest runner, someone injured and dragging themselves along that course. If you see that home straight or finish section, you are running it, you will run it better than anything you did the entire race. Your legs will be loose and your stride will lengthen and you will look at that clock and see it all go in slow motion. Hopefully, you hear people cheer you or see some people near the finish. You are going full tilt to that line and no one is stopping you.

This increases if you are near someone just in front of you. A competitive edge comes out and you will try and catch and beat them to that line. I have done that many times. But fellow back of the packer, beware that you are not that person just in front and kick on yourself. Don’t get caught and get an awesome looking finish line picture of both your legs in the air. You earned it.

I could literally list a few more, but I think I have gone through enough. Maybe I will return with a part two down the line! Until next time!

If you want to chat more about any of my posts, please follow me on TwitterInstagram and Facebook to also receive updates. Until next time, thanks for reading and I hope to see you again soon!

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