If you’re keen to achieve a certain target time in this year’s Waterside Half Marathon, then you’ll be happy to know that organisers of the event will be facilitating a team of ‘pacers’ to help you reach your goal on Sunday 2nd September 2018.

Paddy Doherty will be managing a 12-strong ‘pacing team’ who will motivate and guide runners to the finish line on race day.

Paddy, originally from Buncrana, has been living in Derry for 22 years and ran with City of Derry Spartans for 15 years. He has also managed ‘pacers’ since the 2013 Walled City Marathon 2013 (organised to coincide with ‘City of Culture’ year and the first marathon held in Derry for almost 30 years).

“On race day I will be managing a team of 12 ‘pacers’ said Paddy. “Indeed, our pacing team are experienced runners tasked with completing the course in a specific time – at 15-minute intervals between 1hr 30 and 2hrs 30 for this year’s Waterside Half Marathon.

“Holding an even or steady pace throughout a race – as well as combating early adrenaline-fuelled enthusiasm by runners for a fast start – is just one part of the job” says Paddy.

“The pacers are also personal motivators during the race itself. They will help runners along with shouts of encouragement and regular progress updates – and really can make the difference between a disappointing finish to a race and a resounding success.

“Most marathons and half marathons have pacers nowadays” said Paddy. “And they are proving very popular! The Council and organisers of this year’s half marathon are keen to do what they can to improve the experience for runners. Indeed, last year’s participants couldn’t praise the pacers enough for the assistance they provided in helping them to achieve their personal bests (PBs).

“The runners also paid tribute to ‘the craic’ they had with the pacers and for adding so much to the camaraderie of the race itself.”

Paddy says that the pacers in this year’s Waterside Half Marathon will help people to run as evenly as possible or ‘hold an even mile pace’ as he calls it. “If your goal is to finish this year’s half marathon in 2 hours, running with a 2-hour pacer will help you to maintain an average pace of 9 minutes 9 seconds per mile” he said.

“I can’t stress enough how important it is to have pacers at a race. We’re therefore looking forward again this year to help runners get their speed right.

“Following a pacer is also one less thing to worry about – and can really take the pressure off a runner” Paddy says. “On race day there is a lot to think about – from getting there on time to managing hydration or fuel intake during the race. Therefore, runners have enough to be thinking about without also worrying about their pace!”

“Following a pacer will allow you to get your head down, focus on the running and be guided to the finish line in your target time” said Paddy.

“Pacing yourself sensibly during the course of the race – especially amid the excitement and adrenaline of the start – is key to ensuring that it is less of a struggle, particularly for a first-time or beginner” he said. “That’s not to say that it won’t still be a physical challenge – it will – but pacing yourself will help prevent people from struggling or having to stop.

“The pacers and the group of runners following the pacer will also offer motivation – giving you something to cling on to or spur you on if you’re struggling to keep up – as they are all in the same boat and will be trying to achieve the same goal. This creates a camaraderie that just can’t be matched by running on your own” Paddy said.

“People also ask ‘How do I pick the right half marathon pacer?’ Choosing which pacer to follow will depend a lot on your training. I would therefore recommend you set a realistic target time, particularly if this is your first half marathon.

“I’d also advise beginners to err on the side of caution. If you want to have a positive experience, don’t set a goal that’s over-stretching yourself. Set a target time that’s challenging but achievable” he said.

Meet the pacers

During this year’s Waterside Half Marathon Paddy will manage 12 pacers in total – 3 pacers for 1hr 30 (Jason Scott, Rodney Agnew and Andy Gray), 2 for 1hr 45 (Darren Madden and Gary Moore), 3 for 2hrs (Gregory O’Brien, Shaun McLaughlin and Paddy McLaughlin), 2 for 2hrs 15 (Stuart Campbell and Andrea Cairns) and 2 for 2hrs 30 (Helena Doran and Claire Martin).

Paddy explains the reason that there are 3 pacers (instead of two) for the 1hr 30 and 2hr finish times is because they’re the most popular in terms of runners who are hoping to achieve a target or beat their personal best (PB).

“The 1hr 30 or ‘90-minute’ finish time is a big hurdle that a lot of runners want to get over.” he said. “The same can also be said of other runners who want to break the 2hr mark.

“We therefore have 3 pacers running in 1hr 30 and 2hr finish times. During the course of the race one of the pacers may drop back a little from the pack to spur on runners who are struggling. Of the two who are left – particularly when it comes to the final stages of the race – one may decide to guide a group of runners to the finish line who are definitely feeling ok and really want to go ‘flat out’ to beat their PB – while the last / remaining pacer will stay with the original group of runners” said Paddy.

“We really want to see as many runners as possible achieve their goals – and it is so rewarding to see them at the finish line having done just that” he said.

“So if you're planning to take part in this year’s Waterside Half Marathon, I would urge you to join up with one of the pacers before the race begins on Sunday 2 September. Indeed, our team of pacers will be identified by ‘pacer vests’ and coloured balloons corresponding with the finish times. Runners who are taking part in the half marathon will also be encouraged to join the pacers via announcements at the start line on the morning of the race.”

Paddy concluded: “You really will be great hands – and the entire pacing team is hoping to help even more runners this year achieve those all-important PBs!”

Entries to the race close at midnight on Monday 13th August 2018 and you can register online now at www.derrystrabane.com/whm - where you will also find further information on this year’s Waterside Half Marathon.

Pictured above: Last year's pacers in action preparing for the Waterside Half Marathon.

If you have a story or want to send a photo or video to us please contact the Derry Now editorial team on 028 7129 6600 for Derry City stories Or 028 7774 3970 for County Derry stories. Or you can email [email protected] at any time.