March 3, 2013

Chilly Half Marathon 2013 – Race Report

by pyrad
Categories: Race Report
Comments: 16 Comments

I feel like I should start this race report with a general apology to the whole southern Ontario running community. It’s not my first time pacing (as you can see in my pacer history), but my first failure. I was expected to be the 2:10 pacer for the 2013 Chilly Half Marathon and I failed miserably. I’m genuinely sorry to everyone and there’s nothing I can do to make it better.  There were things that I should be happy about, and genuine excuses I can make, but for the moment I’m feeling pretty shattered about it.

Date Event Goal Time Chip Time Gun Time
2013/03/03 Chilly Half Marathon 2:10:00 2:20:31.4  2:23:59.7

I knew I wasn’t feeling ready. When I volunteered to pace back in mid-November, I had no idea I was going to have so many set-backs between then and now. As I discussed in a previous post, I am sick with a debilitating cold/flu, missed a lot of training due to work, and had a couple injuries slow my training down significantly. I e-mailed the pacer organizer and other pacers a few weeks ago and begged to have someone else take my spot, but there were no takers. I guess it’s kinda self-destructive that I still went out knowing full-well I was probably going to fail.

I was secretly hoping for some sort of disaster that would give me a good excuse to not start the race: Maybe a little injury, or car trouble, or even a family emergency that would give me a good excuse to bail. Fortunately/unfortunately there were no disasters and I had to make good on my responsibility.

Family Reunion Before The Race

I suppose one of the really nice things about this race was seeing so many familiar faces. There were so many people I met on dailymile that I get to see in person at this race, namely Nicole, Patty, Sam and Phil. I also saw Dave Emilio on the course burning it up at a 1:30-ish pace. And I saw Hans who I paced in Oakville in 2011. And of course lots of faces from the Square One Running Room. Most of my marathon clinic was there as part of the “triple crown” and I warned them not to go to fast because they have the Around The Bay 30k in three weeks, and our goal race of the Mississauga Marathon in 61 days. And several people came just to cheer us on! My pacer sign made it easy for people to find me!! I felt famous!

I made quick friends with all the people who were going to follow me: Peter, Michele, and dozens of people who’s names I’m sorry I don’t remember.

Bad Omens As The Race Starts

I did a warm up before going to the starting corral. During the warm-up I was worried I was going to cough up a lung. A very bad omen! I popped a cough drop in my mouth, but I know that wouldn’t last forever.

The race started okay, except that it was so crowded that I couldn’t get to my actual pace. Fortunately, I was only a few seconds behind pace for the first couple of kilometers. Unfortunately, after the cough drop wore off, I started coughing wildly. I also finally noticed that I must be well over my aerobic threshold and my legs started getting heavy.


With our John and our new friend Sarah after the Chilly Half Marathon (Photo by Bob Didler)
With our John and our new friend Sarah after the Chilly Half Marathon (Photo by Bob Didler)

The Wheels Fall Off

Around 5k I started noticing that I was slowing from my prescribed 5:51 min/km pace. Slowly I started noticing myself 30 seconds behind pace, then 60, then 90. During walk breaks I warned the group that I was falling behind pace and encouraged them to go on without me. And I sounded like I was going to cough up a lung and blowing my nose a lot. At the 13k turn-around, the 2:15 pacers passed me. I’m not quite sure how that happened because I didn’t think I was THAT far behind pace yet! But, when the pacers behind me caught up, I just waved my group to follow them instead. Not long after that, I had trouble breathing and actually had to slow down until my chest stopped hurting.

I am eternally grateful to John from my clinic for staying with me. We also made a friend named Sarah from Cambridge who felt like staying with us until the end. We picked up a few more friends but they came and went.

The last 8k were agonizing and embarrassing. I was struggling to have any sort of constant pace. There were also people who kept asking me if I was on pace, and I had to sorrowfully reply that I was 6-7 minutes behind pace. I considered getting rid of my hat with ears and sign many, many, many times. On the last stretch to the finish line, I hid my sign under my arm so that people wouldn’t see what time I was supposed to do.IMG-20130303-00124

Painful Reflections

A few hours have passed since my failure, and I have a bit more perspective. Three years ago I would have been ecstatic with a 2:20 half marathon. And I know a lot of people will say that they can’t run half marathons at all, so I should be happy anyways. And if I wasn’t pacing today, I’d shrug my shoulders and enjoy another medal and post-race chilly. But, people were relying on me, and I failed.

I’m doubting myself for when I pace the Around The Bay 30k in three weeks. I’m signed up to be the 3:30 pacer, which has me running at a much more comfortable pace of 6:40 min/km. I know it’s slower than my aerobic threshold, so it should be doable if I’m healthy, uninjured, and if I have good training between now and then. That’s a lot of “if’s” and I’m not feeling very confident about it.

It was a really good day for the members of my clinic. A lot of them set very impressive personal bests, even though they weren’t pushing 100%. A few took it a little easier as I recommended to save their legs for their real goal races. I’m very proud of all of them!

It would be nice to drown my sorrows with a drink tonight, but I don’t keep alcohol and home. I guess I drown my sorrows in protein shakes and Buckley’s instead.

Apologies Again

I apologize again to Peter, Michele and dozens of people who’s names I’m sorry I don’t remember. You relied on me and I failed you. I hope I can redeem myself at Around The Bay in a few weeks.

Pacing gear for the Chilly Half Marathon 2013 in the trash
Pacing gear for the Chilly Half Marathon 2013 in the trash


Comments closed


  1. macnic says:

    Paul, I’m glad you have perspective. I’m glad that you were honest with the group and let them make their own choices. Yes, having a pacer at a race who is on pace is awesome, but no one can run a race for another person. Chin up. I’m sure ATB will be a very different race.

  2. @Lynzee says:

    I’ve always thought you were so brave and amazing for pacing others. Will you be pacing at Mississauga? I’d happily try to follow you 🙂

    • I’m scheduled to be the 4:30 pacer for the Mississauga Full. If you’re planning to do the Mississauga half, I can pace you to 16km at a 2:15 pace. I hope…

  3. Hong says:

    There is nothing bad about failing. You were honest and thats all that counts. Somethings aren’t controllable like being sick so chin up, and move forward. Failure will make you stronger… trust me… i’ve been there!

  4. Oh no, I’m sorry to hear. It must be hard for you to deal with, but please don’t be too hard on yourself. Just having the flu this week, I couldn’t move, let alone imagine running!
    I have to congratulate you on a great 1/2 still though! 🙂

  5. anon says:

    This is clearly an embarrassing event for you, as it would be for anyone in that position.

    You say “I’m signed up to be the 3:30 pacer, which has me running at a much more comfortable pace of 6:40 min/km.” Correct me if I’m wrong, but a 2:20 21.2k IS a pace of 6:40. How will keeping that pace for 8.9 more km be “much more comfortable”?

    • Hi Anon. I was supposed to do 2:10, which would be a walk-adjucted running pace of 5:51 min/km. The 2:20 is what I wound up with, unfortunately.
      At ATB, I’ll be doing a walk-adjusted pace of 6:40 min/km. Not only is it much slower, but I think it’s below my aerobic threshold, which will make it much more comfortable.

  6. Henry says:

    Hey, I use the exact same bag as waste bin liner!

  7. P says:

    Paul, your honesty is the best thing. Pacer Bunnies, are human too. They have good days and bad days. But the most important thing is, you’ve finished the Race. And made many friends along the way, because you’re honest with everyone upfront. Looking forward to my first time being at Around the Bay. I’ll see if I can find you, and encourage you before the race. Right now, I am looking at the 3 hour pace bunny. Wished you’re the 3 hour pace bunny! You’re going to rock Around the Bay. 🙂 If you want, you may email me, and let me know what to expect during the last 10k! 🙂

    • Thank you P! Good luck to you too! Hopefully the 3 hours pacer serves you well.

      I’m not gonna lie, the last 10k of Around The Bay are pretty challenging. The hardest part is from 20-26km with the hills that just keep going. But, if you can take advantage of the downhills for recovery, you should be fine.

  8. […] say thank you to everyone who was so supportive! I have been beating myself up since the failure at Chilly, but you were all very supportive and encouraging! I love the recreational running […]

  9. […] mused in a previous post that I have some accumulating injuries and pain. My failure at Chilly in March and trouble throughout the season have been symptomatic that something has been wrong and […]

  10. […] This was a new experience for me: On Sunday, May 5 I was a spectator for a Marathon, the Mississauga Marathon and half-marathon. With all the build-up and training everyone else is doing, it was hard not to be frustrated that I was unable to do this race. But, being injured as I was, withdrawing from this race and not being a pacer was preferable to further injury and/or a pacing failure like Chilly. […]

  11. […] Chilly Half Marathon 2013 &… by paulradcliffe […]

  12. […] On a personal note, I’m really looking forward to this. Leading a group will be great motivation to keep me going during the “winter blues“. And I often read that summer bodies are made in the winter. And I REALLY want to set a new Half-Marathon personal best. I feel like I have something to prove after the disappointment last March. […]

  13. […] biggest worry is always letting other people down. It’s why I was so shattered when I failed as a pacer at the 2013 Chilly Half-Marathon. And I felt like I let people down when I wasn’t well enough to pace at Niagara last […]