Running Easy and Happy as a Bunny: West Van Run Summer 5K Race Recap

A few months ago, I applied to be a pace bunny for the West Van Run Summer 5k. The event includes a mile race followed, about 20 minutes later, by a 5k. Runners can run one or both races. My initial plan was to race the mile and then run the 5k in 40 minutes, a pace easy enough for me that I hoped I could use the 5k as a cool down. Running that mile every year had become a tradition for me since the first race had been opened to runners under the age of 40, in 2013. I was looking forward to it and hoping to get back to a time in the low 6 minutes. Unfortunately, I made the mistake of doing an intense gym workout three days before the race. My hamstrings were still sore and tight, and so I had to take it easy for the mile race if I wanted to be sure I could actually run 5k after.

Running a Mile for Fun

It was quite a unique experience to run, and not race, a mile. I chose to take some pictures and videos on the way, cheer for friends, smile and wave at spectators, and run alongside some kid. One cheeky kid kept on weaving left and right in front of me, sometimes slowing down when right in front of me. It was a bit unnerving as I was scared of tripping over him. Eventually, I sped up just enough to be more than a few steps in front of him. As I approached the finish line, the cheeky little boy sprinted all out and passed me right there. My time was not great, but it looked like I made a little kid feel happy and very proud of himself. A good warm up for my upcoming role as a pacer for people who would count on me to achieve a goal they can be proud of.
With all the other Pace Bunnies

 First Time as an Official Pace Bunny

As soon as done with the mile, I had to walk up the hill to pick my pacer sign and connect with other runners who had 40 minutes as a goal. I stood a few steps behind the 35 minutes pacer and quickly enough peope started gathering around me. When practicing the goal pace, it felt a bit too awkward for me to do it as a continuous run, so I had calculated and practiced running in run/walk intervals at an average pace of 8:00/km. I gave my group a heads up about the run/walk intervals and they all seemed up for it. Many had already planned on taking walking breaks anyway. A mother and her little girl came close to me and so I started chatting with them about their goals, and what they had done in the past. It was not the little girl's first 5k, so she was aiming for a personal best. Doing it in 40 minutes would be a big improvement for her, so I promised her I would do everything to make it happend and make it fun.

Waving at Debra Kato who took many great pictures at the event!
 When the race started, I was very careful to not go out too fast as both the crowd and the downhill were tempting me to do so. I looked at my watch after about 300m in the race and as we turn into a an even steeper downhill section proceeded to shout out some tips for good downhill running at my group. I was happy to see a good number of them following the tips, including the little girl as they relaxed and took quick small steps past me. Shortly after we arrived to the flat section, it was time for our first walking break. Even then, I had to check my watch to make sure we did not walk too slowly. It was tough for the energetic little girl to slow down when she was still feeling fresh, but her mother and I explained to her that we needed to save some energy for later as it is a long race. There, we passed by Karen who had found a great spot for cheering and taking pictures.

Approching Karen
 There were quite a few twists and turns, but course signage and marshalling was very good. I did not have to regret not coming to scout the race course ahead of time, like a professional bunny would do. After about 25 minutes of running, the little girl started to feel the fatigue. She needed an extended walking break around the water station area, but then managed to catch up with me again. I could see she was starting to lose her motivation and fire, so her mom and I tried to find the right words to re-build her confidence and will to continue. It worked enough for her to run again after the last walking break, but, in the end, the best motivation ended up being able to see the finish line. She smiled again and ran quickly to the finish to get her huge personal bests to the cheers of the crowd. She looked so proud and happy: it was contagious. I then stayed next to the finish line to cheer for the rest of my group as they all sprinted to a time just under or exactly at 40:00. I was so happy for them! A few came to me after the race to thank me, and the mother of the little even asked me to join her and her little girl for a souvenir picture. What a fun and rewarding experience it was! I think the only time I have been that happy at a finish line was when winning a race. I will definitely be doing this again!