It is no surprise that Highgate Harriers’ Night of the 10,000m PBs is one of the key dates in the calendar for long distance athletes. With this year’s event attracting athletes from the continent and further afield, enabling world lead times across the spectacle that is 25 laps of the tartan track.
The electricity of the crowd all the way around the venue and the ‘lactic tunnels of love’ are arguably what this event is famous for. However, there are a top team of dedicated pacers helping athletes to achieve their new personal bests in each of the races. We caught up exclusively with Highgate Harrier and previous England representative Rebecca Johnson to find out more on what she loves about pacing.
“I am not a 10,000m runner, so as a Highgate Harrier it is a really great way to get involved in the event and to try and help the girls around me to run some personal bests. The atmosphere here is not like any other track race. When you hear the cheering as you go through the tents, it is hard not to smile as you are running. The noise of the crowd really pushes you on.”
As great as it is supporting athletes to achieve their best, being a pacer does come with a sense of pressure, as Rebecca suggested:
“I definitely feel some pressure when pacing and trying to hit splits. It is almost harder than when you are racing yourself because other people are relying on you to run a certain pace. If you drop off pace when you are racing you can just pull it back but when you are pacing you need to hit the splits.
“As I was running I was speaking to Rob who organises the pace makers at the event. I was asking him on my way around whether I should slow down as the athletes were starting to drop back. It was nice to have someone to ask and get reassurance along the way.”
You only need to speak to people who attended the event or head over to Instagram to see just how electric the evening is. For Rebecca, pacing the two women’s 10,000m races on the evening proved the perfect opportunity to get her speed session in for the day, in an environment truly like no other!
“I definitely use pacing to supplement my training, the pacing I have done today was part of my session for the day. It is great because you wouldn’t necessarily do such a continuous distance at a fast pace either by yourself or in training, so it is great to be a part of.”
Athletes throughout the day whether in the first couple of races or competing in the Championship final event all praised how the noise of the crowd kept them going when the laps were getting tough. We wanted to know whether, as a pacer, Rebecca wanted to hold on and stay competitively in the race but she had her eyes set purely on pacing.
“It is a weird one because everyone watching views you as only a pacemaker and not as a competitor in the race, you are there to help others. I guess if you were having a really good day you might want to hold on!”
- Catch up with the Night of the 10,000m PBs on BBC iPlayer (available until 19 June).
Photos by Jerry Sun