A Q&A with Trevor Greene, a pacer for the upcoming Blue Ox Marathon
This year will be Trevor Greene’s third time pacing Bemidji’s Blue Ox Marathon. Greene, a Minnetonka native working in Woodbury as a principal engineer at Boston Scientific, has paced more than 50 races since 2012. Greene is married with four children and notes that it wouldn’t be possible for him to keep his running schedule without the support of his family. He answered our questions about being a pacer and the Blue Ox Marathon.
Blue Ox Marathon schedule:
Friday, Oct. 7
1/2K or 1K Kids Fun Run
5K or 10K walk/run
Saturday, Oct. 8
26K Lake Loop
What made you want to be a pacer?
In the summer of 2011, I had bad anterior tibial stress fractures in both my legs, forcing me to stop running entirely for 6 months. After my injury, I knew I needed to “slow down.” Pacing gave me an opportunity to continue to run without the temptation of having to run a race as fast as I can to beat my previous efforts. In 2012 I reached out to Sam Ryder of the Minnesota Pacers to see if I could help and I was instantly hooked. I love running with new people every weekend, hearing their stories about running and their lives in general.
When did you realize that you were a skilled enough runner to pace?
I still get a little nervous every time I pace a marathon. I don’t think I ever realized I was “skilled enough”; it was more something I wanted to challenge myself with and I contacted the Minnesota Pacers to see if they thought I would be a good fit. A well-organized pace group will have you run with an experienced co-pacer to teach you some of the tricks of the trade. Each pacer brings a different perspective to running and it’s not all about being fast. I know pacers that are working on breaking a four-hour marathon as a personal goal and they are some of the best pacers. I don’t think I could tell you all that it takes to be a good pacer, but I would say being friendly and reliable are important qualities. I’m still working on my skills and each race provides me the opportunity to improve. I accept both positive and negative input from runners.
How long have you been pacing for or how many races have you done?
I have been pacing since 2012 and I have paced over 50 races in the last four years including 15 full marathons. I do many of the same races each year which helps me pace the race better, because I know the course.
How many races do you do in a year?
I stopped racing two years ago, but I do pace a dozen or more times per season.
What’s your favorite part of the Bemidji Blue Ox Marathon?
The runners are the best part of the marathon and the race has a history of great volunteers. My favorite part of the course is running north on the Blue Ox Trail (AKA Voyageur Trail) towards Lake Bemidji State Park. The flat paved trail with trees sheltering you from the elements makes it ideal running terrain. I’m excited for the new course change. I hope running around the city draws some more cheering sections which can be a real adrenaline boost to runners.
How many times have you paced the Blue Ox?
This will be my third year pacing the Blue Ox. I paced the four and a half hour group in 2014. I had the four hour and fifteen minute group in 2015. This year I have the privilege to run my favorite marathon pace with the four hour group.
What originally got you into running?
In my 20s I was a distance cyclist and always wanted to run a marathon so I started running as an alternative workout to cycling. I didn’t run a full marathon until nearly 10 years later, shortly after my daughter Ellen was born. My weight was out of control and I needed a healthy habit to ensure I was able to keep up with my kids for years to come.
What pace do you run at?
I really like the eight minute mile pace because the math is easy when calculating splits and it’s what I usually run at during my training runs. The last two years I have found myself pacing the two hour group for half marathons and the four hour group for full marathons and I really enjoyed it.
How many pacers run in a marathon?
The number of pacers and the times they run really depends on the race size and its historical results. For half marathons you will usually see pacers starting at one and a half hours up to two and a half hours with five to ten minute intervals between, resulting in a pace team of eight to thirteen people.
For full marathons, I usually see starting times of three hours and fifteen minutes to three hours and twenty minutes up to five and a half hours. With full marathons the spacing is usually a little farther apart and the team is made up of six to ten pacers.
What advice would you give to someone who wants to become a pacer?
Believe in yourself. I think the most common mistake I see pacers do is bank too much time and/or not communicating the strategy with their pace group.
What’s your personal best marathon time?
I ran the 2011 Minneapolis Marathon, in 3:17.
What advice I would give to runners about running with a pacer?
Talk to your pacer and get to know their race strategy. Trust that they will come in really close to their finish time. Just like everyone else we are human; we get injured, sick and have bad days. Realize at the end of the day you are running the race and it is your accomplishment. A pacer cannot give or take that away from you.
The most common questions Greene is asked before a race:
“Do you carry that sign the whole time and doesn’t it get heavy?
I do carry the sign the whole time. I think it’s necessary to help the participants and spectators understand how they are doing and how the race is progressing on the course. The sign has never bothered me but I’m sure it affects my running efficiency. It’s a nice sunblock on a sunny day but can be a pain on a windy course.
“Are you going to have any trouble running this today?”
Looking at me you wouldn’t think I could run a 5K let alone a marathon. Sometimes I ask them if this is their first Marathon too, but then assure them I have done this before. One thing I have learned, you can’t judge a person’s ability to run a marathon by looks. Distance running takes an equal amount of grit as it does physical ability.
Greene suggests running with a pacer for the following reasons:
- We help the participants line-up in the correct location at the start line. There is nothing more frustrating than going to a race where there is no line-up instruction and you end up dodging slower runners for the first mile or two.
- We help the spectators and relay runners with knowing when a participant may be coming. If you ever watch a friend or family member run a race as a spectator and they tell you the pace they are running, a pacer can indicate when the runner is coming or if you possibly missed them, if a later pacer goes by you while watching the race.
- Pacers are experienced runners we can answer most running questions and provide advice, like “How to drink and run at water station?” In addition we often times know the course which can help with your running strategy.
- Finally, we are there for you to talk with during the course of the day. Talking does two things: It helps you maintain a pace that is not too fast. If you are running a marathon and can’t talk you are running too fast. Secondly, it gets the runner out the rational/linear thinking part of their brain which can be self-defeating, especially later in the race.