I had the pleasure of pacing Joseph Maartens (# 213) of South Africa this past weekend from Foresthill to Auburn, and watch him cross the finish line in just under 28 hours – 2 hours less than his goal! It was an unforgettable experience for me, too, as it was my first time at Western States and also my first time running 38 miles!
Although I knew I could run 38 miles (after finishing the Ohlone 50K last year with energy to spare), I had requested to pace a slower runner (e.g. someone who expected to finish in 28-30 hours). Brian Collings (# 122) had responded to my note on “the List” and said that he and 2 other “slow” South Africans including himself needed pacers. 2 of them, Brian Collings and Brian Marshall (# 272), had DNF’d at Western States twice before and were determined to try one last time. Joseph Maartens, their much younger friend, would be attempting it for his first time.
In any case, I took my “pacing duties” very seriously and found them 2 other “primo pacers” – Steve Reagan and Lori Hoffman, both of whom finished Western States last year in under 30 hours. Steve was assigned to pace Brian Collings, and Lori was assigned to pace Brian Marshall. Both Brians saw their dreams come true when they crossed the finish line together in 28 hours, 33 minutes, almost an hour and a half ahead of their goal. And I’ve got some wonderful photos to prove it!
It’s great being a pacer, I must say, because you get so much satisfaction from helping someone else achieve their “impossible dream” – while having fun and getting your own decent workout in the process. I had a little concern about running in the dark, but my main concern was making sure that I could run at least as fast (and hopefully faster) than my runner, if I wanted to. Fortunately, Joseph was pretty slow when he got to Foresthill, after Devil’s “Middle Finger” nearly killed him. But getting care from the wonderful doctors along the course, and knowing he had his trusty pacer waiting for him at mile 62 gave him the motivation to keep on going.
The volunteers at all of the aid stations were terrific, I must say. Everyone was friendly and helpful. Some poor river guide had to row us all across at Rucky Chucky in groups of 4 and must have very stiff arms this week! Even the Hash House Harriers at Brown’s Bar were sober enough to deliver us excellent service. Being a Hasher myself (but a non-drinker) I worried that they’d be too drunk to be of any use by the time we got there. As we approached the aid station, we heard their rock ‘n roll music blaring, and I yelled out the Hasher call “Are You?” (short for “are you on trail?”) — to which they responded “On On!” (which means “yes, we are on trail!”). A minute later, we were greeted by “Hangs Loose” and the other Sacramento Hashers, who were cheerful and alert when we got there. They posed for a photo and made sure that Joseph got his water bottles filled and his cup of coffee before we moved on. On On!
Between Rucky Chucky and Green Gate, we also met up with Catra Corbett, who was pacing German runner Hans-Dieter Weisshaar and seemed very cheerful. Joseph had seen Catra in a movie about ultra-running a few years back, and was just thrilled to meet her. So I snapped a few photos of them together, which I’m sure are going to be plastered all over his mirror back home in South Africa. I managed to get myself into a photo or two with him and Catra, so that he remembers ME too. I mean, Catra is great, but who paced you for 38 miles, Joseph??? Just kidding. Joseph and I had a great time running together and he’s thanked me dozens of times, before, during and after the race.
Although we knew Joseph was going to finish no problem, there was still a chance that he might be able to finish in under 28 hours if we kept up the pace. He said that his friends back home would be simply astounded if he not only finished, but finished in under 28 hours. So I really wanted to make that happen for him if possible. Joseph picked up some speed between Brown’s Bar and No Hands Bridge, but then slowed down for a while. When we got to Robie Point, he still had enough time to get to the finish in under 28 hours – if he pushed it. He struggled on the roads, but after he entered the track, he managed to sprint with me to the finish line, in just seconds under 28 hours. He did it! What a great finish!
Joseph was so grateful that he gave me at least 6 tee-shirts from ultra-races in South Africa, including one from Comrades, and one from a 100-mile race through an Elephant Park, plus one with the flag of South Africa which I proudly wore after my shower. Of course, I know that he just wanted to get rid of his old tee-shirts so that he wouldn’t have to pack them again. He also needed the extra space to pack his new and more valuable “Western States” tee-shirts and precious Finisher’s Buckle! In addition to Joseph’s gifts, he also gave me lots of confidence and encouragement to run Western States on my own someday. And of course, “believing” that you can run 100 miles someday is what got us all here in the first place!
Below is a link to photos I took along the course and at the finish line of Joseph Maartens, Brian Collings and Brian Marshall, pacers Steve Reagan and Lori Hoffman, plus other friends, finishers and pacers including Mike Palmer, Ian Maddieson, Matt Hartley, Hans Weisshaar and Catra Corbett.
Below also find a link to a web-page on Motionbased.com of the data from my Garmin 201 GPS. Somewhere between Brown’s Bar and Highway 49, my GPS lost contact with the satellite, so it ended up showing that we went 34 miles instead of 38. I’m attaching a link below if you’re interested in seeing how the data looks on a map.
I look forward to seeing you all again at next year’s Western States! Maybe I’ll run the whole thing someday!