For 25 years, Anthony Sum got a nicotine-fuelled high from smoking 25 sticks of cigarettes daily. But nowadays, this 48-year-old marketing consultant gets his kicks from being a marathon pacer. The father of two picked up running relatively late: He started when he was 41. Since his first race in 2004, the chief running officer of Team Fatbird has racked up more mileage in full marathons and clocked a personal best of 3hr 36min at the Chuncheon Marathon in South Korea three years ago.
Kicking The Habit
I was overweight, unfit and desperate to do something about it. So I started running in 2004 and attempted my first race – a 5km event. After that, I was hooked. I did my first full marathon in 2005 in 4hr 8min, a decent timing for my maiden attempt. The following year, I did four marathons – all under the 4-hour mark. By then, I had kicked my smoking habit and felt fantastic. Running saved my life. My weight went from 82kg to 65kg, which I’ve maintained till today. In 2006, I benefited from the guidance of the Standard Chartered Marathon pacers, and when an opportunity arose in 2008 for me to put together a pace team for the marathon, I jumped at it.
Pacing Other Runners
A common misconception is that pacers set out to run as fast as possible, to finish the race in a good time. The truth is pacers often run 15 to 30 minutes slower than usual. It requires lots of patience, a sense of mission and planning. We try to bring as many runners to the finish line as possible. The 15-week marathon pacer training demands discipline, and sacrifices are inevitably needed in terms of family and social time.
Qualities Of A Good Pacer
As a pacer, you must be able to maintain a certain pace throughout the race. Also, you need to be personable and a marathon “mentor” on the move, dispensing words of encouragement to the group. Selflessness is needed; you should be willing to train and run for the pace time, not for your personal best. Lastly, you must have the passion to share your running knowledge and experience with others.
A Sense Of Satisfaction
My responsibility as a pacer is to maintain a sustainable pace for the group of runners who depend on me, to guide them to their targeted finishing times. For me, the satisfaction from helping them achieve their targets is huge. The compliments and words of appreciation from them make up for all the time, effort and challenges I face in training for the race.