Because one person took a negative and turned it into a positive, hundreds of others will benefit this Saturday during the Fort4Fitness Half Marathon.
Jon Gottschalk is that one person, and everyone who needs help holding their pace, aims for a personal best or just wants to relax and enjoy their 13.1-mile journey are the recipients.
How runners can benefit is through the Fort Wayne Track Club's “Pace Groups.” There will be six groups with two leaders in each, setting the pace for runners. This is the second year for such groups, an idea that has long been a benefit to runners in major city marathons.
“I was running in the Champaign (Ill.) Marathon in 2012 and saw all these pace groups,” said Gottschalk. “People seemed to be energized by the group leaders and it obviously helped many runners to meet their time goal.”
Gottschalk admits that he didn't give the pace group idea a second thought until he got injured last summer. His own goal of a personal best in last year's Fort4Fitness was dashed.
“I was pretty upset because I knew I wouldn't be able to compete like I had planned,” Gottschalk said. “But I still wanted to run, even if it was slower. Then I remembered the pace groups and took the idea to the Fort Wayne Track Club (FWTC). ”
Gottschalk serves as the webmaster for the FWTC, which then offered the services of pace groups to the Fort4Fitness organizers.
“They were very open to the idea because their goal all along has been to provide a high-quality experience and services (to runners),” Gottschalk said.
The result was four pace groups with estimated finish times of 1 hour, 45 minutes; 2 hours; 2:15; and 2:30. Gottschalk was nearly overwhelmed and surprised.
“We had one complaint and it was from people NOT in the pace groups,” Gottschalk said. “There were so many people in our 2-hour group that other runners said they couldn't get around us.”
It was a simple fix; this year there are six groups: 1:45, 1:50, 2 hours, 2:10, 2:20 and 2:30.
“The 2-hour group is always the biggest at any half-marathon but with more choices, hopefully people will pick others,” Gottschalk said.
Along with providing a steady and guaranteed pace, Gottschalk (in the 1:45 group) and the other leaders will help liven the mood.
“There are two leaders in each group,” Gottschalk said. “One will probably be more focused on pace while the other will be having a great time. I know last year I was high-fiving the police on traffic duty and other volunteers. It's a long way to run, so a little distraction is good sometimes.”
There is no extra fee, and runners have to register for a pace group. Just show up Saturday morning ready to run.
“We do recommend that if you are interested in joining a pace group, stop by (FWTC) table at packet pickup. You can meet the pace group leaders and get an idea for how it works,” Gottschalk said.
The Fort4Fitness Expo will be held 1-8 p.m. Friday at Parkview Field. with packet pickup scheduled 1-9 p.m. For more information on the pace groups or the Fort Wayne Track Club, visit www.fwtc.org or email Gottschalk at firstname.lastname@example.org.