It was still dark when I jumped out of bed on the morning of 10 April. Whilst my body went through my mechanical race morning routine, my mind flittered between the inspiration of Jodie Oborne and her team at Oxfam 100 the day before and my amazing friends in Canberra lining up to race that morning. The sun was starting to rise in Brisbane as I drove off, coffee in hand to race the inaugural Great South Run. Little did I know that in a few short hours I would be witnessing some RMA magic of my own, and this is her story:
Justine Della Bosca set out on the morning of 10 April 2016 as the 2 hour pacer for the half marathon knowing that she had never run a half marathon at that pace. Not only did Justine run a PB at this pace, in the last minute of the race Justine turned around and ran back to one final RMA runner in her pace group and with seconds to spare they both made it in under two hours.
What made you turn around before the finish line?
I knew we had less than a minute and I had been acutely aware of the time. One of the things that I heard someone say to my group at the beginning was don’t check your watch that’s your pacers job. I was very aware that I had lost some time in trying to get my last two runners through. When I saw the finishing shoot I was elated because I knew I had done it. I looked at the clock and I turned back to see one last person in my group coming down with less than 100 metres to go, I thought, I can get her down here in under two hours. I had spoken to this runner (also an RMA) throughout the race and she had mentioned that this was her first half and it would be a dream to do it in under two hours. I said I was so envious because it had taken me years to get to this point, so it became a personal mission to get her there. When I turned back and saw her I just had to do it. The race was a build up to that moment. She was part of my team and I had to get her there. It didn’t seem amazing I was just finishing the job properly.
What made you decide to pace?
To be honest was it was the fact that I was asked through a friend at parkrun if I would like to pace- I was so honoured that he thought that I could do it and that he believed in me! It has been a personal journey. Running has created my community for me.
How did you train?
I worked out what pace I needed and I labelled it my “2016 golden pace”. Every time I hit it I congratulated myself. It was about learning the feel of that pace. I wanted to make the pace come naturally to me. I went out for quicker runs with quicker guys and tried to find that pace in my running. I wouldn’t recommend it to everyone but it was literally labelling it and knowing that was the pace I was aiming for this year.
How did you keep your group motivated?
I gently spoke to them throughout the race. Because the race was a lap event, the continual stream of familiar encouraging faces was motivation in itself. I reminded my group of posture and the pace we were at and where we needed to get to. In the last 4km I needed to take it up a notch and direct my comments at each runner to get them through.
What was the best part of pacing?
That’s really hard. Lining up for that event knowing my body was so ready was very empowering. My body knew what it was about to do. I was so thrilled on the start line people were approaching me. Someone needed me. When we got to 5km I knew I had this and I was where I wanted to be. At 19km it became harder for two people in my group and that’s where I really felt like everything I had done was important and culminated in that moment. That was the highlight where I thought this is what I am here for. I need to fall back on my training.
Would you do it all again?
Absolutely it was one of the most rewarding things I have ever done.
When is your next big race?
I have a 50km race at the Gold Coast 100 in June. Now it’s about slowing down and building distance.
Interview by RMA Ana Croger.