Meet Your Popular® Brooklyn Half Pace Team!
Later this month, thousands of runners will be stepping up to the line for the Popular® Brooklyn Half. Among them will be members of the NYRR Pace Team who are dedicating their 13.1 miles to helping others meet their time goals. These marathon vets have the experience to help Brooklyn Half participants cross the finish line with confidence, whether they're aiming for a personal record or running their very first race—and they do it all for free!
Below you'll get to know some of the pacers you'll meet on race day.
Dave will be one of the leaders of the 1:35 pace group. He has been running long distances competitively since middle school and views running as an irreplaceable part of his life. “It’s my main way I unwind and de-stress, and I honestly can’t imagine not being a runner,” he says.
Dave calls Brooklyn home, and it's the only borough he's ever lived in. “I couldn’t imagine living in any other part of the city!" he says. "It's got the best bagels and pizza, and it's a great separation from working in Manhattan.”
Dave's love for his borough includes his dedication to the Brooklyn Half. He has not missed the race since he first ran it in 2007, except for in 2009 when it fell on his wedding day. For the past few years, he's run it as a pacer.
“I'd been racing so long and benefiting from all the great volunteers at every race that I wanted to give back to the running community too,” Dave says. “This way I can keep running and help other runners achieve their goals. If it's a PR or just a really solid race, they know I'll get them over the finish line in the time they need."
Dave has run the Brooklyn Half many times, but his favorite memory comes from a year that was a bit more challenging than the rest: “One year back when the race was in early April, it had been a really warm week leading up to the race, but that morning the temperature dropped down to the 30s with a strong headwind,” Dave recalls. “I didn't plan well and was dressed in short running shorts and a singlet—way underdressed. I felt like an icicle. I was convinced I was going to freeze solid before finishing and fully expected every race photo of me to be completely purple. Now whenever I race Brooklyn I think back to that year and no matter how tough it feels at the time, I know it could be so much more painful!”
Dave knows the Brooklyn Half inside and out and has some advice for how to approach the course. “Run your own race and start off comfortable and a bit slower than you plan to go overall," he says. "You've got 13.1 miles ahead of you and it's easier to make up time later in the race with a smart, comfortable start than it is trying to hold on late in the race. Find a good pace group to carry you through to the end!”
Julia Khvasechko will be a leader of the 2:00 pace group and her half-marathon PR comes from the Brooklyn Half.
Julia has been running for 13 years, starting her journey with the TCS New York City Marathon in 2005. She ran the race to raise money for Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center, the hospital that saved her life.
“Today I run for fitness, but it is so much more than just something I do,” she says. “Running is part of my identity. Running is who I am.”
Julia is bi-coastal but has lived at least part-time in NYC since 1980 and has many fond memories of being with her father, who lives Brooklyn. It's one of the reasons the Brooklyn Half is her favorite race. “I love the wide-open streets and the diversity of the neighborhoods," she says, "and it’s a pretty flat course, making it a perfect PR race. But the finish line, where I can see my father standing and waiting for me—afterward we walk the boardwalk together—that is my favorite part."
Having run hundreds of races in her life, Julia knows her PR days are behind her. She decided to become a pacer so that she could help others go after their own PRs. Her favorite memory from the Brooklyn Half involves doing just that.
“One year, there was a woman from out of the country in my group," Julia recalls. "We couldn't communicate with words, but we spoke the language of running. I figured out that if she ran the entire race with me, it would be a PR for her. Since she'd come from South America for a holiday, I decided I would do everything in my power to get her to hang on. I didn't let her fall away from us and we crossed the finish line together. She set a new PR and cried and thanked me profusely, but I should have been thanking her! It was so thrilling to see her hold on with us and when she crossed the finish line, I knew it would be a race she would never forget. I cried for her success and loved being able to help her get there."
So what advice does Julia have for those who will be running her favorite course? “Do not start off too fast," she says. "Start slower than you think you should. If you run with a pacer, we will keep a consistent effort going the whole race but if you run on your own do not get shot out of a cannon as soon as the gun goes off. Use your first mile as a warm up, take in the sights, get to know the runners around you, enjoy every step of the journey, and have fun!”
Louisa will be a leader of the 2:30 pace group. She runs because it allows her to socialize with friends, travel the world, and immerse herself in new cultures. “Running brings happiness to me and being a happy person brings positive energy to others," she says. "I also run so I can eat a lot!”
Bringing positive energy to people is part of why Louisa became a pacer. She wanted to help runners meet their goals while showing off the city she loves so much. Louisa's all about giving back to the running community, and for her, pacing is the best way to do it.
Louisa first ran the Brooklyn Half in 2012 and she has paced the race four times since then. “Brooklyn is 'da bomb,' the 'it' borough now,” Louisa says. “There are so many wonderful restaurants that serve ethnic foods and handcrafted beers! But the best part is the people that live there! It is one of my favorite boroughs whenever I pace the New York City Marathon. The energy from the crowd gives me goosebumps.”
Louisa’s favorite memory from the Brooklyn Half actually involves an injury: “I twisted my ankle a few months before the race, so I asked to pace a slower group," she recalls "My husband, who is a fellow pacer, ran back to check on me and my co-pacer after he finished the race, and he ended up pacing with us. He was able to take care of one of the fellow runners who was having cramps due to dehydration while we helped two runners cross the finish line. It was their goal time and they were able to finish under 2:45. This is what I call teamwork—when all the pacers work together to help fellow runners achieve their dreams.”
For Louisa, the Brooklyn Half is all about the experience, and her advice reflects that. “Enjoy yourself!" she says. "Veteran runners can really go for it and get the PR they worked hard for! It is a negative split course, so stay conservative during the first half. First-timers must get the Nathan's hot dogs and beers at the finish!”
Interested in becoming a pace team member or have questions about how to run with a pace group? Check out the NYRR Pace Team page for more information.