Running a marathon can be daunting task, even for most-seasoned of runners.
Many marathon athletes appreciate the motivation and encouragement provided by Pace Teams - groups of runners who join together for fun, camaraderie and inspiration for the ultimate purpose of finishing the course within their targeted time goal.
When the 2012 Bank of America Chicago Marathon starts at 7:30 a.m. Sunday, Oct. 7, in Chicago's Grant Park, Crystal Lake resident Mike Stotz will be near the front of the pack of 45,000 runners.
As a member of the 2012 Nike Pace Team, Stotz is assigned to lead the 3:25 (3 hours, 25 minutes) pace team runners.
The 43-year-old father of three will run the Chicago Marathon as a pacer volunteer carrying a three-foot dowel rod with the time "3:25" atop - for all three-plus hours of the marathon - to help other participants reach their finishing goals.
"My job is to keep people motivated," said Stotz, who has run four Chicago Marathons, three of those as a pacer.
"It's kind of like coaching on the run, and I'm like a tour guide. I give advice. I talk to the runners about their training, what shoes they're wearing, the other races they've been in - anything that keeps their minds off the pain."
Marathon is a Social Sporting Event
Many non-runners may be surprised to learn that running the 26.2-mile marathon throughout the city of Chicago is a very social event, especially the first half of the race, Stotz said.
"We try to make it a very enjoyable experience," Stotz said. "There is a lot of talking going on during the first half, and then as people get tired and closer to the end, not as much."
Stotz has been running since he was 14 years old. As a student at Immaculate Conception High School in Elmhurst, he ran with the cross country and track teams. He finished 7th place in the two mile track event during his senior year in 1986, making the All-State team.
To stay conditioned, Stotz typically trains five to six days per week, running one long, two-hour-plus course throughout Crystal Lake once each weekend, and shorter routes the rest of the week. In all, he logs about 35 to 50 miles per week, he said.
This year's Nike Pace Team has 96 pacer volunteers including Stotz's friends, Bob Acke, of Cary, and Walt Calder, of Crystal Lake. Pacers are marathon veterans who are selected based on running consistent race times. Pace team start at 3 hours, and increase from there.
The 2012 Bank of America Chicago Marathon has runners registered from throughout all 50 states and traveling from more than 100 countries, according to the marathon website.
This year's race sold out in record time, according to a Bank of America Chicago Marathon press release. The 45,000 runners registered within six days of the opening sign-up day on Feb. 6.
As a comparison, in 2003, registration for the marathon took 35 weeks to close-out, the press release said.