Pacer Tim Swietlik motivates runners at the 2009 Portland Marathon

This weekend, thousands of people will hit the streets for the 43rd annual Portland Marathon. Scattered among the professional athletes, amateurs, and first-time runners—not to mention the thousands of spectators—will be 60 pacers.

“I’ve been pacing for 7 years," says Tim Swietlik, 54. "I pace because when you help someone achieve a goal, whether it’s qualifying or finishing, it makes you feel super good to help them get there.”

Swietlik, is the Pace Team Director of the Portland Marathon, a group of experienced runners whose goal is to not only finishing the race, but helping amateur and veteran runners alike cross the finish line in a certain time range. 

The Portland Marathon is Sunday, October 6 at 7am (starting at SW 4th and Taylor).

At a pacer meetup in the large backroom of Lucky Lab, nerves were high as the final week of training got under underway. The pacers chatted excitedly about the upcoming race, listening to motivational speeches and advice from experienced pacers between beers and snacks. 

Andy Gribionkin, 51, is a fourth time pacer.  “The first time I paced we helped a man in his sixties cross the line in Boston qualifying time.  He was struggling so badly those last few miles we didn’t think he was going to make it but miraculously he did.”

First-time pacer Brooke Parker, 35, wants to be an inspiration.  “I was going to cheer the runners on even if I wasn’t racing anyway.  So I thought why not pace and give back to my community?” 

Still, Swietlik says, because of the stamina and speed needed, pacing is not for everyone. 

You can't slow down even if that means losing someone in your group. No matter what, you can't sacrifice the group time.”  Tim goes on to say, “It can be frustrating because you don’t want to leave anyone behind.  But there's too much faith placed on our shoulders to not keep running.” 

“When you drag someone across the finish line that’s tried and tried and tried to qualify or finish," says Swietlik, "it gets really emotional."

For a spectator's guide to the marathon, visit portlandmarathon.org.