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"Motivating others is a huge adrenaline rush" - Sebastian D'Souza on life as a marathon pacer

D'Souza, as part of the Nike Run Club, is responsible for helping runners keep pace during marathons.

Sebastian D'Souza NIke Pacers
Marathoner and fitness enthusiast Sebastian D’Souza has taken the responsibility of motivating other marathoners

Sebastian D’Souza is a Nike+ pacer. As part of the Nike Run Club, the Mumbai native helps runners stay fit, fast and stick to their pace as they keep their motivation up.

They are all former or current marathoners themselves, and accompany coaches who train runners, leading a pack to keep morale and running speeds high.

The Pacers come from different backgrounds and walks of life. We spoke to Mumbai’s Sebastian D’Souza, a runner who has dedicated himself to the sport.

How did he get started? D’Souza has a long history with the sport.

“Running has been a part of my life since school days where I took part in 400 and 800m races and did exceptionally well. This motivated me to continue running which eventually led me to take part in the Mumbai half marathon in 2011.

I was just 18 years old then.”

“For this race, I trained for 6 months and it was quite difficult as I didn’t have any appropriate apparel and shoes back then. I wasn’t even aware of the bio-mechanics involved in running half marathons,” he says.

During this phase, reading articles on the internet helped him significantly. “I also managed to find some running groups in and around Mumbai and started training with them. As a result I completed 21km in 1hr 45 mins.”

He stresses on the importance of gradually building on progress. “After this there was no looking back. I went on building mileage, participating in more and more races. The following year, I managed to finish my first full marathon in 4hrs 12 mins.”

“There was a major shift in my running career after I joined Nike Run Club in 2013. I was training under professional coaches and with their guidance, I managed to clock my personal best of 3hrs 30mins.

Till date I have completed one ultra-marathon, 10 full marathons and 20 half marathons. This is something I am really proud of.”

D’Souza says that running has become such an inherent part of his life, it's difficult to function without it.

“Running for me has become a necessity. It is a great stress buster; moreover it is also the best exercise for the cardiovascular system. Apart from that, it also helps in enhancing the muscular skeletal growth thus improving the body structure. Running everyday gives me a sense satisfaction which keeps me highly motivated and energetic.“

“I believe that inspiration is contagious. Many of my friends and elderly people have expressed their gratitude towards me for giving them the guidance and motivating them to take up running or even brisk walking as an exercise.

The feeling of getting others motivated gives me an adrenaline rush and that motivates me to continue what I am”

It’s important, he says, to keep one's own motivation at a high if one is to motivate another person to do well.

D’Souza expounds: “being a pacer is indeed a big responsibility. The primary goal is to set a pace for the group in order to help everyone achieve his/her targets. For this, it is essential for the pacer to be disciplined. He/she should motivate the runners to achieve their goals.”

What exactly does being a pacer entail? “In a running group,” D’Souza says, “runners try to copy the pacers running style and posture in order to get the correct form and be in coordination with the pacer throughout the run. So a pacer also sets an example of running in the right way, maintaining the correct form and keeping oneself highly motivated and enthusiastic throughout the run.”

But what really does a pacer do?

“A pacer’s role is to be highly motivated and disciplined about his pace,” D’Souza says. “He/she has to make sure that no runner from his group is left behind. If in case any runner is left behind he has to motivate him to catch up with the group.”

It is also important that the pacer informs the group on things like, the current pace of the group, the distance covered in the run, positions of individual runners etc. Pacers have to motivate the runners in their group and create an atmosphere of fun and excitement around.

What’s the best part about being a pacer? “Being a Nike pacer is a great achievement in itself. First and foremost, the pacer gets to train under the best of coaches hence, it’s a great learning experience. Secondly, he/she gets to represent Nike as a pacer, which is a huge feat for an individual.

Apart from that, getting the opportunity to meet and greet some of the greatest athletes and personalities in the running arena is one of the best parts of it.”

Most athletes have a fixed daily routine, and discipline is key. Sebastian is no different. He tells us, “ I start my day with prayers which is followed by a run. My schedule includes endurance, speed workouts, cross training and strength training.To improve one’s endurance and speed, strength training and core strengthening needs to go hand in hand.”

My weekly exercise schedule includes:

Sunday: Long runs 30-40 kms (Endurance) 15secs slower than marathon pace

Monday: Rest

Tuesday: 30 mins run @ full marathon pace Wednesday: 40 mins run @ half marathon pace Thursday: Tempo run + fartlek

Friday: Cross train Saturday: Speed workout

Running is the most inclusive, healthy workout

“There is no specific age for running, anyone and everyone can run,” D’Souza goes on.

“Motivation plays a key role in getting people excited about the sport, thus getting them involved in it. Personally stating my example, I have been motivated by a group of runners who belong to 40-70 age group. Looking at these stalwarts posing with medals and merit certificates at the podium is motivating the youth to take up running as a fitness activity and a sport.”

There has been a paradigm shift in how the sport is looked at in India, he says. “Sports brands like Nike are coming forward with great ideas to bring runners from all parts of the world together. This has managed to create a running revolution in India and around the world.”

The future of the Indian running scene appears rosy, and the motivation to push runners forward is a signifcant part of that movement.

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