Next weekend’s Nike Women’s Marathon will be Heather Pace’s first competitive run.
As a St. John’s University cheerleader, Pace was required to run an 8-minute mile as part of a conditioning test each year, which she did. Now, at the Nike event, her goal is to average 9 minutes per mile over the 26.2-mile course.
The 23-year-old Bay Area native was not satisfied to opt for the half-marathon her first time out.
“I’ve always been competitive,” Pace said. “I’m a big believer in going big or going home. To think that someone could go longer than I, I couldn’t let that happen.”
The second of 11 children, Pace was unable to find any takers among her five sisters and five brothers as she attempted to recruit a marathon partner.
At the Leukemia and Lymphoma Society in downtown San Francisco, where Pace, after graduating from St. John’s in January, works as a marketing and communications assistant, signed up with Team In Training.
In exchange for coaching and training, the runners are committed to raising funds for the Leukemia and Lymphoma Society, which is dedicated to “helping patients with blood cancers live better, longer lives.”
Pace derives personal inspiration from her uncle Timmy Mahoney, now cancer-free after suffering from lymphoma, as well as her Team In Training running partner, David Bevilacqua.
“David is an amazing runner, undergoing cancer treatment and he’s killing it out there,” Pace said. “The competitive side of me said I had to catch him. When you’re at mile 17 [of the 18-mile training runs], you have to think why you’re doing it. It really motivates you to keep going.”
And she’s setting the pace in fundraising as well. Pace has solicited her large community of family and friends, including a yogurt shop owner who donated 25 percent of one day’s sales to the cause.
“It’s remarkable to look at the statistics,” Pace said. “Survival rates over the past 20 years have doubled and tripled. Twenty more years from now and there could be a cure.”
Next weekend, the cheerleader will be moving from the sidelines to the playing field, where Pace will “strategically place my friends and family” along the course that starts at Union Square, winds by the Bay, through Golden Gate Park and out to the Great Highway.
“Running is definitely the new staple to my exercise routine,” Pace said.
In June, she’ll be leaving for a 27-month stint with the Peace Corps in Sub-Saharan Africa, where she has her eyes on the Iron Man South Africa.
WHAT: A Race to Benefit the Leukemia and Lymphoma Society
WHEN: Oct. 16, 7 a.m.
RACE FACTS: 20,000 runners expected to participate; full and half marathons available
INFO: inside.nike.com/blogs/nikerunning_events-en_US/?tags=nike_womens_marathon_2011, www.teamintraining.org