Allow Me to Reintroduce Myself: Meet the Popular® Brooklyn Half Pace Team Presented by Biofreeze

As runners hit the streets of Brooklyn on May 18 for the Popular® Brooklyn Half, many will be following the fearless NYRR Pace Team Presented by Biofreeze. A pacer’s job is to lead, guide, and inspire runners and help them hit their goal finish times. If you run with the pace team, you’ll be in good hands. Pace team members are skilled and experienced at pacing runners of all abilities. They’ll do everything they can to help you have the race you’ve trained to run.

We chatted with some of this year’s pace team members about their running past, what they love about pacing, and their tips for Popular® Brooklyn Half runners.

Pace team member Gene Sobol

Gene Sobol, 1:45 Pace Leader, Corral E
I ran my first mile in September 2014 and then immediately registered for the NYC Half in March 2015. I became obsessed with running and ran the TCS New York City Marathon that same year and finished in 3:59. Since then I've completed 19 half marathons, five marathons, eight half Ironman triathlons, and two Ironman triathlons.

What made you decide to become an NYRR pace team member?
I wanted the opportunity to give back to the community that has done so much for me. I finished my first New York City Marathon with the help of a pacer and I wanted to give other runners the feeling that I had on that day. It's a very special experience.

How would you describe your pacing style?
Consistent effort is key. Keeping the effort consistent lowers the chance of losing energy toward the end of the race. We make up the few seconds we lose on the uphill when we get to the downhill. For example, during the Popular® Brooklyn Half I will slow down 10-15 seconds per mile on the climb up Battle Pass Hill in Prospect Park and speed up 10-15 seconds on the descent.

What advice do you have for runners racing the Popular® Brooklyn Half?
Make sure that you're well tapered for the race. It's better to start a race 10% undertrained than 1% overtrained. Be sure to hydrate and rest in the days leading up to the race. Remember: Nothing new on race day and lay out your clothing the night before!

On race day, don't skip breakfast and get to the start line with time to spare to avoid last-minute stress. Take it easier than you think you should on the hills in the park to save energy for the final push to Coney Island, don't get behind on nutrition, and enjoy the after-party!

Pave Team member Juliette Ciaccia

Juliette Ciaccia, 2:15 Pace Leader, Corral G

I have been an avid runner since I was 11 years old, 30 years ago, and I run 5Ks to ultramarathons. I love the physical and mental challenges of training and the brutal honesty of race day. I am an RRCA Level 1 certified running coach and a coach/mentor for the Run4Fun youth team. I have run numerous full and half marathons.

What made you decide to become an NYRR pace team member?
I was running a lot of solitary miles. I complained to friends, who explained that through pacing they could get in their miles, help others, and feel like part of the wonderful NYC running community. I joined the NYRR Pace Team and am now in full agreement!

How would you describe your pacing style?
I am quite chatty. I get runners comfortable by asking questions about their training leading up to the race and about what’s next. It helps them settle into the pace. If I'm running with a pacing partner, we'll chat about our past and upcoming races and then field questions from the group.

What advice do you have for runners racing the Popular® Brooklyn Half?
I love this course! It can be broken into smaller chunks to mentally crush your race. I like to focus on where I am and forget what I have done and what I still have to do. On the roads outside Prospect Park, just settle into a groove. In Prospect Park, enjoy the rolling hills and shade. Mile 7 is onto Ocean Parkway and we can sing the alphabet down to the ocean knowing that there will be a sea breeze to greet us. Plan your race nutrition smartly, pack your MetroCard and $20 for Nathan's in your shorts, and be ready for a great day!

Pace Team member Reeta Barthwal

Reeta Barthwal, 1:55 Pace Leader, Corral J

A close friend convinced me to run my first half marathon, which led to my second and then third over the next two years. He then managed to convince me to run a marathon. I completed my first marathon and said, "I will never run a marathon again." I just completed marathon number 8. I am truly addicted and am always finding a race to sign up for.

What made you decide to become an NYRR pace team member?
I always admired the pace team and about three years ago I finally decided to join. I was given my first pacing opportunity at the New Balance Bronx 10 Mile. It was scary at first but I found the outcome much more rewarding than anything that I had experienced in the past.

How would you describe your pacing style?
I try to do my best to communicate with the runners, answer questions, learn about their running goals, and keep them informed about hydration, bathrooms, etc. I try to motivate them, especially those who may be struggling.

What advice do you have for runners racing the Popular® Brooklyn Half?
This race is huge! Set your goals, enjoy the race, and embrace the energy that surrounds it.

Pace Team member Chris Calimano

Chris Calimano, 1:50 Pace Leader, Corral H

All my life I’ve had a passion for sports. In 2010, I transformed into an endurance athlete ran my first race, the New Jersey Marathon. Since that first marathon, I have completed 400+ races.

What is your favorite thing about being a pacer?
I love learning about the runners in my pace group: what are their goals, what races have they completed, what races are next? I appreciate the gratitude that I’ve received from finishers—whether they started with our group or were picked up along the way. I typically wait 10-15 minutes at the finish line of every race to congratulate any runners that we lost along the route and remind them how proud I am of their finish.

How would you describe your pacing style?
My pacing style can be summed up as even effort, communicative, on-target, and party central! We are essentially looking to have fun but guarantee that we will finish within 45 seconds less than the target. I often carry a few extra gels and salt to share and am constantly caring for the team, especially in the last few miles.

What advice do you have for runners racing the Popular® Brooklyn Half?
Have fun! If you haven’t trained as much as you wanted, run aid station to aid station then walk the length of the aid station; if you are looking to run a personal best, take it easy until you exit Prospect Park and then hammer it home!

Member giveaway! Join us at the #NYRRRunCenter ft. #NBRunHub on May 13 for an exclusive Popular Brooklyn Half course strategy session and meet the NYRR Pace Team presented by Biofreeze. We’ll be giving away these awesome pint glasses, while supplies last!

Learn more about the NYRR Pace Team presented by Biofreeze. 

Biofreeze is the #1 clinically recommended topical pain reliever and the Official External Pain Reliever of NYRR. Biofreeze uses cryotherapy (“cold therapy”) to help delay the onset of muscle soreness as well as provide temporary relief from aches/pains. Biofreeze is fast-acting, long-lasting, and nearly twice as effective as ice. 

Biofreeze is especially effective for runners since it can be used before, during, and after workouts. It’s a great option for runners who want to be able to easily tackle their pain and soreness on their own. Biofreeze comes in four different forms—spray, roll-on, gel, and cream. Spray and roll-on are great for easy application, while gel and cream are effective at targeting specific areas. All forms can be found at your local retailer (CVS, Walgreens, Target, Walmart, etc.) and online. Learn more at


Katie Manzi

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