Saturday, July 2, 2022

Meet the 2022 Yellow Jacket Challenge race pacers

Setting goals is a routine part of life for many people and can be the driving force to improve areas of performance or accomplish specific tasks. Runners often set goals for finish times when they are running races. To help runners achieve those goals, some races feature pacers.

A pacer is a designated person who runs at a specific speed in a race. Runners who are interested in achieving that particular speed can run with the pacer to ensure they maintain that speed and finish the race within their desired goal time. A good pacer must be a steady, consistent runner focused on maintaining the appropriate speed throughout the race and encouraging runners to realize their goal.

This year, the Yellow Jacket Challenge will feature pacers at the 7:00, 8:00, 9:00, and 10:00 minute mile speeds, helping runners to realize finish times of 21, 24, 27 or 30 minutes for the 5K, which is 3.1-mile race.  

7-minute pacer Steve Peabody. — Submitted photo


Steve started running in 1977 as a high school freshman and he has been running ever since. He truly loves getting out there every day for a run, no matter how long or short, and in all kinds of weather. He has run in countless races (literally hundreds) at every distance from the one mile to the marathon. Steve shares, “Running has taken me to more places, and allowed me to meet more people, than I could ever have imagined over the past 45 years. I am truly humbled that I can still be out there doing something that I love and helping out when and where I can.”

8-minute pacer Emily Tietema. — Submitted photo


Emily is from Zeeland and works as a para-professional for Zeeland Public Schools. She absolutely loves her job and really enjoys working with children who have special needs. Add that to her love for running, it seems only natural that she would also have a passion for helping other runners achieve their goals. Although this is her first official year as a pacer, she ran alongside her friend when he paced in previous years. Emily and her family enjoy time at their cottage in Gowen which also allows her time to make running friends in the Greenville community. When asked why she wants to be a pacer, she said, “I knew I loved running when I could beat the boys in the one mile during gym class.  I love to set goals and push myself to break them. The feeling of such huge accomplishments creates a natural high. Other people deserve to experience that same feeling. That I why I want to be a pacer.”

9-minute pacer Brian Updike. — Submitted photo


A 1993 Greenville High School graduate, Brian now lives in Grand Rapids. He started running in 2012 looking for a positive activity after enduring a divorce. He has completed 12 marathons including the Detroit International and the Marine Corps Marathons along with multiple Riverbank Runs at the 25K distance. Brian has led two training groups for the Fifth Third Riverbank 25k and two marathon training groups and felt great pride watching those runners accomplish their race goals. When asked what he loves most about running, Brian says, “The physical and mental benefits of running are the best! You have an amazing sense of accomplishment from each run. The camaraderie amongst runners, both in training and during events, is so cool to experience. Running has led me to meet amazing people and races are a great reason to travel. I am honored to be a pacer. I love giving back to the sport and the Greenville community. I enjoy helping others reach for a goal!” Brian’s favorite running accomplishment is founding Team BAM, a charity fundraising/motivational marathon group which donates gift cards to the PORT team at the Helen DeVos Children’s Hospital. The gift cards help children fighting cancer and their families during long treatment stays.

10-minute pacer Bonnie Gessler. — Submitted photo


Bonnie graduated from Belding High School where she ran track and cross country. She runs and trains with the Greenville Running Club and is currently serving as a Road Warrior Ambassador for the Amway Riverbank Run. She has run several marathons and is training for the Bayshore Marathon in Traverse City. When asked what she most loves about running, she says, “The running community is unique in how they embrace everyone no matter how fast or far they run. Everyone is welcome and that is inspiring to me.” Bonnie loves celebrating the accomplishments of running friends and will always help a fellow runner reach a new goal. She loves traveling to new places, running with friends all over the state, and enjoying the beauty that Michigan’s trails have to offer. Bonnie is currently on a running streak of 722 days.


Running with a pacer allows a runner to focus on the actual art of running, like maintaining proper running form and breathing techniques, without having to spend any mental energy on maintaining pace. They just keep their eyes on the pacer for speed control. A pacer can give advice on a variety of subjects such as how much to drink along the way or how to maneuver hills and will encourage their runners all the way to the finish line.

If you are interested in running with a pace group at the Yellow Jacket Challenge, just join the group on race day. Pacers will have signs at the start line. The YJC is Sunday, April 24, at 2 p.m. Registration is available online at or on race day from 12:30 p.m. to 1:45 p.m. Proceeds benefit the Education Foundation of Greenville. The YJC is chipped timed and certified by the USATF.

Share This Article:
You can read 0 more free story this month.
Do the right thing, and support your local newspaper.

Subscribe Now!