So, probably the biggest thing I did during my blog hiatus was run the LA Marathon. I mentioned in one of my early posts that my plan was to run the whole thing without stopping to walk. Well, that didn't quite work out. See, Mike and I trained like crazy, but our training plan only went as far as 20 miles on a training run. The theory was that if you could run 20 miles, the other 6.2 would probably be easy. I don't think that it's a coincidence that we had to stop to walk right around the 20th mile marker. Of course, it didn't help that this was at the most boring section of the run (the Veteran's Administration in Westwood) and that it featured a rather brutal uphill section (more on that in a minute). The last five miles were probably the most physically taxing thing I have ever done. But I'm getting ahead of myself.
The whole concept of the race was "Run the Landmarks." It started off at Dodger Stadium, would through the Walk of Fame, down the Sunset Strip, past Rodeo Drive, and ended up at the Santa Monica Pier. The other selling point was that the general course of the marathon was downhill. The organizers implied that this would lead to personal bests and the easiest marathon course ever put together. That was a flat out lie. While there were some good downhill sections (the last five miles were a VERY gradual decline), there were PLENTY of steep uphills that we just weren't prepared for. I could have done more hill training if I thought it would be an issue, but I didn't. As a result, the whole thing felt harder than it should have.
Mike and I met up on 2nd Base at Dodger Stadium. This was actually one of the highlights of the race for me. The Disneyland Half Marathon runs through Angel Stadium, so it's cool that running has given me the chance to be on the field at both major league parks in the LA area. (A note about pictures - yes, they say "PROOF," but I have bought them. I just don't feel like scanning them).
I tried to use a restroom before the start, but the line was at least 45 minutes long and I didn't have to go badly enough. Of course, as soon as we started running, I had to pee as bad as I ever have, but I just ignored the urge. It took nearly 17 miles, but the feeling (which was mostly psychosomatic) went away. I sure as hell didn't want to stop to wait in line for a port-a-potty. We lined up for the start and we stood. And we waited. The race was delayed multiple times (it really felt poorly organized at times) and standing around waiting on pavement isn't the best way to warm up for a long distance race.
Along the route, people held up signs to cheer you on. The "There's Beer at the Finish Line" and "Run Like You Stole Something" signs may have been funny the first time, but after seeing each one AT LEAST 20 times, it got old. One of the official marathon signs (at Mile 4 or 5) read "The Kenyans are at Mile 16." Now that just seems cruel (and maybe a little racist, I still haven't decided). It was fun running through all of the different neighborhoods and seeing the differences among the people. We passed through several African American gospel choirs from the local downtown churches. We hit Silverlake, home of the hipsters, and immediately noticed that the spectators all had porkpie hats, ironic mustaches, and held signs that said things like "What are you running from?" Passing through Pacific Palisades at the end of the course brought wealthy people watching from their lawns, wanting desperately to feel like they were a part of something. You would hear people saying, "We're almost there, keep going!" and think, "No I'M almost there, WE are not doing anything - specifically, YOU aren't doing anything."
As I mentioned before, the last 5 miles were the most physically grueling thing I have ever done. It was an act of sheer willpower that my legs were able to keep moving at all. I don't think I had any real control over the issue. I came around the last corner, down Ocean drive, and prepared for the last .2 miles of the race. I run 3-7 miles every other weekday and 10-20 on the weekend, and this .2 miles felt like the longest distance I could imagine. I saw what I thought was the finish line and pressed myself to reach it. It turns out it was just a stoplight and I had another 2 or 3 blocks to run. I honestly don't know how I made it. I felt like I wanted to fall asleep. I finally crossed the finish line, 5 hours and 20 odd minutes after I started. I'm not going to lie, this was a lot slower than I wanted it to be. That's what's driving me to try this whole thing again.
By the way, the one thing every runner wants from a race is a finish line picture. It's proof that you really did cross that line and finished the race. Most runners do some kind of pose, knowing that they are being photographed. I counted at least 5 photographers at the finish line and this was still the best they could do:
Way to go, MarathonFoto. (That's me about to collapse/cough up a lung a good 5 seconds after I crossed).
I made my way through the post-race cool down area. I devoured bananas and fruit cups and drank at least two bottles of water. They handed me my medal. This is what it looked like:
But this is how it felt:
(That's right, Mike Funt, it's my blog - I get to be Han Solo. Chewbacca is growling to make everyone cheer for ME).
Even though I was disappointed in my time, I know I accomplished something pretty awesome. It's no easy task to run for more than 5 hours straight, no matter what speed you're going. It feels pretty damn great. Mike and I sat down before going to find our wives and I think we were both believing that we just shared something very cool. Also, that our legs might not work well enough to stand back up.
So, it's back into training. I'm aiming for a 1:45 time in this year's Disneyland Half Marathon and then we go back into marathon mode. Why? Because next January we're doing the Goofy Challenge in Orlando. That's the Walt Disney World Half Marathon on Saturday, followed by the Walt Disney World Marathon on Sunday. 2 days, 39.3 miles. I think I may be insane.