Jun 5, 2009 1:09 PM
This is a plain-text post the attached pdf has pictures as well and is a bi easier to read. Enjoy, and thanks for reading...
Ever since I can remember and Im sure my mother will confirm this Ive always wanted to do things people said I couldnt do; whether it was because they were wrong, like lighting the backyard on fire with a magnifying glass , or because people simply lacked confidence or doubted my efforts. Ive always been determined to prove the doubters wrong and have often found myself breaking the rules and making my own.
And then theres the LA Marathon. While no one person specifically said I couldnt run 26.2 miles per se, Im sure I had my doubters. There were probably people that said I was too overweight, too out of shape, or too weak to finish. I was, in fact, one of them myself.
It was on a whim, in passing conversation, that I mentioned to my roommate (my best friends girlfriend at the time, now fiancé) that I might like to do a marathon one day. She too said she aspired to try to do a marathon one day and that was that.
I didnt think anything more of the conversation, they were just a few fleeting moments of BS-ing about ones lifes aspirations. Theres a lot of things I aspire to do but never seem to get around to doing, lacking either sufficient funds or the time to tackle the endeavor.
A week later I was greeted by a Guess what!? from my roommate.
Uh oh, I said to myself, that sounds like a commitment coming that Im not ready to make.
I just registered for the marathon! she said.
There it was. A couple of minutes of BS-ing about our lifes aspirations resulted in a commitment to run 26 miles. Mind you, up until this point the longest I had regularly run was about 3 miles, or about 1/8th the distance of a marathon.
Fast forward 5 months, two weeks before the big day, and I still hadnt registered for the marathon; let alone run in several weeks. Begrudgingly I registered; it was, after all, sort of my fault for planting the idea in my roommates head in the first place.
Come race day my aspirations of finishing the race between 5 and 5 ½ hours had been reduced to a goal of just finishing marathon; if I finished in less than 6 hours Id have been stoked.
The two of us, my roommate and I, were definitely nervous. Wed heard the stories of how the marathon had killed five people in 2008 Im not exactly the picture of physical fitness , wed heard people **** themselves while theyre running, and we knew that a lot of people, people that actually trained for the marathon, dont finish and end up being wheeled off in a stretcher with an IV in tow. I was determined to make none of those facts self-fulfilling prophecies. Really the only disappointing thing that could happen, we both agreed, was having to drop out for some reason, medical or physical.
We arrived in downtown almost an hour earlier than race start and still barely made the starting gun. By the time we found parking, got appropriately dressed and laced up, and evacuated any remaining bodily substances we had about five minutes of chit chat to enjoy before the race started.
Its a pretty humbling experience to run with 15,000 people. Whether looking north or south there was a sea of humanity in either direction. So much so that we didnt cross the start line after the gun had fired for a good 3-4 minutes, and we were in the middle of the pack.
My roommate and I figured at some point in the race wed lose each other, one of us would inevitably surge ahead. We signed up for a free tracking service that monitors your pace via a timing chip affixed to ones shoe.
My initial goal was to run 3 miles and walk for a bit, then run then walk, and so on. By mile 3 I felt so good I challenged myself to run to mile 4. Mile 4 blew by and I told myself I could probably make it to mile 8 running. Mile 8 came and went, and by mile 9 I had convinced myself to start walking.
I say convinced because I still felt great and was considering running to mile 13. I knew if I didnt start walking Id burn out early and have a tough time finishing. In retrospect I had probably already passed that point. At my 10K time I was pacing a 4 hour 50 minute marathon.
Each time I walked it gave me the opportunity to update my Facebook status to let others know where I was at, and read all the words of encouragement from friends.
As soon as I started walking at mile 9 my calves started cramping, from there on the marathon was very difficult. The music playing on my iPod, and the million or so of my closest friends cheering me, and everyone else on, really helped keep my mind off the pain. The themed runners helped in that regard as well. My favorite themed runner was a man running for testicular cancer dressed up as a giant scrotum complete with pubic hair.
Despite the cramping, the miles continued to tick away, the adrenaline coursing through my body helped condense time and the first 15-18 miles seemed to passed by quite quick. At 13 miles I was pacing a 5 hour 1 minute marathon time.
By mile 14 I had run out of Gatorade; along with several energy gels and some energy chews, I was carrying a 3 liter Camelbak of Gatorade Endurance. Fortunately, at each aid station, at each mile, they had more of the same stuff I had been drinking and I simply took a pitcher of the Gatorade and dumped it into my Camelbak.
At mile 15 I had a real confidence boost, my best friend and roommate, Danny showed up to cheer his fiancé and I on. Along with the million or so spectators cheering for people with slogans like Pain is temporary, glory is forever having someone you actually recognize and can look forward to seeing is a great thing to look forward to.
At each mile or so the organizers of the marathon arranged to have some sort of entertainment/band. There were Japanese drummers, rock bands, mariachis, calypso and even gospel singers/choir groups. Somewhere between mile 15 and mile 22 I came upon one of these gospel groups. They were clapping and signing with all the fervor one would expect from an AME church. When I passed by however, without even breaking step, the lead singer shouted over the PA system Get to runnin you big red shirt wearing motha fucka!
The LA marathon, never a dull moment.
The agony didnt really set in until about mile 22. It was at this time my run would probably have been best described as a speed walk and my walk was more of a shuffle; my muscles full of lactic acid, too busy fighting off the attack of fatigue to concern themselves with contracting and relaxing in coordination to result in any measurable form of momentum.
A wouldnt consider myself a terribly emotional person, but I did on at least three occasions came very close to shedding a tear or two. First, theres the grandeur of it all, being part of something so big. Then, theres was the fact that I was doing something I wasnt entirely sure I could do. And theres the pain.
At mile 22 along with Danny, my sister, Heather showed up to cheer us on. This was perhaps the hardest time in the run from an emotional standpoint, all the feelings were coming to a head and I had to do my hardest to quell any tears and push on.
By mile 23 I couldnt even muster much of a speed walk; instead I shuffled the next 3 miles towards the finish line. As I rounded Olympic Blvd and headed up Flower towards the finish I was flanked by several thousand people all cheering.
Somehow at mile 26 I gathered the wherewithal to transform my shuffle into a faster gate, a slow jog. Each step, each impact my foot made with the asphalt resulted in a loud bark for the next .2 miles. I crossed the finish line all but collapsed and somewhat delirious I thought I was completely lucid, but that wasnt the case according to my sister with the paramedics at the ready to tend to what they thought would be the marathons next victim.
I didnt end up needing medical assistance, though at the time it didnt seem like such a bad idea. My final time was 5 hours and 48 minutes; that was really irrelevant for me when I crossed the line though, the bigger accomplishment was that I finished. One item off to cross off the bucket list.
I can say without hesitation that the marathon was hands down the toughest thing Ive ever attempted to do. For the last few years Ive tried to substitute the phrase I cant with I dont know but Ill try and its served me well so far. Ive always believed that the human body can (and will) do extraordinary things when given the opportunity to do so. The problem is most people suppress those opportunities with the phrase I cant. This marathon further reinforced my philosophy.
To those that encouraged me before and during this adventure thank you. Thank you for supporting me and thank you for the words of encouragement. You will never know how much they helped me.
To those of you that doubted me, whether I knew it or not, thank you as well. You give me the strength and motivation, to try that much harder and prove you wrong.