Thursday, March 24, 2011

I'm a Marathoner!

The K-Swiss Mural at the Expo
Yes, you got it right, I'm a marathoner! But before getting into the details of my 26.2-mile journey, let me share some pre-race weekend highlights.

I arrived in LA Thursday morning from the Bay Area to hang out with friends, then headed to the Expo at the Dodger Stadium the following day. It was my first huge event, so I was really overwhelmed by such an expansive expo held outdoors with numerous sponsors showcasing their respective products, as well as the charities benefiting from the race.

My name located at the third row of second column

The "jazzed up" Odyssey minivan
At the imposing Honda tent, it was a pleasant surprise to find my name embellished on one of two Odyssey minivans! How cool is that?!

Aside from the festive mood and great weather at the expo, there were lots of other great stuff and free samples so my sling bag got really heavy by the time I decided to leave the premises.

Only in LA!
The following morning, on the eve of the marathon, I went to the downtown Cathedral of Our Lady of the Angels, for the Blessing of the Shoes, a ceremony which, Deacon Manny Martinez had declared, as something that only happens in LA. The parish's mission statement about “inspiring athletes and connecting communities," only befits the charitable nature of the LA Marathon, whose route includes the cathedral itself.

Later that afternoon, I proceeded to a get-together with my grade school classmates. We had a lot of fun catching up with each other, so we ended up parting ways shortly after 10:00 PM. I almost forgot I had to wake up early for my marathon, but I was really stuffed with all the carb-rich feast we had for late lunch and dinner.

All set to make history!
With only 2 hours of sleep, I woke up at 3:30 AM to catch the early shuttle to the Dodger Stadium. It was an ordeal walking about two blocks in freezing cold, wearing only my Team World Vision tech tee over a long-sleeved base layer shirt, but there was no turning back. "This is it!" were the words that reverberated in my mind the whole time.
When we reached the stadium, it was still dark, cold and getting really windy, so I decided to wear my trash bag poncho which turned out to be a fashion statement that day. After grabbing a couple of bananas, I went inside the stadium, where a lot of runners were holed up to keep themselves warm, do some stretching and take potty breaks.

Calm before the storm (photo credit here)

The stadium crowd had swelled as I inched my way out to the general starting corrals. The overall feeling was euphoric and it was really nice seeing and being alongside the Students Run LA runners in neon yellow shirts & matching Nike shoes. As soon as the gun went off, it started to drizzle then poured non-stop after Mile 1. Felt a little uncomfortable running with the poncho and when I decided to lose it before mile 2, the rain became intermittently torrential and worsened by occasional strong winds.

Chinatown Dragon Gate (photo credit here)
Mile 3 past Chinatown was the first hill and it wasn't that bad. "This is it" turned into "I can do this" in my mind so I kept on pushing, keeping my pace between 9-10 min miles. Mile 4 was unforgettable because the rain turned torrential and directed toward us, making it a struggle to see where we're going, except probably those with visors or hats. The thermal beanie I was wearing was rendered useless but I kept it on to keep my ears snug.

Our HEROES! (photo credit here)
One good thing about the race was the steady supply of water every mile, and Gatorade by Mile 3, alternating thereafter. However, my bladder started acting up at around Mile 4, forcing me stop at the nearest porta potty station, which fortunately were available every 2 to 3 miles. I had lost precious minutes while waiting in line, but it felt good after meeting a fellow aspiring marathoner, assuring me that the finish line won't go away ;)

"Puddles" (photo credit here)
Thinking it was due to the cold weather and that I wasn't sweating that much, I felt the need to stop at every porta potty station. My situation turned for the worse at Mile 8, when I started feeling a twinge in my calves. So the potty breaks became welcome opportunities for stretching while waiting in line.

Cruising down Rodeo @Mile 17
I remember one elderly spectator at around Mile 9 yelling: "Hey you're in Hollywood, you should step it up!" It made me push harder for a while but I decided to keep running smart if I wanted to finish the marathon, so I kept my strides short and took walk breaks as needed. The rains didn't matter for a while because I was focused on managing the cramps, as my legs got really stiff and walk breaks became frequent.

Sta. Monica Blvd @Mile 18
Landmarks upon landmarks went by unnoticed, as the porta potties became my mile markers, with the rain & cramping blurring my vision of the finish line. By mile 17 and a slight uphill past Rodeo Drive, "I can do this" turned into a "Prayer of Hope." I've heard several runners hitting the proverbial wall at this stage, and for some reason, strong emotions started welling up as I was about to cross mile 18. Tried to hold them back but flashes of my family and friends who were rooting for me came right before my very eyes, and I also realized I wasn't only running for myself, but for the children in Africa with Team World Vision. The rain did a great job washing away my tears and as I passed by the band playing Route 66 along the Historic Route 66 itself, I told myself everything would be alright :)

Almost there!
Mile 20 marked the longest distance I've ever ran during my training. What I was psyching myself up at that point was to do just 6 more miles to finally belong to the elite club of marathoners. I also decided to stay close to the sidelines where the awesome spectators and volunteers alike, who braved the rains mile after mile, could call out my name & cheer me on to the last 10K. True enough, they boosted my morale and while I was still doing short strides, I was taking lesser walk breaks and having a clearer picture of the finish line.

The Runner's High
Though a bit late, I got my second wind at the last 3 miles and the "Prayer of Hope" turned into a "Prayer of Thanksgiving." I kept on running and while I slowed down a few times, I neither walked nor stopped for another potty break. The cheers were getting louder, as kilometers turned to a few meters, miles into a few feet away. I went faster as I ignored the pain and got a clear view of the finish chute and even passed runners in the process. Somehow, the time didn't matter to me when I crossed the finish line. It just felt good that I completed it and gained the title "Marathoner" that eventful day.

I'm a Marathoner!
All Wet, Tired, In Pain, BUT All Smiles!
Official time: 4:59:58
Click here for RunPix Graphic Results

"I grew up believing that once you completed a marathon it was as if you had been sworn into a secret society. A society of runners who become sisters and brothers, bonded by blisters, chaffing, dehydration, cramping and intense pain! We will have endured the same rigorous path together."

~Shalane Flanagan

"Every endeavor I have made ever,
Is coming into play, is here and now today!"
"This is the moment when all I've done,
All the dreaming, scheming and screaming, become one!"

~excerpt from the song: This is The Moment, from Jeckyll and Hyde: The Musical


  1. Great recap Mike. Nothing like crossing the finish line on your first 26.2! The smile on your face says it all.

  2. Great recap! Congratulations!!

  3. I enjoyed reading your post! Congratulation! It's great to part of of the marathon club. Thanks for sharing!

  4. Congrats! Ran my first in Phoenix in January. Great commemoration of your experience here!

  5. Wonderful recap! Congratulations!!!

  6. Congratulations, Mike. Time to rest and recouperate, dont rush things it will come together in the end

  7. Mike, I'm proud of you. Congratulations again. Definitely, I saw some video of the race that Sunday night. You endured over the elements. Take care and will see you at B2B.

  8. That is a time you should be very proud of! Loved the recap, congratulations man!

  9. Thanks everyone for you kind comments!!!

  10. I feel like such the dork just getting around to reading your marathon recap!!! YOU ABSOLUTELY ROCK!!!! I love every bit of your recap!!!! WTG Congrats again..


  11. I love your blog, Mike! I really do! Feel free to contact me if ever you'd like to be a guest on my blog, Wild Runner Love. Drop me an email if you have any post ideas you'd like to share!
    Chk out my blog for brainstorm ideas :)
    Look forward to hearing from you!

  12. What a great story! nice job :)