Friday, March 05, 2004

The L.A. Marathon is this Sunday. I'm not running it.

I probably run enough to do it, even finish in a fairly respectable time, maybe even under 4 and a half hours. But I don't wanna.

I like running. I like the exercise, the fresh air, the feeling of getting stronger and faster and watching the scenery in the fancy homes of Beverly Hills or the weirdos at Venice Beach. Yeah, I really like running. For up to two hours. Then it just sucks.

I trained for the Chicago Marathon last fall. I was determined to do better than the LA Marathon which I had run two years in a row, several years ago. I figured the only reason I shouldn't do as well in Chicago was that I was a few years older. Otherwise, I was stronger, faster, lighter, and had trained longer and smarter. Also, Chicago is completely flat; in L.A., we ran several miles north toward Hollywood… on foot you realize why the street is called Highland Avenue.

So I did Chicago in 3:56, beating my four-hour LA time. Sure, that's great, but… only four minutes faster? I was hoping to do 3:45, or better. I felt proud of my accomplishment and all, but I just don't know if I'd do it again.

What happened was the same thing that happened both times in LA. I was cruising along, going fast but pacing myself, not letting my heart rate go to high. And then, around mile 20, my legs turned to concrete. I expected to "hit the wall", but I was hoping it wouldn't happen 'til later. When you've got 2 or 3 miles left, you can push past the pain. When you've got another 7 miles – which takes about an hour to run, when you're feeling good – that's a really hard wall to bust through. It was like a battle within my body. The upper half was fine. My heart, lungs and brain were yelling, "Let's go!" But my legs said, "Screw you, pal."

Through sheer will-power I finished in a decent time, but it was hardly a happy stroll through Chi-town. I remember how at mile 7, they were playing the theme from "Pulp Fiction" on a loudspeaker and the music spurred me on. At mile 23, I heard another inspirational song and thought, "Oh the theme from 'Rocky'. Anyway…. Ow, my quads are killing me." The last mile took me 12 minutes to run. If I had crawled, I think it would've been faster.

I've been running shorter distances, and having a lot more success at it. 5Ks, 10Ks, half-marathons. My times have been getting better and better, often to my surprise. Y'know how for years, people thought the 4-minute mile was unbeatable, until Roger Bannister came along? Well, I'm like that… only twice as slow. I'm finding I can do sub-8 minute miles, maybe even sub-7 someday… for a 10K.

Perhaps in another post, I'll tell some stories of these competitions, like the schmuck who hit me in the middle of the run, and made me determined to kick his ass… at least in the race. In the meantime, I tried to paste a table of my geeky listing of the last ten races I've done. But I'm not enough of a geek to know how to get the table to format legibly in this blog, so forget it for now. Trust me, I'm getting faster.

Many of my running friends are getting ready for LA, and I'm a little jealous I'm not doing it. I asked a few experienced runners how to prevent the cramping I get after 2 hours, and they offered several suggestions, but one piece of advice was unanimous: run more. Like, double my mileage.

I don't have the time or energy for that. I'm doing well at these races, I'm in shape… why kill myself? Because of guilt-inducing articles like this? (Don't know if that link will work. But I know the guy in the picture; Tyrone's a pace leader at the Niketown runs. And he's fast.)

Maybe as the weather gets better, maybe if I have more free time, I'll start training for the Rock N Roll Marathon in San Diego this June, or the New York Marathon in November, or the Chicago Marathon again. For now, I'm just planning to do the Run Hit Wonder and Santa Anita Derby Day races again.

And maybe this Sunday, I'll root some of my friends on as they race 26.2 miles through Hollywood and Downtown L.A. Or maybe I'll just be sleeping in.


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