Long Beach Marathon
Sunday, October 11, 2009
I've been running almost entirely 5Ks and 10Ks since 1986. Then after three 15Ks and two half marathons, I finally decided, at age 52, that it was time to go conquer the marathon beast. I'm not exactly screaming fast, but I'm decent for my age - usually race the 5K in about 25-26 min, and the 10K in about 52-53 min. So I scratched out the time needed for decent training – Hal Higdon's Novice program. Normally I would train at Intermediate level and race for time, but this was a first marathon. The target was the Long Beach (CA) Marathon on Oct 11, 2009. Long Beach is local for me - about 40 miles away - and I've done its half marathon twice, so I was familiar with much of the course and the associated logistics.
Then after 18 weeks of training, to bootstrap from the 10K baseline to marathon readiness - time to challenge the Big Beast! Race conditions were excellent - temperature in the 60's, cloudy, quite flat course - not quite as pancake flat as their half marathon, but the small hills were pretty harmless.
Bottom line: Finished in 4:43. Not quite burning the asphalt off the road (even for a 53 year old F, since I was targeting 4:23-4:30), but definitely did finish physically and mentally in one piece – YAY! OK, legs were exhausted at the end but I never stopped moving. The finish line says it all: at 26.2, I stepped carefully on the finish mats, smiled ear to ear and gleefully waved my arms in the air. Party time!
The first 18 mi were uneventful. Looking at the split times, I kept within a fairly narrow range (9:42/mi to 9:59/mi) for the first 18 mi. That's probably consistent with my long run training at approx 10:00-10:20/mi pace, although the 9:42 segment may have worn my legs down some. Between mi 18-22 my legs gradually stiffened and slowed. I was tensing my leg muscles to protect my knees, and that was wearing down my legs. Fortunately I didn't crash into the wall - this was like running up an incline for four miles till my legs begged for mercy. I obliged by then walking as fast as I could for about a mile, then finally dug real deep and jogged from mile 23 to the finish (which was as fast as my legs would go). It perhaps cost me about 15 min in finishing time.
But OK, it's a first marathon, ran it as hard as I could, and ran 95% of it. Looking at the race photos, I couldn't help noticing that I looked quite happy to be out there. Not just at the finish line (although those pictures are quite priceless) but at other times during the race. So after a couple of days, I decided to stop analyzing the finish time and instead just celebrate a first marathon. I also found Higdon's recovery programs on the web and so that's the plan for the next few weeks. After that, I've got 5K's and 10K's targeted.
Will I do another marathon? It was very much of a broadening experience, as well as an adventure - taught me a very different type of running style and discipline from what I'm used to. You really have to do it firsthand! So eventually I'd like to do another marathon but probably not for at least a year. For a second marathon, I'd also want to do an intermediate training program rather than novice. The Novice program, in retrospect, did exactly what it was supposed to do - it was the minimal amount of training to get to the start line healthy and to the finish line intact. That was fine; but if I really want to go faster, I'll need to put out the additional time and effort for an Intermediate program. Early 2011 perhaps? See you then!
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