7:31 AM 25 May 2009 @ Figueroa Street & 6th Street, Los Angeles, California
Most of my friends and readers were surprised to know that I ran the BOTAK 42K Marathon Race last 10 May knowing that I have the Los Angeles Marathon scheduled on my list of Road Races to participate into after 14 days of recovery. They don’t know that I was not serious to exert much of my effort in the BOTAK Run and I treated it as my long run in preparation for the bigger event which is the Los Angeles Marathon. Aside from that reason, I had predicted that the BOTAK 42 would be a failure in its administrative, technical, and logistics support for the runners by just looking at their race route. And I was right! The race was a failure in terms of a standard and well-organized Marathon Race but I accomplished what I intended to be attained–to make this race as my “long run” before tapering off for the LA Marathon.
At my age, who would dare to run two (2) Marathon Races in one month with 14 days in between? Hmm…I think it’s only the Bald Runner! (and my Ultramarathon runner-friends) Ha! Ha! Ha! This was the reason why I did not register for the TNF 100 Solo Run—I was already registered to run the LA Marathon way back during the last week of January 2009 (when TNF was not yet decided to conduct the said race!). And this point/issue shows a big difference of the major races done in other countries as compared to the schedule of races that we have in the Philippines. Major races in the USA are scheduled one year ahead while most of our major races are “knee-jerk” running activities where you have at least 2-3 months as lead time. I am sorry but this is the reason why the 2nd Bataan 102K Ultramarathon Race is already scheduled on March 5-6 next year and it will never be postponed.
Running the LA Marathon was a dream to me since its creation, 24 years ago. A year after the 1984 Los Angeles Olympic Games, the LA Marathon was born and I had been a spectator on this event whenever I was here for a vacation. Traditionally, the LA Marathon was held on the month of March but I usually come over here during the months of June or December but there are times when my December vacation would be postponed to January or February and I would stay up to the day of the LA Marathon. So, there was no chance for me to seriously consider running this marathon. The original route of the race, to include the 1984 Olympic Marathon, was 2 street blocks away from our place and I was just contented to watch the elite runners and other competitive runners passed along Sunset Boulevard.
Due to the change of ownership of the LA Marathon last year, it was decided that the March schedule was changed to the month of May. There had been a lot of debates and arguments about such change but the owner’s decision prevailed and had it scheduled on Memorial Day to honor their dead heroes and other soldiers who died in the line of duty, most especially those who are assigned across the seas. And so, my kids and I planned to run together again in a marathon race just like what we did last August 2008 in the San Francisco Marathon as early as January this year.
After I have acclimatized for one week since I arrived last 17 May by running under the cold and hot conditions in LA, I knew I was ready for the race. We woke up at 5:00 AM this morning and I did the usual “ritual” everytime I join a marathon race (except taking the Immodium tabs)…hot coffee, instant oatmeal, cereal with milk, hard-boiled eggs, and bananas. Shaved, took a shower, apply petroleum jelly on my feet, inner upper arms, and upper inner legs/groin part, tied the D-Tag on my shoe lace, and wore my running kit with my bib. We were out of the house at 6:40 AM and walked about 2 kilometers to the Starting Line.
I was amazed to see a lot of runners, more than the runners I saw in last year’s San Francisco Marathon. Almost a distance of 200 meters from the Starting Line up to the back was filled with runners and walkers. We immediately positioned ourselves about 100 meters from the Starting Line as more runners were packed like sardines in the front areas. After the singing of the Star-Spangled Banner, which could hardly be heard in our position, was sang by a choir and it was followed by a Prayer. The speech of the City Mayor followed and it ended with the blowing of the horn which officially started the race. The race started at 7:31 AM, a delay of 11 minutes from the scheduled time of start.
The weather was cool with a prevailing temperature of 60 degrees Fahrenheit and there was an overcast sky. It was a perfect weather for a marathon race! We started to walk towards the Starting Line as the runners at the front started to run and vacate the space where they were waiting before the race started. Even if we occupied the whole wide Figueroa Street, the runners were still shoulder-to-shoulder and tightly could not run or move faster. It took us almost 5 minutes and 35 seconds to finally cross the ChronoTrack Timing sensor at the Starting Line which activates our D-Tags tield on our running shoes and I simultaneously pressed the Start Button of my GF 305. My watch cooperated this time as I deleted some of the data stored in it and made sure that it was fully charged.
The whole stretch of Figueroa St going south covers the whole first mile and succeeding miles of the race. My pace was a slow one as the runners were still closely near with each other. I was forced to slow down because of the situation and I maintained my pace and imagined it as my warm-up run. I had to make a zigzag moves to prevent from bumping on some walkers who were mixed with the runners and who were located infront of us. I finished the first mile in 10:20 minutes and I panicked because it was a very slow pace for me. I started to calculate my finish time by making an average pace of 10 minutes per mile and I assumed that I could finish the race in 260 minutes or 4:20+ hours! I wanted to finish the race with a faster time than that! A group of Japanese drummers would fill the air with noise and rythmic beat as we reached the Staples Center. And that was the start of a festive and noisy environment along the route.
The roads along the route were completely asphalted roads and it is more comfortable to run with it than running on a concrete road. At this portion, the runners are still tight and there is a lack of space where I could overtake the runners infront of me. I just took my patience and slowly increased my pace as the road is slightly downhill and flat. You could see a lot of people along the sidewalk cheering the runners and the LA Police and other security units would be around to see to it that all runners are protected. The runners practically owned the whole street and there were no vehicular traffic crossing the street where were are. We are still along Figueroa Street and as I approached the end of mile 2, I could see that I have gained some speed and was able to shave off at least 30 seconds. I registered an average pace of 6:15 minutes per kilometer, a 9:00+ minutes per mile pace.
We are still along the Figueroa Street and I could see the entrance to the LA Olympic Stadium at my right and later I could see the stainless steel markings of the Exposition Park. The crowd of runners is slowly loosening and I was able to increase my pace. This is the part that I started to perspire but the cold air that is meeting us would slowly dry up my sweat. This is where I started to overtake more runners—some are teen-agers, lady runners, male runners older than my age, and US Armed Forces Veterans carrying the US Flag. Along this portion, I started to feel the urge to urinate as I drank a lot of water before leaving the house. I controlled it as the portalets along the way have a long line of runners waiting for their turn. Despite this situation, I had to drink water and Gatorade in every hydration station. I started to take in my first regular GU Sports Gel as I carried with me 2 regular GU and 3 GU Roctane and a pack of Cliff Shots (Chewable Electrolyte Source). My TNF Racing Shorts was equipped with side & back pockets where my ration was stashed. My right hand was holding my SONY Cybershot Digital Camera wrapped in a Ziplock Bag to prevent my sweat from going to the camera. I was able to shave off another 30 seconds from my average pace.
From the wide road of Figueroa, we turned right to a narrow road where there is a construction on the opposite side of the road. Even if it was a narrow, the space in between runners became bigger and had more chance to overtake a lot of runners. And then suddenly, after a series of turns, the first uphill climb would appear infront of the runners. I didn’t panic as I increased my pace by taking shorter and faster strides as I run through the uphill climb. I had to overtake more runners along this portion. After the climb, it was downhill and I was back on my usual stride and had to make my leg turn-over faster. I was registering a faster pace this time.
More spectators would cheer the runners by shouting, “You can do it”; “Looking good”; Runners! Go! Go! Go!; “Bald Runner, Wohoo”. Yes, a lady who was giving Gatorade drinks to the runners, saw my race bib and shouted those cheers! I guess, there were at least five people who saw my race bib and shouted “Bald Runner”. There was a mixture of Rock and Roll Bands and Mariarchis (Mexican Band) along the route and it was a delight to hear live music from these volunteers/spectators. As we passed along the Residential Areas, I saw the residents cheering and shouting to the runners. They even have banners and posters where they wrote greetings to the runners. Others would have their “coolers”/ice chests with them and gave cold bottled water and soda/sports drinks to runners who are in need. Wow, this is unbelievable. The whole community treated the Marathon Race as a festival with music, cheering, and drinks ligned up along the route and each of the resident-volunteers showed some hospitality to the runners. I had a steady pace along this portion as I passed more runners along the way.
Finally, I could no longer hold my urinary bladder and made a “bold” move on the ligned 6 portalets on the right side of the road. Instead of waiting on the line of runners standing infront of each portalet unit, I immediately went at the back of the portalets and relieved myself with my urine dropping at the grass. Another two white runners would follow me and relieved themselves, too! One guy would say, “Hey, that was a smart move’! I answered, “yes! the grass on the sidewalk needs some fertilizer” and both of us laughed. As I approached the 13.1 mile mark, there was a “carpet” for the RFID timing system that triggers my D-Tag to register my half-marathon split time and passed through it while checking at my GF 305. I saw that my watch registered a time of 2:03 hours and I panicked (again!). I wanted to have a finish time of sub-4 hours on this marathon race. I was already calculating to have a finish time of breaking the 4-hour limit but I recalled that the second half would be a harder task for me because the route is uphill up to the finish line. I tried to increase my pace by “shuffling” and counting the number of strides per minute and made the counting as my running “mantra”.
The distance in between runners would stretch at this part as some would be seen walking, other would be seen stretching their calves and legs along the sidewalk, and most of the runners would walk while drinking their water or Gatorade drinks. This part is really the hardest as more uphill climbs would challenge the runners. There was some relief for the downhill but it would take the runners for another uphill climb again. It was a roller coaster at this part. Volunteers along the route would ask each runner if they feel pain and they would spray Salonpas liquid on the parts where the runner would feel pain. Other volunteers would offer Vaseline Ointment or Petroleum Jelly for those who have problems on “chaffing”. Other volunteers would offere sliced fresh oranges and bananas, and sometimes candies. There is also a hydration point where volunteers would offer “ice cold beer” to the runners. I could just imagine if any of the volunteers in the Philippines would offer this kind of hydration to our runners. I am sure the Filipino runners would ask for the “pulutan” that goes with the “ice cold beer”! Ha! Ha! Ha! At this point, a familiar face overtook me and it was a 7-time Badwater Ultramarathon runner-finisher who was introduced to me by Joe Matias of the A Runners Circle Running Store (I forgot his name!). I would make him as my “target/benchmark” as we had a “see-saw” race on this portion of the route. He is a tall runner and he is fast.
I was surprised when one of the spectators shouted “Manny Pacquiao” when I passed him. Hmmm..I think he means that I am a Filipino! More cheers, more rock bands, more fruits and water along the way. I took my 2nd regular GU at Mile 6 and then started to take my 1st GU Roctane at Mile 10; my second Roctane at Mile 16; and my last one at Mile 22 which would carry me up to the finish line. The Cliff Shots were mostly taken from Mile 16 to Mile 24. At this point, I don’t feel any pain on my legs except for some slight pain on my left knee cap which disappears whenever I shift to my “shuffling” mode with faster frequency of strides. I really do not bend my knees when doing my “shuffling” and only lift my feet a few inches from the ground and I gain more speed and grounds by doing this and I would be relieved from the pain. It was still a slight uphill along the route. One of the volunteers would shout to the runners, “Dude, you have less than 10K run to go, the Finish Line is near”. Yes, dude, it is easy to say that if you are not running!
I managed to overtake more runners as these runners were positioned at the front before the start of the race. They are walking and some are having cramps. Others would run quickly to overtake and then stop and walk. The Badwater Ultramarathon runner would eventually build a considerable distance between us and he was able to position himself at least 300 meters ahead of me. He is the only runner who overtook me from the start of the marathon race at this point. As I was approaching Mile 25, I noticed a loud steps of a runner on my left who was about to overtake me and to my surprise, it was Dean Karnazes in person! I tried to keep up with his pace for about 800 meters and I greeted him and told him that I am the “Bald Runner”. He offered his hand and we had a handshake and started a conversation by asking him about his TNF 100 Australia experience. He told me that the TNF 100 was fine and challenging and I told him that the TNF 100 Philippines was held last weekend. I asked him if he is joining the upcoming San Diego 100-Mile Endurance Run and he said that he’ll not join the ultra running event as he will be running the San Diego “Rock & Roll” Marathon next Sunday. I checked on my GF 305 average pace while I was running with him and it registered a 5:00-minute per kilometer pace! I tried to keep up with his pace and I slowly faded with his blistering speed/pace as we are approaching the last 300 meters to the Mile 26 marker. It was my fourth encounter with the famous Karno since I met him at Badwater last July 2008. Dean Karnazes was the 2nd guy who overtook me during the duration of the race! In summary, those guys who overtook me were two (2) elite ultramarathon runners who are much younger than me.
As I reached the Finish Line, I stopped my GF 305 and saw the readings on the digital clock with a time of 4:13:02 hours. My GF 305 registered a time of 4:07:35 hours and my official Finish Time (Chip time) is 4:07:33 hours as posted on the Official Results. Not bad! If not for the heavy traffic of runners at the first half and the difficulty of the terrain on the second half, I could have reached the finish line in less than 4 hours. Anyway, it will be one of my objectives to improve my finish time in the coming days in preparation for the Milo Elimination Marathon Run on the first week of July.
Based from the Official Results, I placed #1,902 out of 14,185 finishers; # 1,630 out of 9,011 Male runners; and placed #47 out of the runners in my Age Category 55-59 years old. I registered an average pace of 9:26.6 minutes per mile.
In my GF 305, I registered an average pace of 5:48 minutes per kilometer and an average heart rate of 154 beats per minute. As for the distance, my watch registered a distance of 42.68 kilometers. I could have ran an extra distance of 500 meters!
Assessment & Conclusion
It was a blast and fun to experience running a marathon with almost 14,000 participants where infront and at your back is a “sea of runners”. The cooperation of the whole community and the support of the volunteers are awesome and phenomenal which is hardly experienced in the Philippines. What surprises me now is the fact that there are high-ranking influential and rich personalities in our society (they are in government service and some are in the corporate world) whose feats and finishes in international marathon races (like New York & Boston) for the past months and years had been published in the newspapers with their pictures on the front pages of our daily broad sheets but I don’t feel or see or heard from them any actions or initiatives to raise the bar or standards of helping or supporting our running events (especially an International Marathon Race in Manila) in the country which could attract international runners. You know already as to whom I am referring to. Kailan kaya tutulong ang mga ito? Kinakailangan bang maki-usap at lumuhod tayo sa kanila para tutulong at gagalaw sila?
As an advise to the hardcore runners and competitive ones who want to experience a memorable and “complaint-free” Marathon Race, save some money and travel to the United States and select one of the marathon events held in the cities along the Pacific States or in Hawaii. You can also try the New York Marathon or to any other marathon events in the USA where you are comfortable (where you have a relative who can support you in terms of accommodation and transportation). Once you experience joining one of the Marathon Races in the US, then you will know what I am talking about. Guys, forget Hongkong, Singapore, Kuala Lumpur, and other Asian city’s Marathon races, go to the USA and you will never regret it.
Lastly, I consider the XXIV Los Angeles Marathon a “perfect” marathon event.