Sunday, April 8, 2018

Comparison of my performance at two marathons

I ran two marathons that were 20 days apart recently. First one was the Los Angeles Marathon on March 18, 2018. Second one was the Eisenhower Marathon in Abilene, KS on April 7, 2018. At both these marathons, my finish times were very close to my best times ever, and I had a lot of fun running these marathons! A sharp contrast to the recent years after running my previous completed marathon in 2009 when I had given up on running marathons altogether as too difficult for me. 

Successfully completing two marathons within 20 days, and remaining injury free while doing so is giving me the confidence that I can successfully incorporate marathon training and running into my daily life, and work successfully towards realizing my long-term goal of accomplishing the Boston Marathon Qualification (Which means I have to finish a marathon in 3h25m!) over the next 4-8 years. 

Analyzing the mile-by-mile breakdown of the two marathons has some interesting insights about my performance at the two marathons. 

  • FINISH TIMES : 5 hours 7 minutes at Los Angeles Marathon. 4 hours 56 Minutes at Eisenhower Marathon. A 11 minutes improvement over LA Marathon, and my best time ever.
    This is a good indicator of how steady my pace was through the 26+ miles distance of the marathon. Steadier the pace through the distance, the better it is for my body during the race, and afterwards during the recovery.
    • At the Los Angeles Marathon, I ran at a very consistent pace throughout to have the average pace to be in a narrow range between 11:00 min/mile and 11:30 min/mile pace to end with a final average pace of 11:27 min/mile. The steady pace resulted in an even split between the first half and the second half of the race. First half taking around 2h32m, while the second half taking around 2h35m.
    • At the Eisenhower Marathon, I started out very fast - with 8:48 & 8:44 min/mile for the first two miles - and slowed down considerably over the rest of the way to finish with a final average pace of 11:06 min/mile. This quick start and later fade-out resulted in a very lop-sided split between the first half and the second half of the race. The first half took around 2h12m, while the second half took 2h44m. 
While the Eisenhower Marathon resulted in my best time ever mainly because of the fast start, I am more satisfied about the steady race I ran at the Los Angeles Marathon, and hope to repeat the same steady running at every race in the future. 

The 2h12m finish for the first half of the Eisenhower Marathon (around 10 minutes per mile pace) does give rise to hopes that with proper training (consistent and sensible) over the next few months, I can successfully extend that pace to the entire race. Thereby achieving a personal best finish time of better than 4h30m.

As I have things set-up currently, one of the next Big City Marathons - Chicago Marathon - is on October 7th, 2018. Almost exactly 6 months away. Looks realistic that I can plan and work towards finishing the Chicago Marathon in 4h30m!

Tuesday, March 20, 2018

Awesome Experience Running the Los Angeles Marathon 2018

I am flying high after having an awesome experience at the Los Angeles Marathon 2018 on Sunday.

I had put in solid training for this event over the last 4 months, and it helped me finish the marathon in a faster than expected 5h07m14s; that was the foundation on which my terrific experience at the marathon was built on. 
Since taking on the goal of running a minimum of 30 miles every week towards the end of December 2017, I have been successful in that goal every week except one during which I was hampered by an abdominal muscle strain. 

With the 30 miles per week target as the over-arching goal, I planned my long runs towards the goal of being ready for a 26.2 miler on Mar 18th. 

With this consistent & sensible training over a long time, I was able to exceed my expectations by a fair margin on marathon day. I had expected a finish time close to 5h30m, and was pleasantly surprised to see it being closer to 5h mark than the 5h30m mark!

One of the main reasons I had signed up to run this marathon was the fact that Los Angeles Marathon is a BIG CITY MARATHON. I had run two marathons in the past - Philadelphia Marathon in 2008, and New York City Marathon in 2009. So I have a taste of big-city marathons, and remember having fond memories from each of the two marathons. 

Los Angeles Marathon 2018 met my thirst for the big city marathon thrills, and added its own flavors to make it an awesome experience. 

One big difference that stands out for me between the three marathons is the marathon course. Both Philly and NYC marathons had long stretches of the course far from residential and commercial areas - Philly had state parks & rivers, etc; NYC had many bridges and parks - and consequently, there were no spectators cheering at these inaccessible stretches. 

Los Angeles Marathon had no such breaks. Once we moved out of the starting point at Dodger Stadium as one big sea of runners, the entire course is never too far from a residential area or a commercial area till the finish line at Santa Monica Pier. Spectators were cheering us throughout making it feel like a wall of cheering spectators from the start to the finish! 

Even if they have signs cheering for someone specific, or a general message like "Go Random Stranger" or "I believe in you, total stranger", it is indeed very inspiring to be running past people cheering (for you). 

One thing that surprised & amazed me throughout was the number of people (regular people, not marathon volunteers) who were offering vaseline to the runners  - by holding up vaseline containers, or boards with multiple patches of vaseline for easy access. Looks like the general public in Los Angeles is well aware of the pains of long-distance runners, about the chafing in different parts of the body while on a 26.2 miles run. I was glad to get some vaseline from a woman at around the 18 miles mark, as my nipples were chafing badly; applying the vaseline gave instant relief. 

Some people were also offering some spray to alleviate cramping or itching for the runners. I didn't stop to find out more details about it, or make use of it myself. Will keep it in mind for the next big city marathon (most likely the Chicago Marathon 2018 in October).

Quite a few people were offering cut oranges, cut bananas, pretzels, cookies, candies, etc. along the way to supplement the water + gatorade + energy gels being offered by the event organizers at regular intervals.

It was awesome to see many Sikh people with traditional turbans among the people offering fruits and candies along the way. I high-fived a few folks with a sense of kinship.

With 24,000 runners running the marathon, it is to be expected for the portable toilets to be difficult to use - especially in the first few miles, even though the organizers had set up significant number of portable toilets all along the course. They had portable potties setup at every mile mark. I waited in line at a couple of portable toilets at the beginning, but gave up quickly deciding to try at the next one. :-) 

One time I had to wait in line for 4-5 minutes as I couldn't hold it in any longer. That made my 11th mile the slowest at 15m24s immediately after my fastest mile at 9m55s :-)
Close to the very first set of portable toilets after the one mile mark, a couple of ladies running next to me were discussing whether it makes sense to stay in line at these portable potties. What made this very interesting is the fact that the conversation was in Kannada language! It was a pleasant surprise for me to hear Kannada language in LA. The women too were surprised when I turned back amazed and responded in Kannada. :-)

All in all, the Los Angeles Marathon was a very well organized marathon with a great course and supportive crowd. I would run it again.