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.