Saturday, April 11, 2015

My First Marathon-- the LA Marathon 2015

Running for me is a good example of "no pain, no gain." I don't usually like the act of running. It's most of the time pain and suffering (most specially long distances of more than 21km), but I run anyway. More than anything, it's the feeling after that I love and crave for. The fulfillment of setting a new personal record, accomplishing a specific goal or simply being able to drag my ass off the coach on a lazy Sunday afternoon to clock in a few kilometers. 

So after training for 6 months, I was able to accomplish my goal of completing a marathon. I am really proud of myself. 

I finished the LA Marathon 2015! I flew 11,800 kilometers, Philippines to Los Angeles, to run my first 42 kilometers. Yes, it was more costly than running in the Philippines; plus, I also had to consider getting used to the timezone. But still, I am glad I chose to have my first marathon in Los Angeles. Philippine running events are far from the very festive, highly attended, yet organized LA Marathon. I wouldn't mind going through all the preparations again to experience LA and see its lovely people. 

After finishing the LA Marathon 2015. The best medal-- heavy, thick and top quality--ever!
The LA Marathon, Stadium to the Sea: 

Two days before the race, we checked in at Ritz Milner Hotel in downtown LA. It was more convenient to be near LA Convention Center (where the expo was held and I picked up my race kit) and Dodger Stadium (where the starting line was), so we didn't have to go back and forth LA and Fontana (our homebase in California) when I picked up my race kit and went to the actual race.

3:50am: about to go to the shuttle station

The shuttle pick up station in Figueroa street was also just a 3 minute walk from the hotel.

All set! I think I caught the first shuttle

I got to the stadium around 4:30am. At that time vehicle traffic near the stadium was already close to heavy and runners were just starting to arrive. There were more than 26,000 participants, and getting early in the venue was an advantage. 

I was happily surprised that there was free breakfast available of banana, bagel and energy bar. I lined up to get mine and immediately looked for the open seed waiting area. 

Early birds at Dodger Stadium

I was aiming for a 5:30 time, so I stayed at the 12 minutes per mile group. I was really impressed with this strategy. Runners with more or less the same speed were together, so human traffic was smooth for everyone. In the few  Philippine races I participated in, which were not really as big, I spent the first few minutes overtaking slower runners and being passed by faster ones. 

Targeting 12 minutes per mile 

Before I knew it the energy level at Dodger Stadium got really high and exciting. Music blasted from a local band, runners here and there were preparing themselves--some doing their warm ups, putting petroleum jelly and sun block on their body parts, using the porta-potties; while clear announcements about bag deposit and start time could be heard.

LA Marathon 2015 runners waiting for the gun start

These porta-potties were such a joy! There were a lot in Dodger Stadium-- maybe 100+. I was loading up on water and drank more than two litters a day seven days prior the race that I had to use the pottie 3 times before the gun start and on the 6th mile. Thankfully, there were also portalets on the course.

Porta-potties in Dodger Stadium

There were also runners who went out of their way to spread good vibrations. This Smiley face balloon did a good a job of cheering me up and shaking off my nerves.
One runner brought a Smiley balloon

Another proof that it was going to be a good run-- all of us runners were lucky to have this colorful sunrise. I just love a great sunrise. It's a promise of an awesome day ahead.

Sunrise during the LA Marathon 2015

And then it was race time. One by one each corral was called with the open corral being the last. Once I passed the starting line, I was in the zone. 
LA Marathon 2015 starting line

I wasn't able to take as much photos that I would have wanted to on the course, because doing so would have affected my time. Though like what I said, it was such a joyous event. Aside from refreshments--water and Gatorade--on each mile marker, there was also entertainment from a local band. But what I was surprised with was the people. Spectators--young and old-- went out of their way to cheer, support and prepare placards for the runners. Seeing and hearing the cheerers were more than enough already. But they even prepared food like orange slices, jelly beans, ice candies, ice cubes, gummy bears, pizza pie slices, chips, pretzels, and twizzlers for the runners. I tried some before I realized that munching on ice cubes was the best. It was hard to eat during a run, even energy bars. Sweet or sour food on a really hot weather made me more thirsty. There were also refreshments and sometimes free hugs, high fives and Vaseline. Who would not be motivated with all of that!? As for the placards, I can still remember some that made me smile and want to push myself more like Your feet hurt because you are kicking ass; Pain is temporary, pride is forever; Believe me, hell is hotter; Worst parade ever; Run like you stole something; There is beer in the finish line; Smile if you peed a little; Smile if you need to poop.
LA Marathon 2015

The legacy runners were very inspiring. I want to be just like them.

LA Marathon Legacy Runner Ruth

It became challenging for me on the 10th mile. Suddenly I felt really heavy. Might be because of the mix of unfamiliar air, extremely hot weather--reached 90 degrees, and jetlag. I started counting and looking forward to each mile marker. I wasn't expecting this since I already had conquered a very comfortable 21 mile race in the Philippines. 
LA Marathon 2015 runners

Another group that helped me a lot was my host family and my fellow Filipinos on the 13th mile. Apparently, my tita Precy--who took care of me when I was young and she was still in the Philippines--and her family volunteer as water station operators, together with the APO fraternity in LA, every year. Her husband Tito Rocky is the APO member. Seeing familiar faces and fellow Filipinos and getting hugs from them right exactly on the half mark of the race gave me an additional boost. I even have my own signage.
LA Marathon Mile 13 with APOGLA

For some reason, I did not notice the 24th mile marker, so it was a very pleasant surprise when I saw the 25th. One more mile left!
LA Marathon 25th mile marker

The last mile seemed the longest and composed of a lot of walks. It was where "you are almost there" felt the farthest. At this point, I had to be extra careful not to get into any injury. One wrong move and my leg would had easily gave up on me. 

I just made sure that I was running as I crossed the finish line. Approximately 250 meters from finishing, I gathered all the energy I had left and ran with all my heart. I finished my first marathon and the fulfillment is tremendous! 

I cried when I finally saw my husband. After running for 5 hours and 38 minutes-- just 8 minutes off my target time-- there were just a mix of so many feelings: I was dead tired, I was very happy with my accomplishment (quitting was not an option and it wasn't easy), I missed him, my family and friends and I realized I'm so lucky to have them (running makes me think and reflect about my life). He cried, too. Out of relief that I made it in one piece. 

LA Marathon 2015 Finisher! 

Right after our small, happy reunion, we saw a medic station. Ice bags then sounded like a very good idea. Those cold bags helped relieve my aching tired legs. 

Ice bags for my tired legs

This, by far, was the best race I ever ran. From the time I registered online, to the expo, actual race, medal--heavy and high quality, post race and up to now, the support and updates have always been grade A. A million thanks to all the organizers, volunteers, spectators, my family, friends, coach and husband for making the LA Marathon a very memorable milestone for me.  

The Expo: 

Here are some photos from the expo when I picked up my race kit. It was also the first and so the best pre-race event I've been to. 
NutriBullet Heath and Fitness Expo 2015

Of course, I'll have a photo here. I have to post it on Instagram! 
LA Marathon NutriBullet Expo 2015 entrance 

I am officially part of the run! Race bib number 15775.

LA Marathon 2015 race bib number 15775

I had to make sure that my transponder was working and it was. 

Transponder test 

They even set dedicated walls for photo ops and possibly Instagram-worthy shots.

LA Marathon 2015

LA Marathon 2015

LA Marathon 2015

And there was a free wall, too.

Dear LA, Let's do this! 

The excitement just went up some more when I saw my name on this list among 26,000+ other runners. I easily spotted my name as it was in alphabetical order. 

Good thing the list was in alphabetical order

Ta-dah! My name is there! 

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