The 2022 Boston Marathon is done! What a great experience. I share my time at the race, my results and assessment of my performance. I explore the elite performances on the men’s and women’s sides as well as taking time off after the marathon and enjoying it.
Tag: Marathon racing
London Marathon Race Recap 5 WMM’s Down 1 To Go
This race recap is finally getting done now that I’m back home from across the pond. I didn’t have too much time to start my London Marathon race recap since my wife and I did a lot of sightseeing on our trip. London is one of the world’s most vibrant cities for a reason and we now have an even better understanding of why. It’s no surprise one of the world’s most important cities would put on one of the world’s best marathons–maybe even THE BEST.
Even though the race itself is a great experience, my performance was my worst ever. My goal was to run under three hours but the warm and somewhat humid weather, along with my minor training injuries, did me in. I finished with the official time of 3 hours, 15 minutes, 59 seconds. That’s roughly 27 minutes slower than my personal best time of 2:48:48 in Berlin just several months earlier. I’ll explain what happened, how I felt and what I can learn from this. Despite my performance, I did finish and I did complete my fifth Abbott World Marathon Major. I now have one more to go (Tokyo) before I complete all six and collect the coveted six-star medal which is given to people who finish all six majors.
I also completed my fundraising goal for Livability. I had a chance to meet some people who work for this outstanding charity and was touched by the work they do and was honored to be able to help.
Here’s how the trip started. We arrived Friday afternoon, ate and slept early to wake up to collect my Livability singlet and bib number at the expo.
The expo was well-organized and it was very easy to collect my bib.
If you notice, I’m wearing my 2016 Los Angeles Marathon shirt. I had to represent Los Angeles while in London 🙂
After the expo, we toured the Tower of London which was magnificent and full of history, both good and bad. The walking didn’t bother me and my legs felt fine. There was no groin pain nor was my shin splint issue a problem. After touring the tower, we ate and went back to the hotel for an early night.
Like most people, I get a little nervous and anxious before a big race. My sleep wasn’t great but it wasn’t horrible either. I woke up in the morning feeling generally fine. My legs felt good thanks to massaging by my wife the night before that included a roller that really works at loosening the muscles. I ate oatmeal and a banana like I do every morning of a race whether it’s a 5k or marathon. I also drank my hydration drink from Osmo. This drink helps my body stay hydrated during long races. Hydration is so important in a marathon. Of course, I was drinking water regularly leading up to the race but this drink helps keep sodium and electrolyte levels more balanced. It’s not a miracle drink and it doesn’t replace the need for water during the race but it certainly helps.
I also knew it was going to be warm. Like all marathon runners, I check the weather forecast to the hour. The forecast called for clear skies and temperatures in the low to mid-70s. Yikes! While sunny and in the 70s seem like perfect weather it is absolutely horrendous for a marathon. The ideal marathon temperature is anywhere from 45 to 55 degrees. When a race is long, cooler weather is preferred because the warmer temperatures slow the body down because the body uses more energy to cool itself rather than to make you run faster. A one-mile run in 85 degree weather can be tolerated as I’ve done it before. That race is only four to six minutes. A race that lasts two to five hours in those conditions means slower times. Plus, it was a little humid and the race started at 10am when the sun is even higher in the sky. Knowing all this, I still felt confident that I could run under three hours but probably not a personal best. I have trained in these conditions but training and racing are much different.
I also decided to wear my usual racing shoes even though they were worn out. I used new inserts to prevent them from slipping out like one did in the Pasadena Half Marathon. I felt the new inserts would help. I did bring another pair of shoes to possibly race in but I felt I would go with what I know. That probably wasn’t a good idea. My racing shoes were done. More on that later.
My wife and I got onto a bus and headed to the underground station to go to the start. We left around 7am so that would give us enough time to get there without rushing. The trains were packed with runners so I had to mostly stand. It was ok though.
We arrived at Greenwich Park, where the race begins, a little past 8am. The park is huge and we walked uphill to the start line and runner villages. It was as sunny as it could get. Not a cloud in the sky in a city known for cool, damp and dreary weather. It was also getting warm. I could feel the sun beat on me even while sitting and relaxing. My wife went off to find a spot to see me around the 10k mark while I entered the runner’s village.
I drank my beet juice, which has nitrates to help expand blood vessels so more energy can get to the muscles. I also did my usual warm up routine. I wore calf compression sleeves for the first time in a race. My calves felt a little tight in the days before the race so I chose to wear the sleeves to help with blood flow and prevent possible cramping. It worked. There were no calf cramps and I didn’t feel the sleeves were a nuisance.
I made my way to the red start line which is where all the charity runners line up. Like the New York City Marathon, there were different start lines that merge about three miles into the race. I was in the pen when Queen Elizabeth appeared on the big screen from Windsor Castle to officially start the race. She pressed the button and we were all off. Us charity runners had to wait a couple minutes for the Good for Age runners to start. This was no bother because I had a timing chip on my shoe so my official time didn’t start until I crossed the start line.
Once I crossed the start line, I began my run. It’s always best to run the first few miles a little slower than goal pace. My first mile was 6:29 which was my ideal goal pace. I wasn’t sure if that’d be sustainable so I slowed down on mile two for a 6:39 then picked it up again for a 6:31 mile three. My first 5k split was 20:36 which is in line with my other marathons. However, the heat started to get to me and my legs started to feel a little heavy. I was already sweating more than usual. Every time I stepped down, it felt like my feet were slipping as if I didn’t have proper traction. It was probably the new inserts combined with the worn out shoes.
My second 5k split was slower at 21:07. It was at the 10k mark that I started to think a sub-3 hour marathon was going to be very difficult. I could feel the sun sitting on top of me like a weight. My shin didn’t bother me nor did my groin so that was good. While I felt myself starting to struggle, the amazing crowds kept me going. They kept shouting my name and cheering me on. How did they know my name? It was on the front of my singlet. I recommend, if you can, putting your name on your singlet for a marathon or any race. People will cheer your name and it does help. Hearing random people in the crowd shout for you really does push you along. I should also add the crowds for London were among the best I’ve ever heard.
My mile splits started to drop in to the 6:50s before bouncing up to a 6:36 mile 8 but they were all slower after that. The course itself wasn’t hard. It’s generally flat but has some small ups and downs in many places unlike Berlin or Chicago, which are basically pancake flat.
By mile 10, I knew anything above 2:55 would be almost impossible for me. I was starting to wither in the heat. I did grab water a few times at the stations. They were small plastic bottles which you can squeeze. I thought that was great because you can carry it with you for a bit without worrying about it spilling like in a cup.
I went up and through the Tower Bridge and crossed the half way mark a little bit later in 1:28:43. That’s still sub-3 pace but I knew at that point it probably wasn’t going to happen. I felt a little disappointed but I quickly just focused on running the best I could and didn’t worry myself about a sub-3 time anymore. It was just too hot. The sun just felt heavier and heavier as it sat on me. My shoes felt as if they had no traction and I started to heel strike on the hot pavement which made my left heel feel as if it was burning. I basically felt awful. I maintained my splits in the 6:50s until mile 16 when I ran a 7:12 mile. I could feel my body losing energy and power in the 75-degree heat which felt more like 95 to 100-degree heat. It turned out to be the hottest London Marathon on record!
I slogged through the next few miles seeing more people than usual pass me. Right before the mile 20 mark, I started to walk. I was just too exhausted. My body couldn’t handle the heat. I’ve only stopped or walked two other times in races. One was for a quick restroom stop in New York at mile 11 and the other was a 51k race (31.7 miles) in which I started out way too fast. I walked/ran for the next four miles in front of the largest crowds. I wasn’t devastated but I wasn’t happy either. I walked briskly with my head down so I could still walk with a purpose. I heard people cheer me on and give me encouragement. It helped tremendously. When I got to mile 24, I ran again..slowly…very slowly. I didn’t stop running until the finish–2.2 miles later. I made it a point to finish as strongly as I could. It wasn’t strong by my normal standards but it was all that I had.
I ran past the Parliament building with Big Ben hiding behind scaffolding for maintenance work. I turned right, saw Buckingham Palace and followed the curved road until it straightened out to the finish a few hundred yards away. I saw a line of British flags on poles leading to the finish and the roaring crowd. I plodded to the finish and put my hands in the air to celebrate. I was done! I collected my medal and my finisher t-shirt and walked slowly to the meet-up area. It was still hot.
Two things that I never experienced with such intensity during a race happened to me during those final 2.2 miles. I got hit with extreme tiredness as if my body wanted me to stop and nap on the side of the road and extreme hunger. My body wanted a large quantity of food. Usually, it takes 20 to 30 minutes after a marathon before my body can handle solid foods.
When I sat down waiting for my wife, I drank whatever liquids were in my post-race goodie bag along with an apple and a couple granola-type bars. I scarfed those down unlike ever after a marathon. It was unusual for me but this was an usual race.
While sitting, I was ok with not reaching my goal. While I strive for consistency, there are going to be some ups and downs. It’s just math. The more you run, the more good and bad races you’ll have. But that being said, you want most of your races to be consistent. This race was on the bad end. I reflected on what I should’ve done better though. I remembered I went through something similar after the Boston Marathon in 2014. I ran a personal best at the time of 2:49:21. I felt if I could keep training like I did, I’d push my times even lower. What happened was I didn’t give my aging body time to properly recover before I intensified training for the 51k race that August. That race was bad for me as I briefly mentioned above, but I still didn’t learn. I trained for the Las Vegas Marathon that November. My training runs started to get slower (a sign of overtraining) and I felt anxious and pressured internally to perform well. This all added up to running a 3:05:50 just a seven months after my 2:49 in Boston. 3:05 is a fine time but not what I wanted. I didn’t run a marathon again until Chicago in October, 2015. I felt better, more focused and ran 2:54. That was done after not running for six weeks in May/June due to a stress reaction.
I think part of me felt pressured shortly after Berlin to equal or rival that performance in London. I had wanted to run all six majors under three hours. Because of that, I developed a nagging injury like shin splints which caused my groin strain. I lost valuable training time.
I sat down recovering realizing no goals were shattered. I reflected on the race itself and the course, crowds, etc. The whole experience was still amazing even as I struggled in the heat. I thought I could run this again and go under 3 which would still allow me to complete my goal.
My wife and I headed to a nearby hotel for a post-race reception hosted by Livability. We met great people there and learned more about Livability’s mission of helping connect disabled people to their communities. They thanked us for raising money but we thanked them for devoting themselves to helping those less fortunate. I made a decision to run this race again in the future (possibly even next year) and when I do, I will once again fundraise for Livability.
What’s next for me? I plan to take two to three weeks off completely from running following the race. I want my legs, body and mind to rest and recover. I’ll start again slowly with renewed vigor and excitement and without anymore self-imposed pressure. I did plan to run the Twin Cities Marathon in Minnesota in October but I may skip that one. I will also find some local 5ks, 10ks and half marathons to run coming up in the summer so that’ll be fun. This summer, I also have to figure out how to enter the Tokyo Marathon in March to complete my six-star journey. I will probably raise money for a charity again. I enjoyed that and think I can do it again. If not Tokyo in March, maybe Boston in April or London again. I’m excited about the possibilities. I’m even more excited about running again feeling fresh both physically and mentally.
Overall, the London Marathon is incredible. The crowds are loud and spirited, the course is fun and the weather won’t always be hot and awful. Raising money for a charity also give you more of a purpose. If you can run this race, do it!
Running With You,
BERLIN MARATHON SUCCESS!!! A Review and Recap
My apologies for this being a week-and-a-half late but I wanted to make sure I had enough time and energy to tell the complete story of my Berlin Marathon experience. Given my journalism experience, I won’t bury the lead.
My goal for this race was to run a personal best time. I felt my training plan and fitness level would allow me to run under 2 hours, 49 minutes, 21 seconds that I ran in Boston in 2014. I succeeded! I ran 2 hours, 48 minutes, 48 seconds! I set a new PR (personal record) by 33 seconds. And I did it in so-so weather conditions. The temperature was in the mid to upper-50s for the race which was fantastic but it rained before and during part of the race which left the streets wet. The rain also led to thicker and more humid air. This killed any chance the elites had at finishing under two hours and also derailed an attempt at breaking the official world record of 2:02:57. The winner, Eliud Kipchoge, still ran 2:03:32 which is one of the fastest times ever run.
I didn’t feel the rain or thicker air slowed me down that much. The rain was light and didn’t fog up my glasses or hinder me in any way other than getting me wet which I dealt with. I wasn’t going to let some water derail a chance at setting a PR. I did slow down more than usual during turns, however. That was to avoid slipping on the wet streets. There weren’t too many turns so I don’t think I lost a lot of time slowing down to make them.
Now that I got that out of the way, I’ll go in chronological order of the events leading up to and during the race.
ARRIVING IN BERLIN
The race was on Sunday, September 24th. My wife and I arrived in Berlin on Friday afternoon from Los Angeles. The time difference is nine hours. We got to the hotel and slept for hours and hours and hours and hours. We were tired from the long flight and jet-lagged. Before the marathon, I wanted to make sure I would be as rested as I could and if that meant sacrificing a day of sight-seeing then so be it. We slept until the early morning on Saturday. We both felt better. We ate a great breakfast at the hotel and headed to the marathon expo to pick up by bib, timing chip and shirt.
The wife and I arrived at the expo around 11am which was perfect because when we left about 90 minutes later, the line to get in was packed. The process to pick up my bib and timing chip was smooth. I headed to another room to get my shirt which is optional. The marathon doesn’t give everyone shirts. You have to pay extra for it. That wasn’t so bad because even with the shirt, the Berlin Marathon was still cheaper than New York, Chicago and Boston.
The expo had a lot of different booths. Running shoes, clothing, gear could all be bought. Reps from other marathons were there to promote their races. We got in some pictures, of course, which is part of the fun.
After the expo, we took a river boat cruise and did some sight-seeing. We ate dinner and went back to the hotel early so I could get lots of sleep. I was drinking water throughout the day to ensure I would be properly hydrated for the race. I set the alarm for 4:30am even though the race was to start at 9:15am. This would give me enough time to wake up, eat, make sure I have all that I need and give us enough time to get to the race. I didn’t sleep all that well though. I’m sure some of it was because of jet-lag and sleeping a lot the night before. Also, excitement and some nerves contributed. It was a big day.
I woke up around 4:30am. I rolled out of bed around 4:45am. I ate a banana and granola bar and drank a pre-race hydration drink which helps the body deal maintain energy during intense efforts.
We left the room around 6:15am and walked a few blocks to the subway station. The staging area to drop off my bag of clothes and other items was basically in a nice grassy area in front of the Reichstag which is where Germany’s lawmakers meet. It’s Germany’s Capitol Building basically. The race’s start and finish are about a quarter-mile apart on the same street in the city’s biggest park called the Tiergarten. The wife and I scouted the area so she could have an idea of where to watch the race and where to meet afterwards. This was a smart idea as she was not allowed into the staging area. I had to leave her around 7:30am or so. I parked myself near where I had to drop off my bag of warm-up clothes. I relaxed and drank beet juice. Yes, beet juice. Beet juice contains nitrates which open up blood vessels. This allows more energy to get to muscles. It helps me so I drink it. The earthy taste isn’t so bad.
I sat then started to do some static stretches around 8am or so. I had until 8:35am to drop all my stuff off but I wanted to head to the start (about 400 meters away) early so as not to get caught in a crowd. Around 8:15am, I took off my warm ups and dropped off my bag and headed to the start. I did finish my beet juice.
I did more warm up exercises after I got to the start. Because it was wet, I really didn’t get to sit. I didn’t want my shorts to be soaked. I didn’t feel nervous, really. I didn’t think much about strategy or anything beforehand. I didn’t want to clutter my mind and overthink the race. It wasn’t until I entered the corral 15 minutes before the race that I changed my mindset. I went from thinking about all kinds of stuff to focusing on the race. I told myself I could do set a PR. I reminded myself not to start too hard and to plan on a first mile of between 6:30 and 6:45. I then told myself I’d run around 6:30 per mile pace for the first 10 miles then pick it up the next 10 miles and then see what’s left for the final 6.2. I reminded myself to run my race and no one else’s. Don’t get caught up in the excitement.
It was exciting though. The crowd noise and the energy from the 39,000-plus runners could pump up the most stoic runner.
The gun sounded and the runners took off! It took my about 10 seconds or so to cross the start line after the gun went off. This was the quickest for me out of any big marathon. It was because I started in the B block right behind the sub-elite runners. The first major landmark you see is the Victory Column or Siegessaule. It’s a few hundred meters from the start. It’s in the middle of a traffic circle. Runners can go either left or right. I chose left since I was already on the left side of the road. I felt in control despite the initial excitement of starting another major marathon. My first mile was too fast–6:24. I didn’t want to burn all my energy so early. I slowed down the second mile and ran 6:37. I felt better about that. I noticed a lot of runners passed me during the first 5k of the race. A lot. This didn’t bother me though. I wasn’t going to go with them and disrupt my plan. I also thought I’d probably catch many of them later in the race. I was right.
There were no mile markers during the race, only kilometer markings because metric system. Germany doesn’t use miles. There are 42.2 kilometers in a marathon. My GPS watched vibrated each mile so it was no big deal. I figured out early in the race that I would need to average 4:00 for each kilometer. It’s harder to do math later in the race as you fatigue.
I felt comfortable early. My pacing was good. After the third mile, I started to run under 6:30 per mile consistently. Between miles 4 and 21, I ran each one under 6:28 except for a 6:30 mile 8.
A light rain poured early in the race and lasted for 30 minutes to an hour maybe. It was hard to tell. The streets were wet so I tried to avoid puddles as I didn’t want wet shoes. They are uncomfortable and can possibly cause blisters.
The wet conditions didn’t derail my pacing. I ate a GU energy gel around the 5.5 mile mark and got water every three miles or so. My legs felt good for the first 10 miles and so did my mindset. I ran those first 10 miles in roughly 1 hour, 4 minutes. I felt good about that.
MIDDLE OF THE RACE
For miles 11 to 20, I decided to pick up the pace a bit. It worked. I ran miles 12 to 14 under 6:20. I crossed the halfway point at 1 hour, 24 minutes, 18 seconds. This put me on PR pace but not by a lot. I had to make sure I didn’t slow down too much in the second half.
I made sure my pacing was around 4:00 per kilometer. It was. The crowd noise and people shouting my name carried me forward. I ate a second GU around mile 11 and a third around mile 17. I usually try to take GU energy gels to replenish carbs and other nutrients lost during the race every 5.5 miles or so. I crossed mile 20 under 2 hours, 8 minutes. I believe it was around 2:07:20 or 2:07:30. This was good. I ran the second 10 miles of the race faster. I had 10k left.
FINAL 6.2 MILES
The Berlin Marathon is flat. Knowing this, I knew I didn’t have to hold anything in the reserve tank to prepare for an incline. I also know the final 6.2 miles are usually tough for me as I tend to slow down more than I’d like. Physical fatigue sets in but so does the mental fatigue. You feel you’re so close to the finish but yet you have a few more miles to go. That can be a little disheartening because you’re starting to ache more in the legs and want to finish ASAP. Physically, my legs were starting to get more achy but they still felt stronger at the 20-mile mark than they have at any other marathon. I was encouraged by this as the mental fatigue that started to creep in didn’t affect me as much as it has in other marathons.
I did, however, slow down. Miles 22 through 25 ranged from 6:31 to 6:36. I didn’t like this but I knew I banked some time the previous 10 miles that a slowdown wouldn’t kill a chance at a PR. I could feel the end was near but I still knew I had some work to do to ensure a PR. It wasn’t going to be easy.
Since I could feel the PR was in reach, I gave the last 1.2 miles everything I could. I ran through the famous Brandenburg Gate feeling about as good as I could with 400 to 500 meters left in a marathon. I could hear the crowd near the finish line roaring. I ran mile 26 in 6:13 which was my fastest for the whole race. I saw my wife about 250 meters before the finish and waved. I ran the final .2 miles at a 5:50 per mile pace according to my watch as I crossed the finish line in 2:48:48. I ran my fourth World Major Marathon under three hours. I did it! A new PR! 672nd place overall and 163rd in the 35-39 age group for men.
Euphoria gave way to pain quickly after I crossed the finish line. My legs were achy and sore. The walk was slow and tough back to pick up my bag. Every step was painful despite the thrill of setting a PR. It was a good pain though if such a thing exists. It was pain that told me I worked long and hard for this accomplishment. Training for a marathon is a grind and a slog at times. It’s grueling and feels like it’ll never end. But it does and the reward is the sense of knowing your hard work, mental and physical preparation, execution and focus all lead to accomplishing a goal. It wasn’t easy to run a 2:48:48. I had to train for weeks, some of them away from home. I woke up at 2:45am on two days just to train. I dealt with hot, humid weather and nagging little aches and minor injuries. I dealt with being tired and not wanting to run. But I forced myself to get out of the door. I had some bad runs that forced me to stop before I could finish. I learned bad days are ok if you learn from them and keep them to a minimum. I also learned good days show your potential. All in all, I stuck to overall plan and it worked.
WHAT NOW AND AFTER?
My wife and I explored Berlin, Prague and Zurich before returning home. I didn’t run after the race. I wanted to give my body time to recover before I start again, which will probably be tomorrow. But it’ll be an easy run.
I plan to run local 5ks and 10ks along with a half marathon or two coming up. The next race probably won’t be until November at the earliest. As for marathons, I have to run Tokyo and London to complete my 6-star journey. Tokyo won’t happen next year. I may run London in April but probably as a charity runner which I will look forward to doing as I’d like my running to help a good cause. I could skip London and run the Paris Marathon in April. It’s not a World Major but it is a big marathon and one I want to run at some point. I’m eyeing the Twin Cities Marathon in Minneapolis/St. Paul next October. That’s another popular marathon here in the United States. For right now, I’m just going to relax and not worry about racing or focused training. I’ll start to figure all that out in a couple of weeks. Right now, I want to enjoy my accomplishment and new medal before I’m on to my next goal.
Running With You,