Monday, October 12, 2009

Wrecked in Long Beach: A Marathon Story

It's been an eventful year since I have blogged about my running and I thought it would be a good time to start writing again. While revisiting my site, I found an unposted draft of my Long Beach Marathon Race Report so I thought I would finally post that, a year after I crashed in Long Beach. Enjoy...

I'm still recovering from yesterday's Long Beach Marathon. My quad's are shot and my ego is a little bruised, but I wanted to share the experience with you all so that you can get a glimpse at what it's like (or sympathize with me if you've ever run one).

Disclaimer: I chose to write this stream-of-consciousness style, with obvious (edits) made to make it appropriate :)

My alarm goes off at 4:55...Well that was pointless, i've already been up for a half hour worrying that i'd miss it...I went through my usual routine and was out the door by 5:15...Race starts at seven, I have plenty of time...Flying on the 405 freeway, I make the change onto the 710...Uh-oh, these cars aren't moving...I maneuver my way in and out of cars and finally get to the end of the freeway...Crap, 6:35, race starts in 25 minutes and i'm still in traffic...I find where i'm supposed to park and make my way out on to the street...(Oh no) Race starts in 15 minutes, and i'm at least a mile away from the start line...

I ran to the start line, I didn't jog, I ran. As if 26.2 wasn't bad enough, I decided to add a mile sprint to the start line because I just love pain so much.

National Anthem just ended, gotta find my pace group...Found 'em...Gun just went off, guess I don't get to stretch...As with most races, slow runners feel a need to be close to the front and then impede the progress of anyone behind them...Watch out for that lady, don't trip over her feet.

Next thing I knew, we were three miles in and I was having no trouble keeping up with my 3:40 pace group...I dont feel like I have a lot of energy, but this pace seems comfortable...There goes mile 4, time for a shot-blok (strawberry, my favorite)...Here's a water stop, (Crap), I got blue powerade, that's not gonna mix well.

Right around mile 7 we hit the bike path on the beach...Well this is nice, beautiful weather and nice scenery, really wish I had more energy...Around mile 10, the half-marathoners split off which leaves us with plenty of room...Sideache, (shoot), run through it, run through it, stretch, breathe, keep going...Gone, phew.

Winding through the somewhat familiar streets of Long Beach, I found the 3:40 pace becoming gradually more difficult, for no other reason than I didn't have the energy...Son of a (woops)...I let them gradually slip away until they turned a corner and were no longer in sight.

Half way done and all I wanted to do was sit down...I can't believe I went through all that training and feel like i'm half asleep on race day...We got to the CSULB campus and the students there did their best to cheer me on, but there smiles did little more than keep me going until they were no longer in sight, at which point my legs finally needed a break and I walked.

There are few feelings like the feeling of defeat, and even fewer like having that feeling with 10 miles left in a race. I pushed my way through the last 10 in some sorry excuse for a run-walk method and somehow, coming down the final stretch I found enough energy to sprint...Probably looks like a peg-legged pirate the finish line.

Finished in 4 hours flat. For some marathoners, this is a life-long goal. Others can run nearly two marathons in this time. For me, I was devestated. I missed my PR by more than 10 minutes and missed my goal by over 15. I trained so hard that I ran myself into the ground and out of an opportunity at a good race.

Frustrated as I received my medal, I thought back to my first marathon and could not believe the stark contrast of emotion. With my legs practically quivering and the rest of my body ready to slip into a coma, I decided I needed to walk away from running. I was doing more harm than good and it was clear that the time I put in was not paying off. I thought that I had just run my last marathon, but little did I know that I was beginning...

Wednesday, October 7, 2009

It's here...again

Sixty-mile-eighty-hour-jam-packed-weeks have torn me up. My quads are worn down, my calves are tender and my feet ache. I thought I was supposed to feel this way after a marathon?

My mind is full of questions...Is it possible to have overtrained for this? Have I run myself into the ground, risking my health by running? In striving to be better, did I do the opposite?

...And of course the familiar question, why am i doing this?

Tomorrow, I get to test my limits again. Maybe i'll find some answers...

Wednesday, September 2, 2009

This is my life...

It's 9:30 and I am in bed.

Most people my age are up drinking and socializing, staying up into the wee hours of the morning leaving just enough time to sober up before work.

Not me. I need to be well hydrated and asleep before 10 so I can get my 11-mile run in before work.

...I'm one helluva good time.

I've gotten fed up with this recently and decided I am going to turn the tables and place the blame on my friends so here it goes...

"Why can't YOU hang out at 6 in the morning?! I just want to spend time with you."

"I hate that you can never come hydrate with me because you have to wake up late."

"I don't know how you wake up that late, now that is crazy."

So to all my non-runner friends, thank you. Thank you for the crap you give me for doing what I do. Distance running is a test of endurance and requires perserverance. My training gets me there physically while you guys get me there mentally :)

(Disclaimer: this post written with a hopefully obvious sarcastic tone)

Monday, August 17, 2009

The waiting game...

Endurance running is not a great sport for specators, as a matter of fact, it is downright lousy.

Spectators are normally close friends and relatives of race participants.or the occasional people living in the nearby neighborhoods that will stand on the corner with a Starbucks and watch us idiots run. While every runner relies on these people for motivation, most don't know a single one.

There have been plenty of races I have run with no spectators to support me, and I totally understand why. I can't say I would willingly get up before the sun on my day off to stand on a street corner for hours only to watch my 'loved one' run for a total of about 45 seconds. What most spectators don't realize, though, is that those 45 seconds can sometimes fuel runners for hours during the race.

It's no secret to me why my best running performances have come when I have had spectators cheering me on. It also comes as no surprise to me that my favorite running experience have been ones I have shared with the people I love. Having my dad there for my Half Marthon PR this weekend meant the world to me. He watched me run for about 30 seconds, but knowing he was at the finish line motivated me more than I could even describe.

If you are a runner, thank your supporters because what they are doing is not their idea of "fun", and yet they do it anyway. If you are a spectator, I want to thank you. Even if you didn't come out to support me, I probably silently adopted you as my supportive family as I struggled through late miles of a race.

If you have ever come out to support me at a race, I want to apologize. I'm sorry that you might not have had a great time and you may have even been miserable. But i'm happy to tell you, your misery was worth it.

You stay classy, San Diego (Race report)

Ah, San Diego...Discovered by Germans in 1904.

If you don't know where that is from, shut down your computer right now, go to Blockbuster and rent Anchorman. Then come back and read the rest of my blog.

Where was I? Ah yes...San Diego.

I was in the wonderful city this weekend for a race appropriately titled, "America's Finest City Half Marathon". Never one to disappoint, San Diego delivered a great weekend and an even better race.

My alarm went off at four-$%#@&*%-fifteen a.m. so I hopped out of bed and into my racing clothes and was quickly out the door. I had to be at Balboa Park before 5:30 to catch the shuttle bus to the start of the race, which was at the beautiful Cabrillo Monument. By the time the race started (7am) I was ready to go back to sleep. Thankfully, the sound of the gun woke me and we were off and running. About a half-mile in I could feel my calves burning...apparently one day off was not long enough to rest my hill-beaten legs.

Two miles in, my legs were still burning, but I noticed the most incredible sensation...we were starting to go downhill. My legs caught a break as the rest of my body did it's best to try and keep up. This lasted for a few glorious miles, which served as a catapult of sorts, launching me into a quick and comfortable pace for the rest of the race.

Floating along at my fastest-ever pace, I saw the friendly 10-mile marker. Relieved and conscious of my PR(personal record)-setting pace, I began to calculate how much energy to use over the last 3.1 miles...that's when it hit me. My whole right side cramped up.

"C'mon, you whimp, its only been ten miles", I thought to myself as I tried to stretch while running (hope they didnt get pictures of that, probably looked like a dying quail). But eventually the cramp caused me to stop briefly and stretch. As frustrating as this was, I knew I still had a chance at an excellent time and I resolved to push myself as hard as I could the entire rest of the way.

The cramp subsided minutes later and I was back on pace...then I saw 6th Ave. For those that are unfamiliar, 6th Ave. runs downtown and takes you up to Balboa Park. UP. I knew the finish line wasn't far beyond the top of the hill, but I couldnt see the top of the hill from the bottom. I put my head down and pushed myself, picking out other runners to try and pass. After what seemed like forever, I reached the top of the hill and turned to enter Balboa Park.

Entering Balboa Park, the course was lined with American flags and screaming spectators, what more motivation could you ask for? I kicked it into high gear and sprinted the last quarter mile leaving everything I had on the course. 1:39:29. I had beaten my previous personal record by 18 minutes. I love San Diego.

I'll be back next year to try and shave off that 9:29. In the meantime, you stay classy, San Diego.

That peaceful nervous feeling...

The day before a race always feels strange to's one of very few days where I am not running and it always includes a race expo, both of which bring feelings of excitement and anxiety.

Maybe it is just my own emotionally-charged running-induced-endorphin-kick-happy self, but my stomach always feels a little uneasy when I walk into the expo. Maybe it's because my head is in so many places. Part of me is sizing up the competition (which, by the way is nearly impossible to do in endurance running), while another part of me is sizing up the vendors (to see which are giving away free stuff, of course), while yet another part of me is day-dreaming about the race tomorrow.

There have been times that I have left an expo with new gear, other times with a new race on the calendar, but every time I leave an expo I have left with that peaceful, nervous feeling.

Wednesday, August 12, 2009

Charging up

I am slowing down, cutting my training miles and starting to charge my battery for America's Finest City Half Marathon in San Diego this weekend. I am excited to finally get back out and race and to see where my fitness level is at with two months until Long Beach. I am hoping to set a personal record, but more importantly, I am hoping to recharge.

As if working full-time and training for a marathon wasn't enough for me, I added another job on top of that and recently my body, mind and soul have been crying out for some rest. They will finally get their wish when I spend the weekend on my own down in San Diego.

I have decided that my motto for this coming weekend is, "Slow down, run fast".

Thursday, July 2, 2009

Running Rut

It's been about a month since my last race and I have over a month until the next one. It's training time, which always tests my patience. I increased my training mileage which has decreased my sleeping time.

No races + more miles - sleep = RUT

I love running, don't get me wrong, but I am tired. It's hot out and it feels like I have a year until my next race. 

How do I get out of this rut? Guess I have to run out of it.

Tuesday, May 26, 2009

"RED VINES!" (LA Marathon)

My alarm went off at 4:45 a.m. so I jumped out of bed and threw my running clothes on. There's only one day I willingly "jump" out of bed at 4:45, RACE DAY.

Memorial Day was finally here, which meant I would get to join two of my friends, and over 15,000 others as we ran 26.2 miles through the streets of Los Angeles. Even though this would be my third marathon, the feelings of anxiousness and excitement were still incredibly strong. My two biggest fears were warm weather and my legs refusing to run a second 26.2 in a one-month span. I had never attempted anything like this, so I had no clue what to expect.

We arrived at the start line with about an hour to spare. I could tell that Phillip and Edgar were nervous. They were nervous because they had no idea what they were getting themselves into. I was nervous because I knew EXACTLY what I was getting myself into. I envied their ignorance.

Before we knew it, the race had begun and the huge crowd of 15,000+ shuffled towards the starting line. With "I love LA" blaring over the loud speaker and a nice downhill at the start, everyone was in good spirits.

I seperated from the guys pretty early on. I kicked into a comfortable pace and was feeling great, better weather than I could have ever asked for and nice gradual downhills to speed things up. The miles started to add up and I found myself feeling very comfortable at the halfway point, which is where the race turned from downhill to uphill. Around mile 14, we started our 'ascent'. My pace had slowed, which I very much expected, but I was still running strong when I passed the 20-mile marker. I could slowly feel my body begging me to put a stop to the madness, but I didn't care to listen.

With the 23-mile marker in sight, my hamstrings tightened up. Both hamstrings, cramping at the same time, so I had to stop to stretch. I had 3 more miles to go and I knew there was no way they were going to start feeling better. Time to dig deep. The four-hour milestone was on the line and I wasnt going to let my hamstrings keep me from reaching it.

In the last three miles I grabbed just about every water, gatorade, orange and pretzel I could find, trying to fuel myself to 26.2. I ran as fast as my hamstrings would let me, trying to find something to lift my spirits...then I heard it. "RED VINES!" Music to my ears. I saw a man handing out red vines, my favorite, on the side of the road. It's funny the little things that excite you when your body is pushed to its limits.

The last couple miles were tough, they always are. I turned the corner with about 3/4 of a mile left, and could see the finish line. Mobs of people crowded the sidewalks as I ran down the homestretch. My hamstrings were screaming, but I focused on the voices of the spectators, cheering me towards the finish line. I broke into a sprint and crossed the finish line at 3:56. My body was beaten up, my ipod broken and my feet blistered, but I did it.

I love L.A.

Thursday, May 21, 2009

Deja vu all over again

Here I go again. My third marathon and my second in the last month. I feel ready, a bit anxious, but mostly excited. I should clarify, though, i'm not all that excited for me.

I am excited because two of my friends, Phillip and Edgar, will be running their first marathon and I get to experience that with them. It was just a few short months ago that I was in their shoes, with butterflies in my stomach and doubt in my head. I'm pumped to experience this with them and can't wait to see them succeed.

I'm looking forward to a great run through LA with a couple of incredible guys. Good luck Phillip and Edgar, i'll see you guys at the FINISH LINE!

Wednesday, May 13, 2009

Black toenails

I've always heard stories about the myriad of running injuries, ranging from blisters to stress fractures and everywhere in between.

Of all the injuries, though, the one I hoped to never encounter was black toenails. A 'Black toenail' is when blood builds up underneath the toenail, causing a lot of pressure on the toe and eventually causing the nail to fall off.

After finishing a half-marathon on May 3, one week after the USMC Hard Corps Marathon, I removed my shoe to find two lovely black toenails. They don't hurt at all, but they are just downright ugly to look at.

Strangely enough, I have gotten use to looking down at my rainbow-sandal-wearing feet and seeing my ugly toes. In a wierd way i'm proud of my ugly feet.

It's difficult to tell just by looking at someone that they are a runner unless they are extremely athletic or Ethiopian. If someone were to look at me, "RUNNER" would not be the first thing that comes to mind...that is, until I show them my feet.

Sunday, April 26, 2009

Just another run...

They said the Marine Corps Hard Corps Marathon course was 'predominately flat' and it was predominately flat, if you don't count the endless rolling hills...

The day started off just like any other day. The 8:10 start time meant I was able to get a full night sleep. It also meant the sun was shining bright from start to finish. Guess I can't have it all, right?

This was an inaugural marathon, so the race field was pretty small, somewhere around 500 people. There was about 5,000 in my last marathon, so the difference was noticeable. My parents were there to support me and I was able to chat with them all the way until the start of the race, which was a welcomed distraction from the thought of running 26.2.

Feeling calm and much more prepared than my last marathon, the gun went off and I began the 26.2 mile journey, again. A couple of miles in I noticed that we had been running on rolling hills, with nothing but more rolling hills ahead. I didn't let it bother me and I kept running. The playlist I had made for my ipod was doing a great job motivating me and keeping me from boredom.

Five miles from the start, I saw the ocean. We turned to the north and continued. Rolling hills, no shade, but a great view of the Pacific. The course was an "out and back" course, so at about mile 12 (at San Onofre) we turned around and retraced our steps. My body was beginning to feel tired around mile 13, but my legs, surprisingly, still had a lot of life.

As the mile markers continued to pass, I was enjoying the alone-time I was getting. I felt like the only person out there and at times, I couldn't even see any other runners.

Knowing that I have a half marathon a week after this race and another marathon a couple of weeks later, I knew it wasn't wise to push myself to the point of injury (see previous posts on my last marathon). This was a good excuse for me to not worry about my time and just enjoy myself. I talked with other runners, sang along with my ipod, and tried to encourage everybody I passed/that passed me.
I hit mile marker 21 and turned inland for the final 5.2. More sun and more hills, but I knew the end wasn't far. As I stopped for a quick walking-break I thought about my last marathon and the overwhelming pain and emotion I was feeling at that point. Where did all of that come from and why do I feel absolutely nothing this time around?
As the finish line came into my sights, I pushed hard, finished, and thanked God for helping me through. I'd like to say that I learned something profound during the race, or that it was a once in a lifetime experience, but the truth is that it was just a really good run.
Sometimes in life, we look for the spectacular, hoping and praying for an unbelievable story or a fairy tale ending. The race of life isn't always what we'd like it to be, but i'm gonna run it anyway.

Wednesday, April 22, 2009

That peaceful restless feeling

Two more days.

Two more days 'til I get to run again. Two more days 'til I put my body through hell...again.

It's strange the second time around...I know how bad it's going to hurt, but I can't wait for it. Is that sick or what?

The madness begins...Marathon this Saturday, Half-marathon next Sunday and another Marathon three weeks later. BRING IT.

Friday, April 17, 2009

Motivation - One week to go

I will be running the Marine Corps "Hard Corps Marathon" in one week. This one definitely snuck up on me.

I did some thinking during my run this morning and compared my training and preparation to my training for Arizona. While my training plan was almost identical, everything felt so much different this time around. I found myself feeling a little less motivated throughout this training. With the thrill of the unknown no longer there to motivate me, I have had to search for new means of motivation. Here is what I came up with...

1. I challenged myself to test my limits...within the next month I will run a half-marathon and two full marathons.
2. Instead of telling myself "You've never run this far before, how cool is this?!" it has turned into "You've done this before, you can do it again".
3. I have taken 4-6 mile short runs and made them more challenging, adding hills and speedwork to keep my striving toward something on the sometimes monotonous runs.
4. I have challenged others to get out there and run with me. Some of them have been beginners, others just looking to increase mileage. Their commitment motivates me.

Nothing motivates me more than knowing somebody is counting on me. Knowing that somebody believes in me gives me a great sense of confidence and I can't even imagine ever letting them down.

I'll be tapping into these motivating factors during my race next week, but i'll also be spending a solid four hours with the most motivating coach ever, Jesus Christ. When all other motivation fails and the race becomes difficult, I know my lord and savior is running right along side me, believing in me. I wont let Him down.

Monday, April 6, 2009

Let the tapering begin

FINALLY. Just as my legs were shouting, "We've had enough" and my feet were threatening to stop altogether, I have reached the tapering phase of my training program.

The last time I was training for a marathon, I hated tapering. I felt like I was wasting valuable time and miles, that I wasn't fully preparing myself. Now, I welcome the taper with open arms. Between working two jobs and having church-related commitments three nights a week, i'm having trouble finding sleep, let alone energy.

I think the tapering phase of training can be translated into life situations, too, and maybe should be more often. Our culture places a premium on being busy, working hard and never resting. The idea of tapering in training is giving your worn out body a chance to rest while it waits for the opportunity to really be put to the test. I think we need to think of our lives this way, we wear ourselves out and hardly ever take the time to rest so we are fully prepared when we have to face challenges.

My advice to you...TAPER. Taper in training, taper in work, taper in life.

Monday, March 2, 2009

Solving problems one mile at a time

My friends don't understand why I willingly wake up at 530 to go run. They get frustrated when I can't go out on a Saturday night because I have my long run the next morning. They think that what I do is crazy, while it's actually the one thing that keeps me from going crazy.

When was the last time you spent a significant amount of time alone, thinking about life? This may be a difficult question to answer for some people, but for a runner the answer is almost always, "this morning". You see, running is more than physical exercise for me. Running is my escape. Running is more than burning calories, it's about tackling life's problems. And when I have a problem too big to handle, well, that's what group runs are for.

Group runs are like therapy. While discussion can sometimes be surface-level, it is not out of the ordinary for us to tackle life's major challenges. I know that on my group runs I can expect plenty of support and encouragement, but it rarely ever has anything to do with my running.

Plenty of people ask why I run and I never know what to tell them. I say that it has changed my life, but can't explain how. One thing is for sure, though, I know i'll never stop.

--Special thanks to Kristin, Kevin, Eric and Phillip for all the "therapy".

Friday, February 13, 2009

Runner's best friend

You'll get no argument from me that dogs are man's best friend. A big part of what makes dogs our best friends is their loyalty.

Today, I discovered the runner's best friend. Here is the story...

I was leaving my house for work this morning after a great run with a group of friends. I had my hands full as I walked to the car, so when I reached my car I put my running shoes on the roof so I could empty my hands of all my stuff. Once I packed everything I had into my car, I got in and drove off.

I pulled out of my complex and drove down the hill towards work. It is important to note that I live on one of the tallest hills in Orange County and the descent that starts my commute is pretty steep. It is nearly impossible to drive under 60 mph on this road unless you ride your brakes.

I flew down the hill in almost record time. I made it about five miles down when I reached Tustin Ave and made a left turn. After the turn, I heard a honk coming from the car next to me, so I turned to see an attractive young lady in a small SUV. It surprised me, and for a moment rally flattered me until I noticed her pointing to the top of my car. My shoes were still up there.

I was shocked. I probably looked like an idiot driving all over Orange with shoes on the roof of my car. I was amazed, though, that they were still there. Exactly where I put them.

Runners spend a lot of time in their shoes. They become almost an extension of our bodies. They are normally the only thing that accompanies us on long, lonely runs. It's easy to see why we can become so attached to our shoes, so loyal to them.

Apparently after all the time I have spent with these running shoes, they've taken a liking to me too.

Monday, February 9, 2009

You know you're hooked on marathons when...

I sat at my computer this weekend with my credit card in hand while I registered for some upcoming races. It's an exciting time, but also a nervous time, as I look at my training schedule and realize I have a half-marathon and two full marathons all within a one-month period.

I came to the realization that I might be hooked on marathons. I did a little research on the forums that i'm always reading and I found some intresting posts from some fellow runners. Here is how I know I am hooked on marathons:

You know you are hooked on marathons when…

You take a bath without using the hot water valve, and then you throw a bag of ice in. And you sort of enjoy it.

You consider a 12 mile long run a recovery.

You come across the finish line and say "that hurt so bad...when can we do it again?"

You base all of your vacation time on your race schedule.

You are running a marathon and planning in your head how to train for your next one.

When your friends know not to even ask if you will go out on Saturday because you are running long on Sunday.

When you have to explain to your date the real purpose of body glide when she sees it on your dresser.

When driving somewhere and your GPS tells you that you have 26.2 miles to go, you smile, laugh and think "Yea...I could run the rest of the way."

When you consider the four food groups to be gels, pasta, Gatorade and energy bars.

When your not in your office at lunch and everyone knows your running.

When the color of your pee is more important to you than the color of your outfit.

When pain really isn't an issue.

Monday, February 2, 2009

Physcial and Spiritual Rejuventaion

I woke up this morning feeling completely rejuvenated from an amazing weekend with some of my favorite people in the world.

It's amazing how a little time away to refocus can change your entire attitude about life. Having a day to spend out in nature, away from the hustle and bustle of everyday life was truly a blessing. I was able to reconnect with God in a very powerful way and came away from the experience feeling closer to Him and to those in my lifegroup than I ever had before.

As if this spiritual rejuvenation were'nt enough, I woke up this morning and decided to test out my injured foot for the first time in over a week. Success. I didn't experience any pain. I am ecstatic to get back to my running and to start training for my next race. Thank you to all of you who prayed for me! Stay tuned for more as I begin training again.

Monday, January 26, 2009

Recovering (still)

It has been just over a week since I finished the marathon and although the soreness is gone, I am still experiencing pain. The nagging pain in my left foot has not subsided since the race and I finally gave in and made a doctors appointment. Your prayers would be much appreciated.

Struggling with this pain got me thinking about pride and humility. God will always find ways to keep us humble to show that He alone is in control. After finishing the marathon I felt very confident, maybe too confident. Perhaps God wanted to give me a little reminder that none of it would have been possible without him. Whatever the reason, this experience has been a good reminder to be thankful for the gifts He gives us and to praise His name always.

Thursday, January 22, 2009

Wednesday, January 21, 2009

The Healing Process

It has been about 72 hours since I crossed the finish line and even though the runner's high is long gone, the aches and pains decided to hang around a little while longer.

Nobody ever thinks of running a marathon as a humbling experience, but I have been humbled repeatedly ever since mile 22. It's funny because at one moment you feel like you can conquer the world and the next moment you have trouble getting out of bed.

For those of you interested in running a marathon, here is a list of the pains you can expect to experience (these are what I experienced, there are plenty more I was lucky not to encounter): Blisters on feet, Leg cramps, Side-aches, Stress-fractures, Muscle spasms, Bone spurs, and Sore muscles that last for days.

If you didn't want to run a marathon before, I bet you do now.

I talk about these pains not only because I feel it's important that people be prepared, but also because each one of those pains made finishing the race that much more special. The magic is in the misery, and what makes the race truly special is the journey you take along the way.

"Pain is weakness leaving the body."

Tuesday, January 20, 2009

Official Time

The official time of my first marathon was 3:49:39.

I'm pleased with my time, but i'm motivated to improve.

My tentative race schedule for the next few months is as follows:

USMC Inaugural Marine Corps Marathon - Camp Pendleton: April 25
Cinco de Mayo Half Marathon - Irvine: May 3
Los Angeles Marathon - Los Angeles: May 25

Monday, January 19, 2009

Overwhelming emotion

Distance runners always talk about the "runners high" they experience after a great run. While I have experienced this feeling, it pales in comparison to the feeling I felt after finishing my first marathon.

After crossing the finish line and receiving my medal, I was hit with a wave of emotion like I have never experienced before. The feelings of pain and agony, mixed with joy and confidence and just about every emotion in between filled my body. You can call it endorphins or a spiritual moment or you can even call me delusional, but running had never before caused me to be on the verge of tears.

I managed to fight the tears back as I high-fived complete strangers around me. I had achieved my goal successfully and it felt great. 

Dean Karnazes, an incredible "running role model" of mine says in one of his books, "Immerse yourself in something deeply and with heartfelt intensity-continually improve, never give up-this is fulfillment, this is success."


The gun went off and the crowd of 6,500 runners slowly moved toward and across the starting line. I eased into a slow jog alongside Kristin and Kevin, picking up the pace as the crowd began to spread out.

"This is it," I thought, "I am actually doing this."

My legs felt fresh, the temperature was a cool 48 degrees and the bands playing along the route kept my energy high. As the first few miles passed, my nervousness began to fade and I kicked into cruise control.

I tried to keep things in perspective, not knowing what the late miles would bring. I was keeping a good pace and experiencing very little pain. At the halfway point, the shade that had provided me a cool course was all but gone. Slowly, I started to feel the heat of the day taking its toll on my body.

I passed mile 16, 17 and 18 with relative ease. "I've done this before," I told myself, "I got this."

Just before mile 19, my leg started to cramp. The muscle above my right knee, called the vastus medialis (the teardrop muscle) was causing a lot of discomfort. I tried to run through it, thinking it would pass. The cramping continued for a half mile, so I slowed to a walk and took some salt and some liquids. The pain began to subside and I picked up the pace again, but my legs didn't feel the same. It was as if I had tricked them into running 19 miles and they didn't realize it until I slowed down.

Twenty miles into the race, I realized that my legs wouldn't be taking me to the finish line, it was going to take something else. 

After having to slow to a walk at mile 21, I had a conversation with God. I asked God to give me something, anything that would give me energy or take away the pain. Another painful mile went by with no answer from God, but then I heard it. 

Just ahead I spotted a tent with one of the bands playing. I could hardly hear the music that was being played but I instantly recognized the song. My legs were filled with energy and my heart started pounding as I sang "Blessed be Your Name" with my hands raised to God. He answered my prayer.

The energy that song gave me only lasted about a half mile, but the encouragement He gave me through the song carried me to the finish line. 

The next four miles were the most painful miles I have ever run. My feet were swollen and covered with blisters, my mouth was dry and my legs were cramping. 

I turned a corner and saw one of the most beautiful things I have ever seen, mile marker 26. The pain was gone. I passed the mile marker and began to sprint the last .2 miles (which probably looked a lot more like a light jog to the spectators).

I raised my hands as I crossed the finish line. I did it. 

I lifted my head, pointed to the sky and silently thanked God for bringing me all the way through this magnificent journey. 

My Running Journey

My running journey began in January 2007 in Florence, Italy. 

What began merely as a means of exercise slowly evolved into my means of seeing Europe. Everywhere I went, my running shoes came along. I ran across the Ponte Vecchio in Florence, around the Notre Dame in France, to the Parthenon in Athens, through the streets of Jerusalem, to the Prague Castle and over the canals in Amsterdam.

Before I knew it, I was running farther and longer than I ever had before. I was enjoying the feeling of freedom and the time I was able to spend in the peace and quiet of the morning. The quiet of the morning gave me the opportunity to spend time talking with God, to pray for my friends and family and to just allow God to speak to me.

Running had started as an exercise, evolved into a hobby and now had become an instrument of my faith. 

After returning to the states, my passion began to fade as I got caught up in the hustle and bustle of everday life, allowing myself to conform to the ways of the world. Running had taken a back seat in my life and I noticed my faith beginning to follow suit. 

I had been attending a church called Rock Harbor since 2005 and decided that it was finally time for me to get involved. I had no idea at the time, but this decision to join a lifegroup would make a huge impact in my life, both spritually and otherwise. My passion for God had never been stronger, and my running hobby came right back, thanks to Phillip and Kristin, two very special people in my life.

In March of 2008, Phillip and I began training for the Disneyland Half Marathon. We ran a couple of races along the way, taking special time out of each training run to talk with God in a tradition we called our "Prayer Mile". Five months later, Phillip and I finished the half marathon.

After finishing the half-marathon, I wanted more. I had been inspired by my friends Kristin and Kevin who had both run in multiple marathons, so I decided to run the Rock n Roll Arizona Marathon alongside them.

I began training in September, gradually building mileage as the weeks progressed. Even though I experienced stress fractures, cramps, and plenty of soreness along the way, i found myself standing on Washington St. in Phoenix at 7:40 on Sunday morning, ready to run.