I ran the Los Angeles Marathon this past weekend. I had not run a marathon before, nor had I trained for this one. This was, as all my good stories are, related to pool.
A while back, I had a conversation with a fellow pool player where I wondered which was more tiring: a major, two-day tournament, or running a marathon. At face value, if we were talking about sheer physical exhaustion, duh, the marathon. But, I mentioned the thinking required for pool was tiring, too. We never could resolve the question because neither of us had run a marathon and could not compare the two experiences.
I lost a seven-hour gambling match for a nice chunk of change (approximately 3 months’ rent — ouchies). One of my friends thought it was because I wasn’t in good enough physical shape for a marathon match. I thought I was in decent physical shape, but I had no proof.
My friends and I had a discussion where we tried to compare the chances of one of them placing high at a very difficult tournament to a finish in another sport/game. The marathon came up. We figured that his chances of placing 5th/6th were equivalent to me, lazy-ass that I am, finishing a marathon in under 6 hours.
The bet was on.
I never ran except for the occasional jog on a treadmill or sprint after dumbass criminals. These sporadic treadmill moments averaged, at best, once a month, and usually less. The longest distance I had run in my life was a 10k back in high school, which mean absolutely nothing as 6.2 miles was not quite the same as 26.2 miles.
My tournament-playing friend said he would rather set the beginning bar at eight hours with his end at seventh-eighth because he didn’t want me dying (seeing as how the first dude to ever run a marathon did). If I finished in under six hours, that would be something. If I finished in under four hours — well, even I knew that was a pipe dream.
I like that my friends know I’m not lazy — I’m unmotivated. Given the right motivation, I can sometimes do interesting things. With a month to go, and a full tournament schedule, it was understood I would have no opportunity to train. I would just have to survive.
The start time for the “open corral” runners, that is, the ones of us that have nanoscopic chances of finishing in first place, was 7:30 a.m. There were shuttles from the finish line area to take people to the start line. That worked for me since I lived closer to the finish line. Upon checking bus schedules, I found out bus service on my side of town would cease after 3:00 a.m. That meant I had to wake up at 1:30 a.m., take a bus at 2:30 a.m. to make it to the pick up spot, and take the 3:00 a.m. shuttle to the start line. And then wait there for over four hours for the race to start.
That’s what I did. I didn’t get any sleep. I found out the sleep schedule of a marathon runner is not compatible with the sleep schedule of an unmotivated pool player.
The race course would take the scenic route through Los Angeles and for this, I was actually quite grateful. I have not seen the touristy areas, despite living here for a good while. We arrived at Dodger Stadium at around 4:00 a.m. This was cool, I had never been to Dodger Stadium, much less Dodger Stadium with no one in it in the wee small hours of the morning when it is SO COLD. The other marathon runners were thrilled at the cold weather. I was not. I hate being cold. HATE IT. (HATE IT!) I had packed light and now, I was freezing. I sat down on a bag of mortar. Dodger Stadium was undergoing renovations and the security guards, excited at the prospect of being security guards, zealously yelled at early arrivers to stay off the stadium seats.
|To pass the time, the other runners asked each other questions, the first almost always being, “So which one is this for you?” Of course they were asking which number marathon, the same way we ask each other “How you hittin’ ’em?” as our standard greeting. Those still in the single digits were offered encouragement and congratulations. Those at the higher numbers, awe and respect and questions about training regimens. I couldn’t help but feel like they were asking each other how many children they had. “Oh, this is my fifth. I’ll be working on nine total this year.” “That’s great, just keep on it. I’m on number 18 and looking to crack 20.”|
|I found 13 minutes and 45 seconds per mile would be a six-hour marathon pace. That sounded all right, but 26.2 miles was a long time for someone like me to keep steady.|
I sat around for two more hours (in the COLD! ARRGH!) then left to check in my gear bag. At the last minute, I kept one long-sleeve shirt because I was too wimpy to stand around in the cold without it. I felt like I would be carrying too much by keeping that extra shirt, but whatever. I’d had plenty of time to observe the other runners (25,000 had signed up) and noticed some carried an impressive amount of gear. They had fanny packs and belts with bottles of water. One guy carried a backpack with a variety of foods — and yes, he was going to carry that as he ran. There were CamelBaks, specialized backpacks for carrying fluids, on quite a few. All that gear seemed counterintuitive to me since I figured less baggage meant a faster time. I did think that perhaps the marathoning world had equipment freaks, just like the billiards world did.
Some marathoners were dressed festively, in tutus, as Elvises (Elvii?), in superhero outfits, and one giant Gumby costume. Well, we have pool playing Elvis, too, so that’s not so special. A lot of them wore special socks or compression sleeves on both legs and arms. There were people with colorful tape wrapped in interesting patterns around their muscles. I was completely out of my league.
Runners were seeded, with the faster runners starting out first. Cyclists, then elite men, elite women, runners seeded by projected finish times and then the last “corral” full of hacks like me.
I am surprised at how many people throw their sweatshirts and jackets to the side of the road as they warm up. I hope they’re getting them back. It seems like a waste if they are throwing away perfectly good clothes.
I have never seen such a sight: thousands of people running through the streets in a river of humanity. The adrenaline makes everyone run faster and if you are stuck in the rolling tide, you have no choice but to run faster, too.
Adrenaline runs out for some.
More long-sleeve shirts and sweatbands tossed by the wayside.
Someone lost their tutu.
Dude in a giant Gumby suit passes me. I feel all right. Dignity will flee me at some point, so I will feel proud I’m not hurling my guts out at the curb while I can.
There are thousands of people cheering. I can’t believe this many people would line the streets — but then, there are 25,000 runners with family and friends watching for them. It’s f#cking amazing, for real. I have never experienced such an overwhelmingly positive feeling in a competitive environment. It’s odd to have so many people who don’t know you wish you well. Bizarre.
Timer shows I’m juuuust under one hour here. I’m at a 12-minute mile pace, but I know it will end sometime. I won’t think too much about it, yet. Just move forward, always move forward.
In addition to water stations, there are tables of people handing out… food? What the hell is this? They are offering orange slices. Ehh, I don’t know about that. As a pool player, I am naturally suspicious of their altruism, even if they are holding up glittery signs telling me I’m awesome and I can do it. Nope, gonna pass that up, just to be safe.
Hey! There goes the bar my friends always talk about! They probably got their drink on the same time I started running.
Damn, this mile is loooong. Whoa, fatigue kicking in. Hallucinations may be following. Are we racing in nautical miles? Is that why this mile is so long?
A man holds a sign that says in giant black letters: “RUNNERS SUCK”
Underneath, in little letters: “(I’m just jealous!)”
Omg omg omg!! Mile 9! Whew. I missed the Mile 8 marker and was not going crazy thinking that mile was ridiculously Twilight Zone long. Legs getting tired now, but must keep pace. Must win bet.
F#ck this bet, f#ck this race, f#ck this hill, f#ck me and my stupid-ass “why not” ideas. F#ck you person giving out chili dogs, that’s not fair. That could kill a runner! With disgruntledness! At two hours, I’m still holding a 12-minute mile.
These fans lining the way hand out bananas and oranges. If I get roofied from eating some of these, it’s gotta be an improvement to how I’m feeling now. It’s not fair that I’m tired and lightheaded without having the benefit of drinking all night. F#ck it, give me an orange. I hope it’s roofied to the hilt.
The orange was not roofied. :-/
HALFWAY MOFOS!! A surge of accomplishment adrenaline speeds me up, and ten yards later, it wears off. I take the downhills as fast as possible, even though I know it will mean LOTS of pain later. But, FIDO (F#ck It Drive On).
There are bands and DJs at every mile marker. This marathon is an impressive production.
I slip on a banana peel but manage not to fall. I cannot believe that sh#t happens in real life. By the way, any drink company who provides me with tasty, tasty ice-cold coconut water when I am dying of bad decisions will have my loyalty FOREVER.
Girls dressed in sparkly green St. Patrick’s Day wear hold up signs asking: “Why do the cute ones always run away?!”
Pretzels, starmints, Red Vines, and jellybeans? What the hell? Are we trick-or-treating?! F#ck it, why not.
Three boys hold up a life-size cardboard Ryan Gosling wearing a t-shirt. On the t-shirt is written: “Hey, Girl! When you finish, this shirt comes off!”
Just because I’m sick in the head I push myself really hard in this mile. I reach a moment where I think I might be in The Zone (but it’s probably just oxygen deprivation). I can’t feel my legs, but the motion I require from them is not complicated so I make them move.
I have the idle thought that this race generates an astounding amount of trash on the streets: water cups, orange peels, bananas, candy wrappers, discarded clothing, broken dreams, sanity, etc.
Little old lady in a lawn chair wearing sunglasses has a sign propped up next to her: “Your feet hurt because you are KICKING ASS!”
Sadly, it is my own ass I am kicking.
One stretch of road is lined entirely in junior high and high school cheerleaders in uniform cheering you on. That’s pretty damn cool. Very Friday Night Lights-ish.
Feeling returns to my legs. I think maybe I’ve finally gotten used to the running and have hit my stride.
Feeling returns to my legs so they can seize up COMPLETELY shortly after the 18th mile mark. HOOOOLY SH#T. That is a total F#CK YOU FOR REAL move by my body. When my legs lock up, I tip forward face-first like a falling tree. My right leg shoots out and I end up just doing an undignified hop, but the cramp that accompanies the save is — AIYA. I hop for a few more yards. It’s like trying to start a failing car engine.
I walk all of Mile 18 as fast as possible.
I feel a little better so I alternate walking and running/hopping. It is painfully funny.
A lady with a tiny white dog holds a sign with an arrow pointing to the dog: “Run faster! He BITES!”
My apartment is three blocks away.
I pass the test.
I can no longer run.
If I walk like I normally do, with my arms swinging nonchalantly at my side, my fingertips will tingle painfully like they’ve been asleep. My guess is all the blood rushing around is being thrown to my fingertips by gravity and centrifigal force. F#ck. If I raise my forearms, the prickly pain subsides.
I’m going to have to be… a… racewalker.
Dignity means squat right now so if I look dorky as a racewalker, I do not give a f#ck.
A lady on the curb says to me, “Are you walkin’?!”
“Damn right,” I said back.
“What?! Ain’t nobody got time for that!” I look at her and she is carrying a sign that says, “Ain’t nobody got time fo’ dat!”
I laugh, “Did you really just say that?”
I lumber into a laborious, ungainly jog.
In case you’re not up to speed on the “Ain’t nobody got time fo’ dat!” meme, here is the original footage:
Which was then turned into an incredibly catchy song:
One family is having a front lawn barbecue. There is a keg by their fence with a sign that says “FREE BEER”. F#ck yes!
A lady has a sign of a My Little Pony throwing up and it reads: “Run until you puke rainbows!”
I walk extremely fast for this mile to ensure the sub-six-hour finish. I think I might have walked it in a little more than 13 minutes. Maybe I should have just walked the whole thing.
The pretty tree-lined avenues and their multimillion-dollar homes end at a cliff by the ocean. The last part of this race is on a boulevard in front of the ocean and it is crammed with people shoulder to shoulder screaming at you to run faster faster faster.
It’s not the 26 miles, it’s the 0.2 at the end that kills you. With thousands lining the homestretch, you’d feel guilty not running, too. I force myself to run the last bit and the clock reads 5:41 when I cross the finish line. Now I know what a runner’s high is. It is the relief you feel when you don’t have to run any more. I get a medal for finishing (and not dying).
Bus service has not yet been restored and will not be for at least another hour. I pick up some fast food and walk toward home until bus service resumes.
|Although I saw the clock at the finish read 5:41, my official finish time was 5:31:47. The staggered start meant I did not cross the start line until ten minutes after the gun went off. I kept a pace of 12:39 per mile which looks decent until you realize I was going 11:55 in the first half, dropping to an embarrassingly slow 14:45 at times in the latter half. Ouch. Burn. I finished in the bottom half of the field overall, the average finish time being somewhere around 5 hours and 15 minutes.|
|Top men’s finisher, Eric Mose of Kenya, kept a pace of 4:57 per mile. A f#cking sub-5 mile pace for 26.2 miles. Great googly moogly.|
|Top women’s finisher, Aleksandra Duliba of Belarus, kept a pace of 5:34 which is two seconds faster than the fastest mile I have run.|
I was curious as you are to see how long it would take to recover from this bad decision.
|I was very sore, especially in my quadriceps and calves. Walking down stairs was actually the most painful thing. I could not sit for long stretches of time otherwise getting up would be difficult. When I did get up, I could not start walking right away, I had to shake my legs to get them going or else I would stumble.|
|I felt a lot better, walking down stairs was still difficult, but not terrible.|
|Exponentially better today. No pain walking down stairs and minimal muscle stiffness. I can walk normally, and run if I must. The most aching comes from right under my hip where my quads connect to the bone.|
That was an interesting experience. I had no idea what to expect from a marathon and I was pleasantly surprised at how much of a party it was. Looking back, I think I could have run faster, but I did not know what I was doing and in addition to training, there is strategy to running a race that long. I feel better after running the race — I think it improved my physical condition significantly.
Some asked if I would do it again, and I said “maybe”. The most current proposal is for me to finish in under five hours next year. That would require me to cut more than a half hour off this year’s time, and speed up my mile pace by more than a minute. Tall order. But, if the bet is right, I might try that. I do think I would need to train to break the five-hour mark. We’ll see… 🙂
Let us compare the marathon with the Chet Itow Memorial Tournament, which conveniently took place the week before.
The day after I ran the marathon, I woke up before my alarm went off and went to work early. Throughout the day, I did not feel particularly tired in mind or body, just stiff in muscles and joints. My biggest problem was walking down flights of stairs. If there was a rail and no one important around, I sat on the rail and slid down. Whee!
The day after the Chet Itow, I hit the snooze button approximately one thousand times, struggled to get out of bed, dragged my ass to work and drank a cup of coffee every two hours to maintain at least an appearance of wakefulness until I could go home and crash for 14 hours.
As a serious pool player and an unserious marathon runner, I can tell you the pool tournament tired me out much more. Although my muscles were sore from running, my mind was clear. After the tournament, I was mentally worn out although the rest of me was just fine. Were I to become a serious marathon runner, perhaps this would change. My thought process during the marathon was just to keep moving and I did not have to think about strategy or pressure.
Until I am competitive in both pool and marathons at a comparative level, these results are (sadly) inconclusive.
I lost that match because of a lack of mental fitness. I could run another marathon, though, just to be sure I’m physically fit enough for Round 2.
Ball’s in your court! 🙂
|a reading link|
|« MARCH 20, 2013 »|
|Becoming the All-Terrain Human|
|So what’s next when you’re 25 and every one of the races on the wish list you drew up as a youngster has been won and crossed out? You dream up a new challenge.|