Sitting in the cosy VIP suite, I’m tempted to stay here a while longer. Let the mass of runners start the race without me and just enjoy the sunshine on Santa Monica pier instead.
However, with a flight at 4pm, I know that I need to finish before 12 if I’m going to have my classic post-race Diet Coke and fries, and be able to shower and make it to LAX on time.
I reluctantly grab the rest of my stuff, make a last trip to the loo and head outside.
I’m in the mass start, and the corrals are overflowing, spilling in to the surrounding areas. A crowd of people try to make their way in to the 8-9 min mile area. However, soon, the Police are pushing us away – a suspicious bag has been found (about 20m from where I’m standing). Helicopters circle overhead and a call for the Bomb squad is made. We are pushed out in a giant circle around the bag…being told to move away. Except there is no where to go, and I find myself 5 metres from the ‘bomb threat’.
At least some of the pre-race jitters turn into nervous excitement at the drama unfolding beside me.
Turns out, someone has obviously just forgotten about their bag stuffed with toiletries, sandals and jumpers in the panic to get to the start line. Sadly the commotion drowns out the National Anthem, my favourite part of American race starts.
With the bag situation resolved, we are funnelled into the corral and towards the starting line.
The first mile is slow, with people finding their rhythm, others stopping to use the bathroom and walkers taking their first steps of the course.
It takes me until the second mile to find a rhythm, and I make sure to take my first walking break of the day. My plan from coach Ash was to take it SUPER easy, to walk every mile/9 mins for 1 min. Instead of being attached to my watch, I decided to walk through every water station from start to finish as my walking breaks, allowing me to take on adequate hydration and fuel at the right time.
I’d been warned that the first few miles were undulating hills, and wow was I glad for the heads up. I found myself faced with hills far steeper than I expected, and even took one early walking break up a particular intimidating incline.
Around mile 3 I started needing the loo…and that early on in a race, you cannot ignore it. ON the plus side, not going for a specific time (although with a ballpark range of 4-4.15) I knew I could afford to stop at the portals when I found them. Unfortunately it seemed like a number of other people had the same idea…6 minutes later and I was back out on the course.
Soon we were cruising down Hollywood Boulevard, with the Hollywood sign high in the hills above us. Its my first ‘pinch me’ moment, running down the wide open road, sun shining, palm trees lining the streets.
I expected the undulating hills to stop around mile 8 and the course did flatten somewhat. We ran along the main roads that I recognised from my honeymoon to LA in 2017, through residential streets, past restaurants, hotels and bars.
We ran through Beverly Hills where there was sadly no Taylor Swift sighting, although Jeff Goldblum did cross the street in front of me carrying his kids; only in LA!
Did I mention that the LA marathon feels like more of a sightseeing tour of LALA land than any other city marathon I’ve run before. Another highlight was running down Rodeo Drive, imagining myself in Pretty Woman (minus the thigh high boots and sleazy Richard Gere thing) I actually accidentally picked my pace up to an 8 min mile here, grinning from ear to ear. I’m still in that phase where running feels glorious, before your whole body starts to hurt.
That part came next.
Mile 21 is a gradual hill. Again, I’ve been warned but it doesn’t feel any better.
Around me a lot of people are walking. I feel like one of the few people trying to keep a consistent pace and that in itself is made harder by the sight of walkers. When your body just wants to stop moving, seeing other people walk is almost like permission for you to stop too. But I don’t. I keep moving forward.
I see someone I know from London around mile 22, give him a very sweaty hug and get a giant boost of energy.
Not long after, I see groups of spectators with signs for FREE BEER, handing out little cups. And I think, ‘you know what, I’ve never taken anything weird from someone during a race. I always laugh and think how awesome it is that people have beers mid-marathon….today that person will be me!’
The beer is so cold refreshing and delicious. And of course, perfect carbs to keep me topped up! Onwards I run, counting down the miles now. Taking in energy from spectators until finally, finally I can see the sea.
We make a final turn onto Ocean Avenue and the end is in sight. Crowds are three deep, cheering us on. This is the moment we’ve all been waiting for. I scan looking for Zoe, trying to see her. Cursing that I can’t spot her in the crowds, feeling bad that she’s come all this way to see me…and I’ve missed her.
And then I’m over the finish line…and in the distance is Zoe…medal in hand. Ready to hang it round my neck!
Every single marathon is a mental and physical battle, regardless of what pace you run. This race was no different, although I loved taking the walking breaks every mile (I walked every water station from start to finish) ensuring I got enough fluid and to stop me from running too fast at the start. It also changed my viewpoint on walking – my 20 miler two weeks prior also had a 1 min walk break every mile and I still managed a 9 min mile average! I think that run/walking could revolutionise marathon running for some people!
Huge thanks to LA Marathon team for providing me with a race bib for the race and pre/post race VIP.
Well done – best description yet. G.
Thanks Grandfather. You’ll have to come and watch me in a marathon one of these days! xx
Love the style you’ve written this post in!
What a fabulous marathon experience and a fantastic finish time too!
I love that you stopped for the beer too 😀
Think this might be added to my bucket list but with only one marathon under my belt I’m still a bit scared of them!!
Thanks for sharing 🙂
Thanks Rachel. You should definitely add it to your bucket list, no reason to be scared of them. Yes they’re hard (as you probs experienced in your first) but with training they are totally doable! And LA is such a fun city and awesome course!
And yes, first time for everything, including beer on the course! x
Love your race reports! This looked like a great race and well done on sticking to the plan. I have used the run / walk strategy for long runs and races and am a big fan. It keeps me injury free, helps with proper hyrdation/nutrition and keeps me consistent in pacing. I run a faster overall race this way. It’s not for everyone but it definitely has its merits for a mid packer like me!!
Really love this race report. I think the run/walk breaks are a great idea and it doesn’t matter how much of a seasoned runner you are, the benefits can be huge and as you said, can keep you consistent with pacing. I’ll definitely give this a try when I get the courage to sign up to a marathon!
Taking walking breaks is a strategy that Jeff Galloway espoused in his marathon training book. Obviously it is effective for many people even experienced runners.
Nice blog as usual Charlie and great place to run, have seen the sights but not at running pace
Also had a walk run plan for the somewhat less glamourous Manchester marathon but only from mile 19, first time I have adopted it on purpose but you know what it works.
I chose a run walk strategy for the City Run last weekend and I couldn’t believe how many people were commenting to me saying keep going, or get back to running etc etc when I PLANNED MY WALKS and enjoyed taking in the atmosphere!
Great write up! …almost, made me wanna consider a marathon! lol
Great post, really love the information you share. Signed up for my first marathon yesterday getting out of my comfort zone having run 11 Half Marathons.
LA is mega hilly isn’t it! I was pretty shocked by some of the hills coming out of Santa Monica and then up from Hollywood Boulevard, serious gradients! Congrats on sticking to the plan and getting it done, especially with a flight to catch! x
Sounds like an amazing race! The sights alone would just make me want to go ha. Love the idea of walking after each mile… It makes the 26.1 miles seem much less daunting. I’ve got my first in October so looking at everything I can ha!