Feb 28, 2007

Marathon Running

In my opinion running a marathon is not something you can do your best at the first time out. Maybe not even the first 3-5 times out. It, more than any other race, is so mentally challenging that without the experience of having done one (or two or three) you really can't know how to prepare for that side of it. I've made mistakes in every one of mine and I'm sure I'll make more in the future but as I go I'll continue to learn and one day (maybe) I'll have the perfect race that'll leave me basking in its glory.

Warning: Mistakes Ahead!
Mt. Rushmore Marathon
This was my first marathon so I cut myself a little slack. I was hoping for a time of 3:30 to 3:40 and training was going at about that pace. I ran a 20 mile race 4 weeks before at a 8:06 per mile pace and that would have put me at 3:32 for the marathon. The mistake was this: in my training and the 20 mile run I had been following Jeff Galloway's 10 minutes running, 1 minute of walking routine. It seemed to work and was okay for workouts but I definitely didn't like it in races. So with just 4 weeks and basically the taper left, I changed strategy and tried to run the full time, all the time. The results are predictable.

Grandma's Marathon
In order to secure an entry into Grandma's marathon, you need to apply 6 months before the race. I did so and training started well but somewhere in that time my wife and I decided to make the move to Tokyo. Not a decision I regret at all, in fact I love it here but with the details of moving and getting the house in order etc, I ran a total of 76 miles in the 2 months preceding the marathon. That's not a mistake I'll make again.

Nagano Marathon
I was fairly well trained for this marathon but still not sure what to expect. The lesson I learned here is one that is as old as the marathon itself. I think every runner of every distance has to learn this one and usually the hard way. I started out too fast. I had a goal of 3:10, ran the first half in 3:06 pace (a new half PB at the time) and after 25k started the slow death spiral to the finish line. Yes, I still start races too fast, just not marathons.

Portland Marathon
I really don't think I was sufficiently trained to run a qualifying time for this marathon. I was training through a hot Tokyo summer and the heat and humidity prohibited me from doing enough long marathon paced runs. Add to that a massive case of jetlag and lack of sleep the 3 nights before and out comes a disappointing time. Also, the hill leading up to St. John's bridge is a killer! Easily the single worst hill I've ever run in any race at any distance. How could they put that thing in a marathon?!?

Tokyo Marathon
I was well trained for this marathon. I put in a lot of miles and a lot of long marathon paced runs. I felt good and was running well. And that turned out to be my problem. In the 2 and 1/2 weeks before the marathon I ran PB's in the 5k, 10k and half marathon. The first two weren't a problem because I'm sure I would have still recovered in time. However the hard half marathon seemed to throw me well off. In the two weeks from that half to the marathon I was never able to get back into any rhythm. Marathon pace felt too fast; faster than it had previously. I don't mind so much because I was still able to get a PB and Boston qualifying time at Tokyo, but it is obvious I could have done better.

Tokyo Marathon

The Tokyo marathon was a bit of redemption for me. I finally ran a qualifying time for the Boston marathon which I plan to run in April, 2008. I have had this goal for the last year, a time span that encompasses my last three marathons. Last March I ran the Nagano Olympic Marathon and finished in 3:21:18; a measly 19 seconds away from qualifying. Then last October I ran the Portland marathon with my friend LBG and ran a disheartening, disappointing, crushing 3:50:38. Finally at Tokyo I was able to train sufficiently and in spite of a crucial error in judgement (more on that later) I broke through the barrier. Throughout the marathon I never felt like I was in a good running rhythm. Towards the end I started to slow and was mentally calculating what I needed to do over the last 5-7k's in order to hit a qualifying time. Although I wouldn't admit it to myself, I pretty much knew I would make it this time. When I did finally cross the finish line I didn't feel the huge rush of relief and accomplishment. Maybe I was too tired. Maybe I knew I was going to do it and so wasn't that relieved. Whatever it was, I sit here now, satisfied with qualifying but still knowing a PB is out there for me.

Another note I'd like to make about the Tokyo marathon is the pleasure it was to run in such a major marathon with so many of my friends and compatriots. You see I belong the the Namban Rengo running club. There were 50 or so of us that were lucky enough to get selected to run. With the two long out and backs in the Tokyo course, this made for prime viewing and cheering of passing friends. Also LBG came to Tokyo with his family so he could run. I don't imagine I'll soon have the opportunity to compete in such an event with so many of my colleagues again.

Feb 24, 2007

Running History

Since this is the first post of my first blog, I thought I'd provide a little history. I ran cross country and track in high school but that was 20+ years ago. I was only as dedicated as a middle of the pack teenage boy would be and didn't really know much about running. When I look back upon it I don't think my coaches at the time knew much about running either. Although to be fair I probably just didn't listen to what they were telling me and only ran as much as I need to in order to get by. The years from high school to present were passed with sports and activity but not much running. About 5 years ago that a friend mentioned that he and his wife were running some road races. I thought that sounded like fun so I entered a few myself. For the next few years I played basketball 2-3 times a week and entered the occasional race on weekends. As I started to get into running a little more I added 1-3 miles after basketball and maybe a little weekend running. In 2003 I decided to train for and run the Mt. Rushmore International marathon in the Black Hills of South Dakota. I debuted with a 3:57:58 marathon. Not bad, not great. I have since run faster and slower ones, the most recent was the inaugural Tokyo People's Marathon on February 18, 2007. I ran a PB in 3:18:13. Pretty good, but I think I can do better. You see I've only been running seriously for about 20 months since we moved to Tokyo. I had to give up my basketball playing and now running has taken its place. That mostly brings you up to date for now.