Sweaty and disoriented, I go to grab some water. My legs ache, my vision is blurry and I’m out of breath. I adjust my shorts, grab a quick stretch and walk for a bit… to the fridge for some orange juice.
I wake up about the same time most elite entrants are nearing the finish line. I feel a little embarrassed as I told one Stan Lerner that I would meet him to watch as runners come in. Sorry, Stan. I will not be hi-fiving any sweaty strangers today. I could barely get out of bed this morning. No, I have not partied myself into a head-cold. I’ve actually taken it relatively easy this weekend. And yet, I feel sick and feverish.
Please, do not mistake me for another skeptic looking for excuses. I appreciate any showmanship of athleticism. Moreover, I’ve bared witness to what it takes to prepare for a marathon. And as many of us do, I’ve lived vicariously through someone better suited to tackle such feat, my girlfriend Nina.
Nina will run the Rock n’ Roll Marathon in San Diego next Sunday. She has been training for several months and could likely smoke my moderately swift ass in any footrace. Well, I might win, but what’s winning when you fall to the ground and writhe in the pangs of exhaustion?
I am missing the finish line in Los Angeles because I’m feeling ill in San Diego. And ironically, the lady who could help me with insight on this whole running thing is out, running.
Still, although I feel lazy and worthless, sprawled out on this couch with a tissue jammed up one nostril and a headache to boot, I appreciate the athleticism behind long-distance running. Should you disagree, consider the following:
The 2009 Los Angeles Marathon offers a purse of $100,000 to be divided up between winners and runners-up. $20,000 goes to the winners of the men’s and women’s pools. There are runner-up prizes of $12,500 and additional prizes of $5,000 and $2,500 for places three through five. Additionally, winners receive a 2009 Honda Accord EX-L V6 sedan. That baby’s suggested retail price is just shy of $29,000. Like in other athletic contests, a marathon can become a regular “The Price is Right.”
And the showcase? Well, the Los Angeles Marathon “Challenge” (which was begun in 2004), pits men and women against each other – the women’s elite field is placed several minutes ahead of the men’s. The first person across the finish line banks an attractive $100,000. Additionally, there are bonuses for runners who achieve specific times. Bonuses range from $3,000 for times below 2:12:00 for men and 2:30:00 for women to $75,000 for times below 2:07:30 for men and 2:20:00 for women.
Makes you think, “the price is right, Bob.” But, please do not get the impression that a 2:07:30 marathon is an easy feat. Don’t call in to work tomorrow thinking you can substitute 52 weeks of 9-5ing for a couple of hours of sweat. Sorry. We’re talking about 26.2 miles of hard work and determination. Yes, a runner’s high does kick in about 2/3 of the way through. But let me put things into perspective for you.
The top male contestant in this marathon is Tariku Jufar of Addis Ababa, Ethiopia. Tariku’s best finish of 2:08:10 came last year in Hamburg. His female counterpart is Nuta Olaru of Craiova, Romania whose best mark of 2:24:33 came nearly five years ago in Chicago. Again, were speaking about 26.2 miles here. So if you want a good laugh, do the math. It’s quite humbling.
If somehow you feel you can top runners like that, then by all means, adopt running as your profession. If you can’t and decide to run a marathon for the heck of it, then by all means, do what you’ve got to do. We need more people like you. The go-getters who want to prove themselves and attain fitness while doing so.
If you don’t feel that you can finish a full marathon, the event also offers a 5K race and the Acura Bike Tour. The Bike Tour (which began in 1995) has apparently become the single most popular cycling event in the world. Cyclists warm up the track for the runners to follow. Contestants hopped on their bikes at 5:00 am this morning to enjoy biking around Los Angeles without any traffic. I’m ashamed I couldn’t hop into my Acura RSX hatchback and make the drive to Los Angeles. Perhaps I need to stop watching and take on one of these inspiring feats. Perhaps…
Here are some tips from a seasoned observer. Yes, observer. So, take them or leave them.
Watch Simon Pegg’s “Run Fatboy Run” for inspiration. Pegg’s character uses a marathon to reanimate his disappointing life. I’m not saying you have a disappointing life, but if Pegg’s character can do it, we can all do it.
Jump on board with a training team of some sort. There are plenty out there. These teams will help you via motivation and support. Most teams are composed of both veterans and novices to provide balance. Moreover, these groups generally raise funds for some noteworthy cause – like the get Michael Chavez Off of The Couch Foundation. Only kidding. There are legitimate and commendable causes.
Create a training schedule; keep to it and log your efforts. No one can be expected to just jump into a marathon and skate their way through. The body needs to develop muscle memory and cardiovascular strength.
Get the right equipment. Shoes and socks, jerseys and shorts can make or break you. Make sure you are comfortable and confident with each. Run with each during your training to determine what works best.
Download Survivor‘s “Eye of the Tiger.” Hit “Repeat One.”
Get a good fan club. Even if you have to hire the neighbors to come out and cheer you on, this will help. I go for a cheap rate myself and can hoot and holler with the best of them. Just don’t contact me for next week’s run in San Diego. Nina has already put down her deposit.
Congratulations to all of the runners who took it upon themselves to tackle LA Live’s challenge. 26.2 miles is a big feat. Kudos to the 5Kers and cyclists. Good luck to those running next week’s Rock n’ Roll.