Marathon Journal: 23 Mile LOSER!

February 21, 2010

I entered the Pasadena Marathon thinking I could get a long run out of the way and maybe get lucky and finish. Miracles happen every day. Not today.

The Marathon started at 7am and I kept my expectations low, maybe I’d only do the half (13.5 miles) or maybe I’d get up to 18 or 20 miles. But the longer I ran the more I started fantasizing about finishing the race. Wouldn’t My Beloved and the kids be proud?

Everything seemed to be moving along well other than the number of switchbacks that were part of the course. It’s boring to go two miles down a road only to turn around and have to come back up the same road. The worst part is that while heading toward the end of that road, I get to see all of the winner runners hauling buns and looking like real Marathoners. Then as I turn around and head back I see all of the people I’m in front of… it looked like a walking club for the Code Pink Weight Watchers. It made me feel like a leper, not a winner and running a Marathon is very much a psychological game.

I don’t want to come off like a spoiled princess, but having only run the LA Marathon last year the Pasadena Marathon is an unimpressive event. There aren’t enough water stations, whereas the LA Marathon has major sponsors like Gatorade who put up stations every other mile. Pasadena’s looked like it was sponsored by a Tijuana 99 cent store.

There’s nothing like floundering and not being sure what mile you’re at. “Am I at mile 9? Is that why my feet are burning?” Then I pass this tiny, knee high sign on someone’s front yard that says, “Mile 6”. LA Marathon has stations that offer apples and bananas, while Pasadena, which was sponsored by Chico’s Discount Bail Bonds and Pawn Shop set out a box of energy packs at mile 18.

This woman who passed me looked like she was running in her underwear. Another could only be described as thinking she was running the Pasadena Marathong.

I made friends with a personal trainer in the middle of the run and he encouraged me to keep up my pace. I ran with him for about 7 miles but his pace was a 12 minute mile, which is a lot faster than I usually run my 20 mile distances. I don’t know if it tired me out, but whoever planned this marathon with two giant friggen’ hills at mile 19 and 21 had never run a race before. By the time I was done with those hills my legs and endurance was shot.

By mile 19 my toes were cramping up, I’d stop for a few minutes to push my shoe tips up against a curb and then get back to jogging. But as I slowed down to stop, the rest of my leg muscles started locking up. I learned a lot during this “race of don’ts” and among them is to not stop even when nursing a cramp.

Did I mention that I had less that 4 hours sleep last night? I couldn’t fall asleep, probably because of nerves. I also have my lungs-o-liquid problem. I didn’t really notice it until after the hills, but I started getting muscle pain, lower back pain, it felt like the bones in my feet were all out of cushion and pounding the cement and I got a little feverish.

It was a cold day, which is good to keep from overheating, but I was having a problem making myself sweat. I got goosebumps a felt clammy. By the end of mile 22 I was jogging… sideways. Dizzy spells came and went and I started walking on and off. This is the first time I stopped to walk on any run in the last 2 years. That’s something I almost never do.

At mile 23 I didn’t think I could walk the 3.2 miles to the finish line. I sat on a curb for about 5 minutes and everything started locking up. Worst of all, the walkers and obese runners I had no problem staying in front of started passing me, “Are you okay?” It’s a bad sign when people ask how you’re doing, because it usually means you look like a corpse.

I unlaced my shoes and hobbled three blocks to an aid station. This is where the professional medical staff took over and checked my blood pressure, temperature and gave me water. They said I was pretty dizzy and they called in “the van” to take me to the finish line where a bigger medical tent was set up. It was all pretty embarrassing but I figured I had it coming. “Respect the Marathon” came to mind.

My blood pressure was normal but my pulse was fluctuating. Once it stabilized they released me. I went to McDonald’s and got a burger and McNuggets… they gipped me of my hot mustard sauce. Pasadena McDonald’s is probably somehow associated with the Pasadena Marathon.

The worst thing about crapping out of a Marathon is that it put a little doubt in my mind about running the LA Marathon. I kept thinking, “Maybe I should just support My Beloved and not worry about running another one.” Those are the bad voices. Don’t listen to those.

Once I got home, Angie and the kids took good care of me. I took a huge nap and the kids only jumped on my knees and feet a couple of times. The first order of business was to throw the Pasadena Marathon shirt in the trash. If I don’t run the race I don’t get to wear the shirt. Big loss. I’d rather be caught wearing a Mondale/Feraro ’84 shirt.

So that’s how I ran 23 miles and still felt like a loser. Weird because this is the second to the longest amount I’ve ever run and it was probably my best time for the distance. Things are looking up. My legs are feeling better already and I learned a few hard lessons to keep in mind for the LA Marathon. Most of all, there’s a little voice in my head saying that I can’t do the LA Marathon. That’s a voice I’m looking forward to prove wrong.


8 Responses to “Marathon Journal: 23 Mile LOSER!”

  1. Bob McGowan Says:

    OK Doug, you did really well and you learned some valuable lessons. No water/gatorade is a killer. Don’t expect to get a great sleep the night before a marathon, not many folks do. That’s why they say the sleep two nights before the race is really critical. Sometimes you have to stop when you cramp up but just try to keep moving forward. Walking isn’t such a big deal and usually you can shake it off and start up again. All in all you had a good training run and you’re still way ahead of schedule, especially considering your cold. You’ll do fine in L.A.

  2. Ryan Says:

    23 miles is a long way. Good job getting that far!

  3. Kathy Fullerton Says:


    You’ve made me laugh again. Hate to keep chuckling at your trials, but the description of the Pasadena Marathon and your fellow participants is priceless. Have to read this one to my husband. We got kicked out of our LIving Water Half Marathon team for being rank beginners. Oh well, I’ll just sit on my fat can and live vicariously through you. I’m thinking right now about the Pasadena Marathonger. Hee hee.

    Please keep going. My life will not be complete until I read the description of the LA Marathon. Oh, and thank God for kids who only jump on your knees and feet a little. Most kids aren’t that disciplined.

  4. Sean McGowan Says:

    I love that you paid for the marathon. Few Christians I know would do that.

  5. Lynn Maudlin Says:

    Doug, it’s awesome that this was among your best times for the distance, even with the various stops & cramps – hold onto the fact of how awesome that is and let go of the subjectivity of fat ladies passing you by…!

    I was bugged by the marathon: there’s been NO local publicity & I only knew about it because I heard on the radio before leaving for church that the 210 Mountain on & off ramps were closed. Nobody mentioned, however, that many streets were closed and there was no easy way to get form Altadena to the freeway! Good thing I left extra early because I had to make a U-turn and drive out by way of the Rosebowl in order to reach the 134!! Sheeeesh!

  6. John Thum Says:

    Hey, Doug. Sorry I missed you. I was doing the half. Just think of it as a 23 mile training day. You know you can do a marathon because you have done it before. Even pro runners have to drop out sometimes. You have to learn from your disappointments.

  7. lemm Says:

    Cor blimey Doug.

    Don’t worry about failing or whatever…the fact that you’ve done this much (especially considering illness) isn’t something to be regarded as a failure. Things are only failures when people give up on them in spite of the difficulty.
    Get well soon. x___x

  8. Lots of Great information in your post, I favorited your blog post so I can visit again in the future, All the Best

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