Tuesday, November 17, 2009

Malibu Marathon

The Malibu Marathon in brief: beautiful sunny day, amazing ocean view, challenging hills, least crowded marathon ever, wonderful personal support and encouragement from my ever faithful friend Kip, and overall the most enjoyable long run that I can remember.

I finished in 4:57, just barely under that 5 hour mark, and nearly 20 minutes slower than the LA marathon, but not too bad considering I had trained less for this race and the course turned out to be significantly more challenging than the LA race. Most importantly, I finished the race feeling fine. I was certainly ready for the race to be over as I crossed the finish line, but I was strong enough to enjoy the rest of the day.

Unlike the LA Marathon in May which attracted at least 15,000 runners, only about 370 runners ran the Malibu Marathon, which made it feel comparatively like a quiet, laid-back run along the beach, sort of. I’m not sure 26.2 miles will ever really be “laid back.” But it felt relaxed, and I ran it feeling relaxed.

The race began just after dawn in Ventura County, along country roads in a sample of California’s beautiful farmland. My marathoning partner from the LA Marathon, Jon, and I played name-that-plant/vegetable for the first hour. Having spent some of my childhood in rural farming communities, where rolling acres are devoted to the same crop, tobacco or cotton in Alabama, corn in Wisconsin; I was delighted by the diversity of plants growing at every turn – artichokes, cabbages, celery, and strawberries.

El Caballo really wanted to run with us.

When I passed mile 10 I remembered that 11 months ago my goal had been to run 10 miles before the end of 2008. I ran that on New Year’s Eve and was so exhausted that I zonked before we were able to ring in the New Year. I could barely walk the next day, and here I was, less than a year later, passing mile 10 with a smile.

About half way through the race the route turned along the Pacific Coastal Highway, and the runners were treated to the world famous views of mountains and ocean. Sometimes the wind blew against us, and at one time I had to turn around and chase my hat.

Let the hills begin!

Up hill ..against the wind

Around mile 18, just when I started to really feel tired, we hit a series of challenging hills that continued until mile 24.

Jon, who had been taking it easy, (he is training for more challenging races over the next few months) decided to speed up around mile 20 and he ended up finishing quite a bit before me. But being alone for the last few miles gave me time to focus on the run and dig deep for that perseverance that makes runners into marathon finishers.

Through the whole race Kip was the most amazing support person ever. At the beginning of the race he noticed that I had dropped my energy snacks, a little stick of strawberry-flavored jelly chews that stick to my braces and give me that little extra boost. And by the time I rounded the first big intersection, he was there, camera and energy snacks in hand.

I had not expected to see him often along the route, but he was able to follow me all the way, driving a few miles ahead and waiting for me, taking pictures, offering Gatorade, smiling, cheering, doing his best impression of Chariots of Fire – which actually became less funny around mile 22. He even changed into a pair of running shorts and ran up a hill or two with me.

Because the hills were so difficult, I forgot about the actual mileage at one point and just focused on running. I was actually surprised when I passed the Malibu fire station and someone yelled, “just two more miles to go.” I thought about that in terms of circles around my neighborhood park, and I knew I could make it. It was helpful that the last two miles were mostly downhill too.

The foot I sprained about a month earlier was throbbing by this point, and I just wanted to make it to the finish. Focus. Finish. Focus.

I also started listening to a podcast of This American Life at this time, which made me laugh. I realized that it was probably not a very competitive strategy to start listening to NPR in the last leg of a marathon, but it was relaxing in a way that helped me zone out of my discomfort.

finishing at 4:57

At the finish line, after receiving my medal and commemorative beach towel, I took my shoes off and waded into the chilly ocean water. It felt great on my swollen feet.

Calling Mom and Dad to tell them all about it.

I told one of my friends today that I really don’t want to see myself as a 5-hour kind of marathon runner. I think if I run another marathon I’ll work on improving my time, but for now, I’m happy that I enjoyed this run. My constant prayer had been, “help me to run well and finish strong.” And I felt like God helped me do that.

My sister asked me a few weeks ago why I wanted to run a marathon, and I wasn’t quite sure how to answer her. Maybe I run marathons (hey, I can be plural now) because it feels really great to set a huge goal and accomplish it. But it must be more than that because I don’t quite get the same feeling from finishing my taxes or organizing the hall closet. Maybe I just like the medals.

Not sure why, but I think I want to do it again.


  1. Congrats on a great race! :) I know Maritza said she saw you out there and great job! It was a very tough course and you did it!

  2. Great job!! That course was tough and looks like we all had a hard time after 18...I don't wanna be a 5 hour marathoner either! This was my worst time! Hahahaha but like you, I'm also just grateful for the finish.

    Thanks for saying hi during the race, it was so nice to meet you! I've added you to my reader so I'll be following.

    Take care and great job on the marathon. And a big congratulations for FAR SURPASSING your goal to run 10 miles...You Rock!!