After my triumphant debut at 18, I would not return to marathons for 11 years. I went off to college at Stanford. My freshman roommate transferred out after 2 days, and my new assigned roommate was a senior who was a stud on the cross country team! He actually had the national high school record for the marathon, something like 2:21. He encouraged me not only to keep running, but to join the track team as a walk-on. So I trained with a bunch of all-americans, mostly behind them of course, but got into the best shape of my life. Set all my lifetime PRs like 57:09 for a 10 miler, 34:03 for a 10K. Sadly all those miles caused a stress fracture, so by sophomore year I had quit and discovered parties. For the next 8 years or so I ran off and on, mostly off. Did races for fun. Graduated, moved to Southern California, discovered more parties, got my MBA in the evenings, got married at 26. Finished graduate school at 27. Less parties, more time available, feeling settled - Time to train a little more.
In 1990 I started getting a little more serious about the running. Signed up for the LA Marathon in March 1991. ($25!) Ran a 40 minute 10K in October, a 1:33 half in November, and a 1:31 half in February 4 weeks before race day. So I was feeling good. However, a peek at my mileage logs showed that I never ran longer than 13 miles. In fact other than the half marathons, nothing over 10 miles! Cue evil theme music. I was running 3 days a week and getting by on youth and muscle memory.
Race day was sunny and warm. The beginning was awesome - 20,000+ runners is an incredible experience. After the gun, the loud speakers always play "I Love LA" by Randy Newman, and with everyone screaming and excited and all the emotion...That song now makes me choke up every time. Just past the start the pack slowed down again because everyone was waving at Muhammad Ali standing up high with the mayor. Then we were off through downtown LA. The streets surrounded by tall buildings were fun to run through. With no cars and thousands of runners, it was surreal.
So I was enjoying the experience. Lots of fans, a good variety of neighborhoods. Running down Hollywood Blvd was fun. But once I got past 13 miles, my legs were dead. I was fading fast. I don't have splits, but I think I was on pace for a 3:20 or so. But then it all fell apart. By 16 I was on empty and had started to take walk breaks. It was hot, and I had no energy, and still 10 miles to go! The last ten miles were through a seedier part of town, and it was not inspiring me, but I don't think it mattered. My body was done. I walked most of the last 8 miles. I would have quit but I figured the fastest way to get home was to just keep walking to the finish. I was frustrated, p!ssed, just exhausted. Ugh.
The finish was at the LA Coliseum, which was nice. For at least a mile I could see it ahead and that got me going a little. My wife was waiting for me there, and must have wondered what the hell was going on as I was due over an hour ago. I managed to trot through the finish at exactly 4:30:00.
Now, how about those pink shorts and the pale yellow top?! In 1991 they were stylish! My proof is the guy behind me also has pink shorts.(Thank God for him)
So I found the wall. I did not feel any great sense of accomplishment. I didn't want to brag to anyone. Just embarrassed. I vowed not to let that happen again. Of course most non-runners couldn't care less about my time and were still impressed that I ran a marathon. Meh. It sucked.
Next up - Episode 3 - Return of the Runner (1995)