Gary’s Long Beach Marathon Race Report Part II

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To run my marathon under 3:30 you have to average 8 minute miles. So our plan was to run 7:45 minute miles. That way I would have a few minutes to spare if I slowed down the last few miles

My tendency is run the pace of my running partners. Whether that be the fast runners like Matt or the back of the pack runners. I like to hook up with someone and cruise at their speed. I have to admit, Matt is faster than me on the flats. So this could be a problem.

Matt and I fired off our first 10K in 47 minutes…a 7:38 pace. I know what you’re thinking…thats a bit fast. I agree. I tried to slow things down. But all the excitement, the adrenaline, the desire to run 3:30 kept us accelerating. It was like we would find a pace, my lean, then I’d relax, get into my breathing, then Matt’s alarm on his Garmin would beep beep beep indicating we were going too fast. So I’d back off my lean, and the whole cycle would repeat itself.

I’m eating goos. Drinking lots of water on the course. And drinking my Accelerade.

Then at mile 8 on the bike path. I saw a flock of hundreds of seagulls lift off from the beach. I smiled thinking of God. Thinking of Jonathan Livingston Seagull…

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If you have not read Jonathan Livingston Seagull, you must…especially if you practice ChiRunning.

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Jonathan was a seagull who would rather practice new flying tricks than following the flock. See the flock had a regular routine of following the fishing boats around waiting for scraps of food. Then they’d come back to shore. And sleep.

The same life day after day. Just trying to get through the day.

Meanwhile Jonathan would be out over the ocean trying new techniques. He’d try to go faster and faster on his dives than any seagull before him.

“Most gulls don’t bother to learn more than the simplest facts of flight–how to get from shore to food and back again. For most gulls, it is not flying that matters, but eating. For this gull though, it was not eating that mattered, but flight. More than anything else, Jonathan Livingston loved to fly.” (p.12)

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So Matt and I just flew along. Trying to pace. Enjoying this speed, like Jonathan, we had worked so hard to develop. “But the speed was power, and the speed was joy, and the speed was pure beauty.”

Then God had other plans for us.

At the halfway mark we were at 1:41. That works out to a 7:45 pace. Our speed was still cruising but I began to worry as hips began getting fatigued.

That’s where it always starts for me. The upper hips. Then the fatigue spreads like a virus through my body.

By the time we reached Studebaker (mile 17) Matt began pulling ahead and I began slowing down. Even though I was hydrated and had been eating GU’s, three at this point, drinking Accelerade, my legs were getting heavy and tired.

Dammit!!!!

Same thing happened to me the year before. Same point of the race. Why? Why? Why? My ChiRunning form was good. I felt relaxed. I’d trained for this pace.

Well, after speaking to Steve in detail after the race. The problem was that I’d not trained enough LONG RUNS AT THIS PACE. This is one of Steve’s key training precepts…you must train the same way that you will race.

So while I could run 7:45 miles in my sleep. And I could run 26 miles any day of the week…I had not been putting the two together. Matt had been doing his long runs fast. I had been hanging out coaching doing a more leisurely pace.

So my body by mile 20 gave out from exhaustion for about four miles. In other words, I BONKED. Pace at this point…10 minute miles?, though it felt much much much slower than that.

Absolute exhaustion. I even got some light leg cramps. When you bonk, it feels like you’re running in slow motion, like running through mud, you’re trying your very best and can only eek out a snails pace crawl.

I dug down deep. I breathed hard. I had to walk a little hill. I sent my heart out to every street corner ahead of me to keep me going forward. I prayed. I thought of Jonathan. I thought of my Grandfather. I didn’t give up.

There was no way I was going to give up.

My mile 25 mile I found my second wind and ran my ass off the last mile. Passed about 5 people in the last 200 yards.

Time 3:40. Ten minutes off my goal. No doubt due the bonk from miles 21-25. I felt the exhilaration from all the Beach Runners cheering me on.

Matt’s time…3:26. He kept the pace up. And experienced no bonk. Awesome, impressive time for a first time marathoner.
The next few runners to come across the finish line…Dave at 3:45, Kevin at 3:50, and Anna at 3:59.

FOUR out of the FIRST FIVE FINISHERS for Beach Runners were all avid TRAIL RUNNERS. All four Tuesday night Trail runners in Palos Verdes.

Our top male finisher, Matt, and our top female finisher, Anna, were both regular Tuesday night trail runners and would come to my POWER YOGA CLASS . I’ll let you come to your own conclusions on whether my trail running, yoga combination makes runners faster.

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In retrospect, when I look back at my race, I did the classic mistake of going out too fast for me. It was a good pace for Matt but not for me. I tend to overestimate my abilities, because of my ChiRunning skills, so I thought I could keep up an uncomfortable pace for 26 miles.

No, I’m human like everyone else.

I did make some deep realizations out there when I was BONKING.

Running that fast with a Garmin beeping every minute on city streets trying to speed up slow down speed up slow down trying to hit some arbitrary mark of 7:45 minute miles…WAS NOT FUN FOR ME.

Everything and I mean everything on this race was focused on breaking 3:30.

For what purpose? Would it really make me a better runner? Would it transform my life? Would I find God’s beauty in a sub 3:30 time?

Or is running 3:30 more a goal of my EGO. A way of me showing how fast I am to the rest of the Beach Runners and the world. I sense the pursuit of these numbers is the source of so much dissatisfaction in this society. We chase the ideal salary, the retirement number, the ideal body weight, chase chase chase instead of…relaxing, feeling, loving, enjoying the company of others.

This goal..this obsession I’ve had for four years now. Has cost me. It’s taken me away from enjoying the very thing I was doing on Sunday…RUNNING. Because you see, I love the movement of running. I love to do my yoga breathing. I LOVE ChiRunning…the soft feet, the relaxed legs, the solid core, the opening of my hips. I love cheering on people I pass. I love cheering to the crowd. I love finding God on my runs in the smile of young child or the sight of a flock of seagulls.

And it came to me Sunday…I will no longer try to break 3:30. My attachment to this goal…my ego being all wrapped up in this goal…this thought of numbers numbers numbers every mile…was not me. Was not what I believe in. Not what I teach.

So there will be a different goal for me my next race. An internal goal. A goal based more on running well, of doing my ChiRunning, of actually getting faster each mile instead of slowing down like I did on Sunday.

Even if I finish 3:50 or 4:00 or 4:30. The time doesn’t matter. The way I run, the way I feel, the person I am on the run, is much much more important.

And what really mattered to me Sunday happened after the finish line. When I saw all you come across the finish line. My feelings of pride my love for you the tears in your eyes were worth more to me than any time I could have run my race in.

Joy came up to Steve and I with God’s tears in her eyes hugging us telling us how much a difference this experience had meant to her. Hugging her, looking around our booth, feeling this very special moment we shared together this year put my race in perspective.

And I released that goal of 3:30 to the universe with love.

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So Jonathan being the fast Seagull that he is…finds a teacher named Chiang in the story.

They fly together. Jonathan following Chiang’s every exquisite beautiful movement. Just two seagulls flying side by side practicing moves over and over again to they get it right.

And they’re sitting on the shore discussing the days lesson and Chiang says…

“You’re a very fast flier, aren’t you?”

“I…enjoy speed,” Jonathan said, taken aback but proud the Elder had noticed.

“You will begin to touch Heaven, Jonathan, in the moment that you touch perfect speed. And that isn’t flying a thousand miles an hour, or a million, or flying at the speed of light. Because any number is a limit, and perfection doesn’t have limits. Perfect speed, my son, is being there.”

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Being There
Being There
Being There

Little did I know how 3:30 became not a goal for me, but a limitation.

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