This write-up is long overdue – it’s been almost three weeks since race day(s). I’ve come down from the high, but still think about it on the daily. It was one of the best weekends of my life.
My training going into this race was excellent. I’ve never followed a training plan and prefer to learn as I go. I logged a lot of miles, hit the track, and completed big workouts. One of the highlights was racing the inaugural CACO half marathon, a virtual race between Ben and me. We ran in different states (California + Colorado = CACO), on the same day, and then compared our times. He smoked me, but running a hard 13.1 miles solo wasn’t something I thought myself capable of. After this run/race and the Aloha Run 5K & 10K, I felt fit and as prepared as I could be.
Any nervousness I felt pre-marathon was overpowered by my excitement for the weekend. I was finally able to attend the AREC Member Appreciation Party, which I’d missed for the last 5 years due to managing the marathon. I’d be able to participate in the race that I’d slaved away to produce since 2012. I had the chance to run both the Aquarium of the Pacific 5K on Saturday and the marathon on Sunday. And lastly, Ben would be joining me for all of it! The days leading up to the weekend were stressful and busy, but I finally found myself barreling down the 405 to grab Ben from LAX before heading to the AREC party. A good time is always guaranteed with my group of friends and it served as a fun start to the weekend. Bonus: I won a pair of Saucony shoes and a bottle of wine! We hit the hay early as we would be running the Aquarium of the Pacific 5K in the morning.
Ancillary element to the weekend’s epic-ness: my proximity to race start and finish lines. I live about 1 mile from the start/finish of the 5K and ~.5 mile from the marathon finish line. After re-parking my car on Saturday morning, I wouldn’t have to move it until Monday evening.
On Saturday morning, we jogged to the Aquarium and then spent too much time in search of a bathroom. We started the 5K at 7:01am and I went out (too) fast, taking the lead for the females within the first mile. Unfortunately, Rosa passed me right after the mile 1 marker and I focused on keeping the gap between us small for the remainder of the race. Despite the slow-down, I’m very happy with my splits (5:47, 6:07, 6:00) and effort level. The course was also interesting, with a bridge making up a majority of the final mile, hitting 3.1 miles right outside of the Aquarium, and then entering a very-dark Aquarium and feeling like I was going to run into a wall or shark tank at any second. I hit 3.1 miles right outside of the Aquarium and recorded an 18:49 split. However, my official chip time was 19:11. It was a nice course and well run event, but I would recommend creating an alternate route that doesn’t go through the Aquarium. It was difficult to run that section fast as it was dark and on carpet.
We jogged back, showered and then walked to Starbucks for coffee and breakfast. This ‘Bucks was on the corner of Ocean Boulevard and Alamitos Avenue/Shoreline Drive, which is where we would turn toward the marathon finish line the following day. I told Ben that I hoped to be wearing a giant smile while coming down that stretch of road in 24 hours. After breakfast, we walked to and around the Health & Fitness Expo. Trotting leisurely around the expo felt bizarre. I’m usually parked at the Solutions table or running around in search of a solution. Ben and I picked our bibs and shirts up, visited the various exhibitors, and enjoyed samples. We ended our expo visit with a few hours of work, as I had to man an event booth until closing. Chasing that with a dinner of pizza at Broadway Pizza & Grill made for a great Saturday. Next up, the marathon.
I felt spoiled waking up at 4:45am for a 6:00am race start. I would rate my sleep at a 6/10, but I felt awake and ready to roll upon rising. I showered, dressed, ate, and then we walked to the start line area. There are moments in life that I wish I could bottle up and re-live again and again. Pictures and videos capture what it looks like, but nothing captures the feeling. I felt nervous, excited, happy to have Ben there for the adventure, gratuitous that I was able to experience this amazing race from the other side, a bit sad that I wasn’t managing the event and working with some awesome people, and very curious as to what the months of training would translate to.
This day was special for another reason: the passing of my mother 19 years prior, October 8, 1998. As soon as I realized that the days aligned, I knew that every single mile would be dedicated to her.
The first few miles entailed settling into the pace and staying relaxed. Ben and I chatted and stuck right behind the 3:05 pace group. I don’t like to take up residence in pace groups from mile 1, but we kept them in our sights until after mile 6. We ran a few miles with Chloe, a very sweet girl from Anaheim and then ran with the 3:05 group from miles 7 until right after 20. While on the beach path, I looked to my left and saw Mark, with whom I’d run a majority of the Mountains 2 Beach Marathon with. We kept a solid pack of 7-10 runners along the beach path and down Livingston Drive, losing a few on the way to CSULB. The 3:05 pacers were phenomenal and it felt like I was out for a long run with new friends.
I felt happy and light on my feet as we passed my old studio apartment on Nieto Avenue and Broadway Avenue. Murray, my former landlord, high-fived me as I passed by. Ben, myself, and the 3:05 crew cruised down Clark Avenue toward my alma mater. Ryan, one of the pacers, took us through the “hills” of CSULB as we took turns getting to know each other. I caught up with Mark, chatted with Bryce, and discovered that the other 3:05 pacer had run his first 26.2 mile unofficial marathon solo on the beach path in under 3 hours. Coming out of campus and down Atherton Street, I kept urging Ben to go ahead if he felt good. He finally activated his turbo jets after mile 20, after which I downed a (small) cup of beer courtesy of Emmett.
My legs and lungs felt great as we passed the 20 mile marker. Bryce and I slowly pulled away from the 3:05 group and ran up Clark Avenue, down Park Avenue, and headed toward the “home stretch” of Ocean Avenue together. I could tell that he had a lot of steam left and could crush the final miles. I was still running smoothly and maintaining a solid pace, but didn’t want to implode so close to the finish line. At this point, I also knew that I was in the 2nd overall female position and didn’t want to throw that (prize money) away. I urged Bryce to go ahead and we parted somewhere around mile 24. Ben was dealing with some knee problems and I ended up passing him between miles 24-25. Despite an increase in temperature and sun exposure, and 24 miles of running, my legs still felt strong. I focused on cruising down Ocean Avenue and taking these last few moments of the race in.
Emotions surged through me as I turned left onto Shoreline Drive/Alamitos Avenue and saw Annalise cheering her head off. Approaching the finish line of a long distance race is an amazing feeling, but there are some more emotion-laden than others. Each section of this course was special to me, notably:
- Marine Stadium, where I’d completed dozens of workouts and also where I rowed for 2 semesters in college.
- The Belmont Shore neighborhood at mile 10/22, where I’d lived during graduate school, in a studio the size of some bathrooms.
- The beach path, where I’ve logged hundreds of miles. I still remember completing my first “long run” of 6 miles, the first few outings with my fancy new Garmin watch, and so many other memorable runs.
- The CSULB campus, where I’d completed undergraduate and graduate degrees.
I’d run every step of the course during my 12 years as a resident of Long Beach, but this was the first time that I was able to put it all together. I felt an immense sense of love for my city as I ran down Ocean Avenue, passing my neighbors. I also felt that I’d made my mother proud on this special day, as I was running with her. I wore a giant smile, put my hands in the air, and was the second female to cross the finish line for the 2017 JetBlue Long Beach Marathon. Finish time: 3:02:40.
Right after finishing, my former co-worker Daryl congratulated me and said “you know what to do… VIP tent for awards pictures!” Ben finished about 30 seconds after I did and we walked through PF&F in states of euphoria. Various members of the 3:05 crew arrived and we assembled for a group photo!
I found Heidi in the finish line – she ran a 20 minute PR!
After making it through the thick of AREC finishers, Ben and I arrived in the VIP tent and tucked into some delicious omelettes and mimosas. I took awards pictures and then Heidi, Ken, Ann (1:23 in the half!), Phil, Annalise, Anthony, and Molly joined us. We stayed there for quite some time and then walked up the hill to my apartment. After showering, we met up with Annalise and walked to Heidi and Ken’s for a poolside BBQ. Ben and I felt good enough for a 6 mile jog on Monday, followed by breakfast at the Breakfast Bar and a visit to the Aquarium of the Pacific. There was nothing I could’ve asked for to make that weekend and race experience better – it was absolute perfection.