Nothing was going to stop me from completing the Skechers Performance Los Angeles Marathon. By Zarelda Marie Goh
The writer with her finisher’s medal! Photo: Skechers
A month before the Skechers Performance Los Angeles Marathon on March 19, I was diagnosed with a mild tendon injury. (Tendons are fibrous cords of tissue that attach muscles to bone.)
During the course of treatment, I learnt that the overpronation in my flat feet was a contributing factor. I had experienced intense pain in my feet during several long runs, which is why I went to the doctor in the first place.
My training came to a screeching halt, as I was not allowed to run for two weeks straight. Naturally, I was upset. Three months of training had been done diligently, and it was so close to race day.
The one good thing that came out of this incident was that I got custom-made insoles to correct the biomechanical problem in my feet. They would help prevent future injuries. So thankful for that.
Adapting to injury
Despite the setbacks, I pushed on. I could not run but I could do water-based training.
After all, that’s what now-retired long-distance runner Paula Radcliff did when she suffered a stress fracture in her left leg in 2008. The world-record holder in the women’s marathon was told she couldn’t compete in the Beijing Olympics and yet she did and came in 23rd.
I’m no athlete but research was on my side. Studies have shown that cross-training can help you maintain your aerobic fitness while you’re injured, and water-based training is great because it has zero impact on the joints.
Under the guidance of swimming coach Rachel Wee, I did hour-long pool sessions that comprised mainly of exercises that simulated running. These replaced my running sessions.
When the doctor gave me the green light to get back to jogging, I did several relatively pain-free jogs of 5 to 7km, and continued with the water-based training.
Long runs were out of the question, and frankly, they felt like a distant memory (no pun intended). Before race day, 24km was the longest run I’d clocked, so you can imagine that I was more than slightly nervous about the marathon.
Before I left for Los Angeles, my coach Andrew Cheong of SSTAR.fitness tweaked my race strategy. There were 22 aid stations throughout the course and the plan was for me to walk for one-minute every alternate station. My target pace was 8:31min/km. My target finish time was between 6hr to 6hr 15min, barring any unforeseen circumstances like having to use the toilet.
I got to Los Angeles several days early to acclimatise but the truth is, I was jet-lagged throughout.
The writer (far right) with the VIP runners from Malaysia and Thailand! Photo: Skechers
What got my spirits up was meeting the rest of the VIP runners. Skechers Performance hosted over 60 runners from 35 countries to race the marathon. I was the only representative from Singapore. (Read about them on SkechersGOrunLA.com.)
I got to hang out with some of them and it was fun hearing about their training journeys. The more experienced ones shared their tips and it was just awesome being around others with the same end goal!
Official race merchandise included the Skechers GOrun Ride 6. Photo: Skechers
The day before the marathon, we went to the expo to collect our race bib and I loved that there was official race merchandise to buy, from cool kicks to limited edition apparel. I got a whole bunch of stuff, mostly with the words “LA Marathon 2017” printed on them.
No turning back
On race day, we left at 5am for Dodger Stadium, where the start line was. Thankfully, we didn’t have to stand in the cold to wait for the flag-off.
Almost 20,000 runners took part in the Skechers Performance Los Angeles Marathon. Photo: Skechers
I started running just after 7am and by then, the sun had risen. The air was a cool 14 deg C. I was expecting to feel anxious since I hadn’t trained much since my injury, but instead I was excited and happy. The first 10km or so felt fairly effortless. I had no problems keeping to my pace. I didn’t listen to music during the first quarter of the race and plugged in after passing the six-mile marker.
Good vibes only
As I ran, the encouragement from the many supporters made all the difference.
And this is putting it mildly. There was barely a stretch throughout the entire 42km without anyone cheering us on, or giving out drinks or snacks like slices of oranges.
Some were even holding out signs with motivational phrases on them. The signs ranged from the fun (like Touch Here For Power) to the funny (like Run Like Trump Is Grabbing Your [insert cat emoji]).
Yes, there was an entertainment programme planned by the marathon organisers. There were bands performing and so forth. And there were designated aid stations.
But I’m talking about supporters who willingly came out of their homes to support the participants of the Skechers Performance Los Angeles Marathon on a Sunday. They didn’t need to be there, but they were.
Talking about support, I have to mention my husband Sam, who flew to Los Angeles with me. He has been my pillar of strength throughout this journey. He waited for me at mile 13 and seeing him then motivated me to keep on going.
I felt inspired by the other runners too. There were those who were dressed up in character – think Elvis Presley, Darth Vader, and more.
Then there were those who were wheelchair-bound but super-determined to finish strong. There were little ones, there were older folks, there were people of all shapes and sizes. It was a lovely sight to see people from all walks of life running the marathon!
Even Elvis came out to run the marathon! Photo: Skechers
I honestly felt moved by the outpouring of good vibes. It was a total lovefest!
Living in the moment
What I loved about the whole experience was that I was able to really be present, not live in the past nor the future. Because of my recent injury, I was listening to my body, taking note of how I was feeling throughout.
I wasn’t familiar with the race route so everything I saw was new to me. I was able to appreciate everything in real time. Save for the live Facebook video I did at 19km, I didn’t stop to take any photos so I made it a point to look around as I ran pass world-famous sights like Hollywood and Rodeo Drive. I just wanted to enjoy each and every moment.
I felt almost euphoric, and I know it sounds odd to describe running a marathon that way. Even when my injury flared up halfway through, I kept calm and carried on. I also didn’t hit the dreaded wall that many told me about.
My biggest challenge came after 30km. There was a steep hill and it was hot, hot, hot. It was probably between 20 to 22 deg C by then. That’s also roughly when stomach cramps set in. (When I later spoke to my coach, he told me that it was probably due to the energy gels. I only used them during one long practice run so my body wasn’t used to them.)
Despite the cramps, I kept on going. I coped with the pain underneath my diaphragm by taking a few extra 30-second walk breaks from then till the finish line. I still managed to keep quite closely to my race pace.
Elated at the finish
I crossed the finish line at Santa Monica at 6 hours 9 minutes. In the grand scheme of things, this is nothing to shout about, considering that Hellen Jepkurgat of Kenya, the first woman to complete the marathon, finished at 2 hours 34 minutes.
The writer crossing the finish line! Photo: Skechers
But I was proud of myself and how far I’d come. An important lesson I gleaned while training for the marathon is that we owe it to ourselves to celebrate the little victories in life. I believe that personal growth is so important, and I’ve learnt so much by getting out of my comfort zone.
Like all “firsts”, my first marathon will be an experience I’ll always treasure. And yes, I’m planning to do it again in the future, despite being super sore for three days after! The pain is real, especially in the quads. Stretching properly right after the race is vital, and if I could do it again, I’ll remember to do this!
I didn’t run a day in my life before this, and now I can’t imagine life without running. Thanks to training for this marathon, this non-runner has now become a runner!
The writer’s trip was sponsored by Skechers.