Wow, I’ve been slacking on blog posts and race reports. 🙁 And so I’m going to make this a ‘buy-one-get-one-free’ write up of two recent races, one being the Eugene marathon, and the other being the Hapalua Half marathon. But don’t worry, my aim is to keep it fairly short and sweet whilst looking at how meditation helped in my marathon preparation and what’s coming up next on longrunergy.
First up is a summary of the Hapalua Half Marathon, which took place on April 12th. It was an honour to take part in the Hapalua because of The Chase, which is unique to the event. As part of Team Hawaii, I lined up with a group of local runners – ahead of a small, but very fast group of elite runners (3 Kenyans, 1 Japanese) and the main pack. The design of the race gives Team Hawaii a head start, or a handicap, and the elite runners have to try to catch the locals – or in other words, chase us down. This year I had a fairly good handicap and fancied my chances of not being caught by the Kenyans but unfortunately in the three weeks prior to the race I had a minor case of whip-lash, came down with flu and had a wisdom tooth infection. Yuck, yes. But it could have been worse. Amazingly on the day I pulled through and finished 9th overall, 1:24:43, but it took everything I had, and of course the Kenyan and Japanese elite runners caught me (who was I trying to kid)! The effort left me feeling more like I’d run a marathon than 13.1 miles and for some reason my calves took most of the hammering. To recover I took lots of BioAstin, swam, tried to go surfing once, did lots of yoga and foam rolled every day whilst replenishing with multiple glasses of nuun! The Hapalua was overall a brilliant event, one that is growing in participation numbers year by year – and being able to run with some of the best local and international runners made for a memorable day.
After the Hapalua, the main goal was just to get to the starting line of the Eugene Marathon on May 10th feeling somewhat normal. The prior goal of breaking the ever elusive 3hr barrier looked slim, however I kept a small sunbeam shining, just in case. But everything had been different in the lead up to this marathon and it was constantly on the back of my mind. The usual three-week taper had been sliced, workouts had not been great and I’d only run one 20 miler.
One aspect that had been very different in the lead up to Eugene was my morning meditation practice – using the Head Space app on my phone. After listening to a Rich Roll podcast interview with an English guy named Andi Puddicombe, who is the founder of a meditation programme called Head Space, I decided to give meditation a serious try (and I highly recommend listening to the podcast interview, link HERE). I have meditated before, following the wonderful book, ‘Running With a Mind of Meditation’ but the difference with Head Space is that the exercises are guided. The app has a free, 10 day trial you can download – and I have to say it really worked. Maybe it was the familiar English accent, or just the simplicity of the exercises but it really helped to give me perspective on things I couldn’t control in the weeks before Eugene – and what I would be able to control on the day.
Eugene Marathon weekend arrived and I was lucky to connect with my friend and fellow Oiselle team-mate Julia (from Running On Om), and also her friend Steph who graciously accommodated us. There was a Oiselle pre-race shake out run on Saturday morning that started from a new Eugene running store (RunHub), which was a great chance to re-connect with familiar faces from Bird Camp and also meet a few new team mates. We ran along the dreamy ‘Pre’s Trail’ in Eugene and checked out sections of the marathon route.
Race morning came around quickly – and I lined up with friends from Hawaii (a group of us from Oahu all travelled out to take part in the marathon: Eric, Gil, Henrik, Leah & Shawna), and Julia – who had kindly offered to pace me over the first 10-13 miles of the course. After discussing various options and marathon strategies with my coach Jon, we had decided that I shouldn’t set off too conservatively, since my Hapalua time indicated some level of fitness. I was grateful for his confidence, since it boosted mine! The aim was to try for 6:50 mins/mile – see how it felt and adjust accordingly. I chose a race mantra: ‘Relax & Breathe’, R&B – based on what I practiced during the meditation exercises and I also decided not to wear my Garmin watch so that I could comfortably run ‘as I felt’ rather than be consumed by each mile’s split time. The gun went off – and with Julia’s guidance we were soon hitting the right pace and my body and mind settled in to a rhythm. I decided to hold on for as long as I could, saying my mantra quietly to myself whenever tension crept in or my mind wandered off. The course was fun, lined with cheery spectators and at times followed a bike path shrouded by trees. The route was green, there was no wind, and the temperature was just about perfect for running. Julia had ducked off the course close to mile 10, and left me her regular stopwatch to track my overall time. At mile 20 I remember reading something close to 2hrs 15 mins – which gave me 45 mins to run 6 miles – if I was to break the 3hr limit. I took a deep breath and pulled myself together knowing that the last 6 miles of a marathon are basically what it’s all about. And that’s exactly when my calves started to feel tight. To keep the story short I’ll just say that the final stretch was a battle of mind vs. calves and the mantra became everything. Teetering on the edge of cramping, I found myself at the gates of Hayward Field, and verging on tears of sheer relief, crossed the finish line on the infamous track – 3:03:08. A Oiselle team-mate magically appeared out of somewhere and gave me the best hug ever – thanks Laurel! I then found the rest of the Hawaii gang, Julia and a number of Team Oiselle who had also run.
Soon enough, after t-shirts, photos and medals, we found the perfect sunny beer garden from where to share our marathon stories. Everyone from the Hawaii group finished – there were three PR’s, some slight disappointments but overall plain and simple gratitude for the whole Eugene experience. Marathons, amongst many other things, bring people closer together – and as cheesy as that sounds, it’s true!
Over the marathon weekend Julia and I recorded a unique episode of Ask the Yogi Runners, which you can listen to from HERE. Grabbing the opportunity to do an ‘in-person’ podcast, we recorded a pre and post-event discussion of yoga and marathon running. Julia ran the Boston marathon this year as a guide for a partially sighted runner, and we wanted to explore the application of ‘yoga-tools’ to the marathon distance. If, after listening, you have any questions or comments related to yoga and running, please feel free to drop us an email: firstname.lastname@example.org
Thanks for sticking with this ‘short but sweet‘ blog post! I hope you were intrigued to read more about Andi Puddicombe and check out Head Space! Next up on longrunergy are two interviews, one with a Hawaii athlete that I’ve waiting to post for a while and another with an ultra runner on an ultra challenge. It is also one year since the final stage of Retracing Routledge was underway on Rapa Nui – what a difference a year makes. Keep an eye on Instagram and the Facebook page for updates about the project.
ps. Had the wisdom tooth out this week!