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L.A. marathon or bust for this lazy marathoner

March 10, 2009 | 11:10 am

La_marathon

When I tell people I’m training for the L.A. Marathon, they all have exactly the same reaction. They pause, give me an up-and-down look. They’re even more surprised when I tell them I’ve run two marathons already (L.A. and N.Y.), and many more half marathons (most recently the Long Beach Half Marathon in October and the Surf City Half Marathon in January).

That’s because I don’t look like the traditional marathoner.

You know, runners who are so whippet thin they can rock dolphin shorts and have such a speedy metabolism that they look like they’re running in place even when they’re standing still. I carry a lot of extra weight (I could lose a pound or ... 30). How can that be with all the running I do? Well, for one, I’m surrounded by food all day long because I work in the Food section. I also sit right outside the L.A. Times’ Test Kitchen. I love to cook. I love to eat. You see where this is going.

What’s more, I’m a pretty casual runner. I trot along at 13- or 14-minute miles because –- duh! -- running faster hurts! I also have no problem stopping to check something out or dawdle here or there. I almost always take advantage of any bathroom or water fountain that comes along because you just never know when you’ll find another. If I am running on the beach, and see dolphins or whales in the distance, I'll come to a halt to watch them frolic. I have been known to stop in the middle of runs to take pictures. Or Twitter. Or take a walk break. Or fiddle with my Nano.

I just might be the laziest marathoner ever.

While many runners have a time goal in mind when they are tackling the marathon, I set the bar pretty low. I want to finish, and finish safely. I also want to be able to go out to dinner with friends afterward -– admittedly, I’ll be hobbling -- and eat whatever I want ’cause, hey, I just ran a marathon!

But I am tired of such marathons lasting over six or seven hours. This time around, I want to focus on finishing the race while there are still runners behind me.

How I’m going to do that is still a work in progress. I’ve always had a problem with pacing –- I do not seem to be equipped with that internal clock that tells runners how fast they are going. Sometimes, I think I am running so fast I am setting a personal land-speed record, only to realize at the end of my run that I was actually going pretty slow. Other times, I think I’ve been taking it easy only to find that I was actually going pretty fast. So, my first step was to strap on a Garmin Forerunner 305. I love it despite its clunky, dorky design because it includes everything from a GPS to a heart-rate monitor and I can see what pace I’m running at any given moment.

With just 11 weeks to go, I am about to launch into speed training, something I’ve steadfastly avoided in the past. (Running that fast, in a word, hurts.)

I’ve started cutting out the junk food in order to lose some junk in the trunk. (That’s gotta make me faster, right?)

It’s too soon for me to set a goal for race day. For one, I am concerned about the heat, since they moved the race back from early March to late May. For another, I’d like to take a few weeks and see how my body responds to this new approach.

I am wavering because I do not want to set the bar too high -– and set myself up for failure -– or set the bar too low, which allows me to take the easy way out. But I do need a pace goal for my runs, and I am giving myself a modest 12-minute-a-mile pace run to start with and see how that goes. That would put me at the finish line at about 5:12.

That said, if I could somehow manage to wrap up the marathon in under six hours, I swear I would muster the strength to do cartwheels across the finish line. (Although, if I did that, I might pull something and end up at the hospital in traction. And that would mean I couldn’t make dinner.)

I’ll blog weekly about my progress here, and in between I’ll Twitter @LATimesMarathon. Please let me know if you have any thoughts, tips -- or a magic pill that will miraculously make me run eight-minute miles. I'm also in the market for music suggestions.

Finally, let me know your favorite running blog sites and Twitter feeds about running. Here are two of mine: 

-- Run On -- A blog by first-time marathoner-in-training, Sara Catania, that is both informative and funny. Also check out her recent article in the L.A. Times about the reasons behind the marathon's move to May.

-- @JennyStinson -- This Twitter feed by an ultramarathon runner is ultra-insane and ultra-motivating. Sample Tweet: I'm training for a 100 miler this fall -- running shorter ultra distances in the       meantime -- 50K, 100K, 24-hour.

--Rene Lynch

Photo caption: This is a familiar sight for slow runners like me -- I get to look at the backs of a lot of runners passing me. Photo credit: Beatrice de Gea / Los Angeles Times

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