Myrtle Beach Marathon Recap: Wataru Iwata

When I was 5 or 6 years old, I enjoyed flying kites.

The Myrtle Beach marathon reminded me of those old days flying kites.

Marathon training is like winding the line for the kite, making sure that the line is the right weight, not broken, not entangled and long enough to fly your kite as high as you can.

The race itself is like patiently unwinding your line, according to wind speed. Sometimes the wind dies down, sometimes it gets gusty.

Each mile, you carefully unwind the energy and everything you prepared, covering the distance with the right pace, making sure that you don’t waste unnecessary energy, telling yourself not to get carried away or too excited. Also, if you are in competitive battle, you don’t want to show how much extra line you have left to your friend until the right moment.

When I watched the Tokyo Marathon live stream on Saturday night, Suguru Osako, arguably best Japanese marathoner today, training with Nike Oregon Project, started his race positioned at the back of lead group, as usual.

It looked all “in control” until half way. He looked calm and composed. He looked so lean—different from Yuki Kawauchi, who is built stronger. Suguru looked even more shaved than when he finished third in the 2017 Boston Marathon (his debut race) and when he broke Japanese record with 2:05 in Chicago 2018.

Around mile 18, he started slowing down and soon started walking with his shoulders shaking. It clearly looked he had hypothermia, probably due to very low body fat percentage, like Galen Rupp, Shalane Flanagan and many other elite athletes who suffered last year in famous rainy and windy Boston Marathon.

I thought to myself, Maybe the line he chose for his kite was too fine. (Who am I to judge though?)

Going back to my race….

Until last year, I used to do only two marathons per year. Typically one marathon in the spring and another in fall. But this year, I wanted stir things up a little bit and challenged myself to start the year with two spring marathons. 

Myrtle Beach was my first on March 2, and I plan to run New Jersey on April 28.

Preparing for this double marathon, I have been running about 70 miles per week since the beginning of December.

As I approached the date of Myrtle Beach, I almost felt like I didn’t want to give up my 70 miles a week streak .

At the same time, I was bit lazy with my speed training—in the cold weather, I never felt comfortable doing intervals. I was drifting from the leader pack on Saturday’s local competitive long tempo runs. Maybe I was doing bit too much volume, and not enough quality, but I told myself this was part of experience, and I would try and see.

Doing two marathons eight weeks apart is a new experience for me, and I am only halfway through.

I decided to use the Myrtle Beach Marathon as a continuation of my long run training.

I have been increasing my longest long run:

  • 12/15 13 miles

  • 12/23 17 miles

  • 1/5 17 miles

  • 1/12   17 miles

  • 1/19   19 miles

  • 1/26  19 miles

  • 2/2   20 miles

  • 2/9   16 miles (setback week)

  • 2/16  21 miles

  • 2/23  22 miles

So I aimed to do a 26 mile “long run" at the race, starting with sub 7 minute/miles and seeing how long I could hold the pace without proper pre-race “tapering” or a lot of speed training.

The first 14 miles went as I planned, in the  6:55-7:05 range. (Carefully unwinding my line: Some miles had a tail wind, some miles a head wind. I was always asking my body how I felt.)

From miles 15 to 20, I was still within 10-15 seconds of my target (except for mile 17, when we had a slight incline and head wind at the same time).

From mile 21, I started thinking, Do I unwind the line same way I was doing? Or do I save? In a way, these were sort of negative thoughts. I wanted to have more or less “seamless” training to the New Jersey Marathon.

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I started easing a little bit and took it to the end. Finishing miles are always tough in the marathon, but I wasn’t suffering like I was in the NYC marathon when I was climbing the 5th avenue “wall” and entering Central Park.

It almost felt serene. There were many fewer spectators than the NYC marathon, many fewer volunteers. I never noticed any spectator shouting “NBR.” I told myself, “Okay, this is a long training run.”

When I crossed the finish line, I received my medal and heat sheet, but I didn’t really need it. I continued jogging to the area where they were giving pizza, donuts and bananas.

I grabbed a few bites and continued walking to my hotel (Courtyard by Marriott), which was two minutes from the start/finish area. I knew I only had a hour to check out at 11 am.

I could have nicely asked for a late check out. But I didn’t really want to bother. I did 20 minutes of my routine stretching and yoga, took a 20-minute hot shower and I didn’t really feel any of the pain and calf cramps I usually feel after 26.2.

I didn’t really unwind the line I had. My kite didn’t fly as high as it should have. But it was okay. My time was 3:08:16, about 30 seconds slower than my PR in NYC.

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It was a perfect 60 degrees and flat course, but I am feeling confident that I “saved.”

I usually run the next day to flush out the lactic acid but I usually can’t run faster than 9:00/mile since my legs are tight. But, this time, I felt fine doing 8:00/mile. I ran from my home in Dumbo to the West side, up to 14th Street and caught the subway.

Now, my real challenge starts. I have eight weeks to first rest my body, then start training hard with long tempo runs, intervals, supplemental core and strength training to get myself ready to fly my kite the highest I can in New Jersey on April 28th.


Myrtle Beach Marathon 

PROS:

  • weather was nice.

  • flat course

  • easy travel (90-minute flight) from NYC

  • good number of fluid stations. 

CONS:

  • would be better if spectators didn’t smoke

  • mile markers were little off

  • didn’t have an energy gel until mile 22