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November 22, 2011

Marathon training with an early start

Follow Rachel’s day-to-day training on her twitter and facebook pages and read more of Rachel’s marathon experience every other Sunday in the San Gabriel Valley Tribune.


By Rachel Luna, Staff Writer
Posted: 11/19/2011 06:09:58 AM PST


Allow me to wipe away the sleep from my eyes as I begin my fourth marathon installment. My days are starting a whole lot earlier since I’ve begun my training, and waking up is the toughest part about it.

So much thought went into my decision to take on this adventure: all the running I’d have to endure, the healthy diet to adapt, and the commitment to a six-month training schedule.

But none of it steered me away.

Not even the “Are you sure you want to do this?” questions I received from others made me rethink my decision.

In fact, it excited me to know training for a marathon would lead to a healthier lifestyle. That pretty much sealed the deal.

I had it all figured out. Or so I thought.

But the one thing I overlooked was the change in my sleep-wake schedule.

On the first Saturday run with my L.A. Roadrunners training group, I rolled out of bed at 5:30 a.m. and two things became evident that morning. First, that the San Gabriel Valley continues to functions before the sun is up (something I’ve hardly witnessed before). And second, I would be forced to completely change my sleep cycle if I wanted to follow through on my latest adventure.

It’s been a major adjustment.

In addition to my Saturday sessions with the Roadrunners, I’m running two to three times a week on my own for nearly 45 minutes.

Now, it’s bedtime by 8:30 p.m., then rise and shine around 5 a.m. to get out the door for my early runs. Okay, it’s really more like 5:30 a.m., but only because it’s so cold in the mornings and I like to hit the snooze button a few times, and I’ve never been much of an early bird before.

But it’s getting easier to wake up early. And sticking with my sleep-wake routine is just as important to my marathon goal as everything else, if not more.

Published running studies present evidence that lack of sleep interferes with the metabolism of glucose, which muscles use for recovery. The immune system also can deteriorate because of a lack of sleep.

I tend to get sick easily when I’m sleep-deprived, and it’s never fun being sick.

I prefer running in the morning to running in the evenings because I can get it out of the way without feeling chained all day to my marathon training.

The day goes by faster after running and eventually I barely remember running at all.

And no, it’s not because I’m still half asleep. There’s only been a couple of occasions where my recollection was fuzzy.

The sleep-wake schedule adjustment has become the unlikely component to make all of my training possible.

It’s nice to know my need for a full night’s sleep – even if I have to wake up early – is no longer just for my beauty rest. It’s a major necessity to staying healthy during my training process.

All I have to do is wake up.

November 7, 2011

It’s all technique: downshifting while training for a marathon

Follow Rachel’s day-to-day training on her twitter and facebook pages and read more of Rachel’s marathon experience every other Sunday in the San Gabriel Valley Tribune.

By Rachel Luna, Staff Writer
Posted: 11/05/2011 07:09:19 AM PDT

“I’m going to run a marathon.”

Yes, that still sounds really weird whenever I hear myself say it. I’m not quite sure if it’s because I don’t quite believe it or because I haven’t faced the pain and torture of marathon training.

I keep bracing myself for that slap-in-the-face dose of reality. I don’t know when or if I’ll get to that point in my training.

And yes, I realize it’s still early to say but I’m feeling pretty confident.

It’s 133 days until the Honda L.A. Marathon on March 18, 2012. Just looking at the days seems like it’s years away, yet all the running in the weeks of training are flying by fast – and it’s not because I’m the next Usain Bolt. (For those of you who don’t know, Bolt is the world’s fastest man.)

It’s time to let you in on my little secret that’s giving me all the confidence in the world: I decided to run-walk my first marathon.

Now, don’t laugh or snicker. But if you must, I won’t hold it against you.

When I first heard of the run-walk method I had no idea what that meant. Images of little old ladies walking popped into my head. It’s probably because my grandmother is a mall walker … and she’s got some speed.

The technique doesn’t mean walking when you’re tired. Instead, it means taking a brief walking break while you’re still fresh. And before you judge, know that it is actually faster than running the whole time.

Jeff Galloway, a member of the 1972 Olympic team, came up with the run-walk approach. His method has found that most runners will record significantly faster times in a long run when they take walk breaks because they don’t slow down at the end of the run.

I’m not going after any time record, but I am interested in avoiding grueling fatigue as much as possible.

Runs are split into run-walk ratios varying from 30-second intervals to a three-minute run and one-minute walk. My particular run-walk group is training at a one-minute run, one-minute walk rotation.

The method uses muscles in different ways so your legs keep their bounce as they conserve resources, according to Galloway. Shifting back and forth between running muscles and walking muscles allows the workload to be distributed among a variety of muscles, which will increase the overall performance capacity.

Another interesting thing I learned while training with the L.A. Roadrunners is the run-walk groups actually will end up passing the slower running groups while they all race in the marathon.

I originally started training with the runners. But I’m now sold on the run-walk method. I did 10 miles last week and had no idea I’d feel so fresh afterward.

Now that the training is hitting the long, double-digit miles, my group already is passing some of the running groups.

It makes me feel fast. Maybe I will pick up some speed after all. But if not, the run-walk method sure makes me feel like the world’s fastest run-walker.

October 26, 2011

On the go: progress in marathon training

Follow Rachel’s day-to-day training on her twitter and facebook pages and read more of Rachel’s marathon experience every other Sunday in the San Gabriel Valley Tribune.

By Rachel Luna, Staff Writer
Posted: 10/22/2011 07:15:04 AM PDT

So I guess it would be fair to say that I’ve made some progress in my running endeavor.

It’s seven weeks into my marathon training and I’m still surviving. But I had no idea just how much I’ve actually accomplished.

I flipped through my running log Friday afternoon and finally calculated all the mileage I’ve put in so far – more than 70 miles. I never thought I’d see the day.

I can’t imagine how many miles I’ll rack up by the time the L.A. Marathon comes around next March. And it’s still more than five months away.

Turns out there’s a lot more to running. It’s not as simple as Forrest Gump makes it look. But then again, he was a simple man that compared life to a box of chocolates.

A whole different world – a runner’s world – exists and I’m learning the ropes. And there’s still much more to learn about running. I’ve had several good laughs along the way.

For instance, I decided to run with a small reusable water pouch instead of wasting disposable cups at water stations set up along the routes of the L.A. Roadrunners – the group I’m training with.

I can now say it’s definitely a bad idea to have any liquid in the pouch while running. Nobody bothered sharing this valuable piece of information – but a pouch full of bright red Gatorade did.

Yup, I got to run six sticky miles with my training group that day. Lesson learned.

Also, I’d highly recommend getting properly fitted for running shoes at a running specialty shop.

And here’s why: On the first Saturday training run with the L.A. Roadrunners (a 3-mile run) I didn’t think shoes were that important, so I just ran with my four-year-old “running” shoes. Nope. Dumbest idea I had – besides the water pouch thing – so far.

The next morning as soon as my feet hit the ground after I got out of bed, pain shot through my feet so quickly I jumped back on my bed in agony. I seriously contemplated crawling on all fours or hand-walking for the rest of the day, but both options seemed a little too out-of-reach and ridiculous. So I dealt with all the pain for the following three days. Another lesson learned.

During a proper shoe fitting, a complete rundown of your feet’s biomechanics will be analyzed to ensure a proper fit. I had my weight, height, stride, foot print and walk analyzed to help get me a shoe that would help my feet run in the correct motion.

Who knew so much went into getting a real running shoe? I clearly understand it all now. It’s made a tremendous difference in my running and my feet haven’t had any problems since.

The only problem with my shoes are my laces. That’s right, there’s even a special runner’s way of lacing up. It’s my fault. I forgot how to do it after the saleswoman showed me at the running shop. So I haven’t completely untied my shoelaces since I’ve step out of the shop with them.

All I can do is laugh and move on. The mishaps I’ve had are adding up to a great first-time marathon experience.

I only hope to pass on the things I’ve learned to other novice runners out training on their own and perhaps remind all the veteran runners of their early days when they didn’t have a clue.

I’m just glad I haven’t tripped while I’m out training. That’s one thing I’m good at – I’m a total klutz.

Next Saturday I’ll reach the 10-mile distance with L.A. Roadrunners. The 26.2 miles is getting a little closer. Between now and the marathon mileage, I pray everything continues to go well – and maybe I’ll actually learn how to tie my running shoes.

October 10, 2011

Life’s not a sprint, it’s a marathon


Rachel Luna, a staff writer at the San Gabriel Valley Tribune is training for the 2012 Honda LA Marathon with the LA Roadrunners.  She will be chronicling her experience with the LA Roadrunners, step-by-step, as they work towards to crossing the finish line.  Read below to see how it all began.  Good luck Rachel and everyone training for the 27th Honda LA Marathon!


Life’s not a sprint, it’s a marathon
Photographer drops camera for running shoes


I’ve never been much of a long distance runner – or a runner at all.

In my athletic background as a softball player, running always came as a repercussion – at least that’s the way my college teammates and I thought of it. The less running we had to do the better.

But since I hung up my cleats four years ago, I’m ready to give running a second chance.

Everything I hated about running is getting pushed aside, and I’m starting fresh – in a big way.

Over the next six months I will train for my first marathon with the Inland Empire chapter of the L.A. Roadrunners.

When the opportunity to run in the 2012 L.A. Marathon came along, I jumped at the challenge to do something I thought I’d never do.

Three miles is the longest distance I’ve ever run. Ever. That personal record got knocked out of the way during the first training session – 3.02 miles.

Now in the fifth week of training, any distance from here on out is a milestone.

I initially expected the training to be for elite marathon runners, but it’s far from it. The program is geared to accommodate everyone. And I mean everyone.

The roadrunners offers training groups for all experiences and abilities.

I find myself running among individuals who’ve never run a mile in their life, and others who can rack up the miles like it’s nobody’s business.

And along the way, I’m already developing a new outlook on running.

It’s no longer about running my fastest to stay ahead of the competition. There’s no position to fight for anymore. The only competition is me.

So, I put myself in one of the slower-paced groups. The group is set train at about a 13-minute mile pace with the projection to complete the marathon in a 5:15- to 5:25-hour range.

I couldn’t care less about how fast I run it. If there was ever a perfect time to say it, this is it: It’s not a sprint, it’s a marathon.

It’s pretty nice not having to run so hard to the point that I feel like I’ll keel over on the spot.

My only goal is to cross the finish line (alive and well) and not have to be swept aside by a street sweeper truck.

The biggest obstacle to overcome will be the psychological toll.

The one thing that I did appreciate with all the conditioning running I had to do in college was the mental stamina I built from it.

But if I feel like I can’t go on I’ll just have to remember the wise words of Jenny Curran, “Run, Forrest, run.”

I can’t wait to run the marathon’s Stadium to the Sea route that will take me from Dodger Stadium to the San Monica Pier. The entire course will pass through 24 L.A. landmarks. I’m still trying to figure out if there will be a way to strap a camera while I run. No ideas yet. I can’t help but think as a photographer at all times.

But as for the 26.2 miles, I’ll try not to think about that too much.

I’m just enjoy the running for now and taking the training one mile at a time.

October 4, 2011

David Cook to Run the 2012 Honda LA Marathon in Honor of Brother

American Idol winner aims to crowd‐source $100,000 for brain cancer charity on

Press Release: Los Angeles – American Idol champion David Cook announced today he plans to run his first marathon and launch a fundraising campaign to help find a cure for brain cancer, which claimed his brother’s life two years ago. Cook says he hopes to raise $100,000 leading up to the 2012 Honda LA Marathon on behalf of Accelerate Brain Cancer Cure (ABC2).

While the Honda LA Marathon will be Cook’s first time completing 26.2 miles on foot, the musician is not new to running or the fundraising scene. Over the past three years, he ran the Race for Hope ‐ DC 5K race to raise funds for ABC2, a non‐profit that provides researchers with the support they need to make critical breakthroughs, and the National Brain Tumor Society. Cook’s older brother’s struggle with brain cancer has provided him with the extra motivation to raise charitable funds for the cause while training for the marathon.

“Running a full marathon has always been a goal of mine, and I’m excited to commit to running the Los Angeles race in 2012,” said Cook. “I’m looking forward to pushing myself physically, and to using the Marathon as an opportunity to raise money for a cause that is close to my heart. I felt an immediate connection to ABC2 and the work that they do in the brain cancer field – I know that my fundraising efforts will give me that extra push I need to get across the finish line next March.

Cook will roll out his ambitious fundraising efforts on, the Honda LA Marathon’s official fundraising platform launched by actor/activist Edward Norton in 2010. Beginning at 9:30AM PDT today, the first 50 people to donate $26 to David’s run for ABC2 will receive an autographed photo. Backstage VIP passes, signed guitars and meet and greets will also be incentives offered during his six‐month campaign for ABC2.

Click here to read the full press release.

March 7, 2011

New Video

As we near the 26th running of the Honda LA Marathon presented by K-Swiss, I’m deep into the process of creating video content. We use these pieces a number of ways: On our Youtube channel; to promote our live broadcast on KTLA; and as components within that broadcast. I’m shooting a number of great stories that involve charities, elite runners, places on the route, and celebrities. Here’s a look at short versions of two great stories: Wesley Korir and Flea talking about their Favorite Miles on the course. Look for more in-depth segments on both of these guys as we get closer to the race. I can tell you that they’re two of the most inspirational people I’ve met!


March 1, 2011

To Share or Not to Share

If you frequent our Facebook page, you may have noticed a vigorous debate taking place recently. Passionate Honda LA Marathon participants are going back and forth discussing the merits of our 2011 Finisher’s Medal, which we revealed when we hit 4,000 Likes on the page. Some folks love the medal, some hate it, and others are somewhere in between. I’m not overly concerned that everyone isn’t in love with the medal. After all, it’s virtually impossible to make everyone happy. And that’s especially true with a group that is as smart and opinionated as marathoners. What is important is that there is a conversation going on. That shows people care. They care enough to voice their opinion—one way or the other—about the elements we’re designing for this year’s race. The minute your customers stop caring is the minute you’re in trouble as a business. So I say, “Bring on the comments!”

For those of you that are interested, allow me to explain how we arrived at this design. One of our goals this year was to create a little more consistency in the design of our assets. We wanted a common visual thread that would connect things like the poster, the medal, signage, and the participant shirt. I felt that a hand-illustrated vibe would put a human touch on these visual elements and make them feel more approachable. So I started with a terrific English illustrator, Adam Hayes. He developed the terrific type pattern that incorporates the names of the cities and landmarks that the Honda LA Marathon runs through and past. Working with Eric and Fiona at Collective LA, we formed Adam’s type treatment into a pair of running legs. This gave the art the connection to running that it needed. After that, it was about figuring out different versions of the art that would work for different assets, like the medal. At this year’s race, keep your eyes peeled for different usages of this art all over Los Angeles on race weekend.


The 2011 medal

Here's the poster using the same key art

February 22, 2011

Born This Way

I stumbled out of the hotel at 6:00 am to find hundreds of other runners with bibs on. We stood around in the chilly pre-dawn air waiting to start our event. As my watch neared 6:30 we surged ahead toward the starting line. Any runner certainly knows the drill, and it’s always a challenge to coax one’s body into a hard running effort this early in the morning. I’m talking of course about this year’s Running USA Conference in San Antonio.

Each day started with a group run that seemingly EVERYONE participated in: Boston Marathon Race Director Dave McGillivray, New York Road Runners Chief Executive Mary Wittenberg, Runner’s World legend Bart Yasso, and the list goes on. Hundreds of race directors, vendors, magazine editors, and other folks affiliated with our sport. They were all out there each morning putting in their miles. And socializing. It was like a business lunch taking place at a 7:30 pace! What better way to talk running business than while you’re on a run? But the key takeaway for me was that almost everyone in the sport of running is there for a reason: they LOVE the sport. And that’s really powerful when you think about it. How many other sports, or businesses, can boast a passion quotient like that?

Here are some highlights from the conference:

• Hearing Bart Yasso tell one great story after another about his far-flung running adventures. As the Chief Running Officer of Runner’s World, his job is to travel to events and spread the gospel of running. I know, I know–he has arguably the greatest job in the world. He told me that he spent exactly three weekends at home last year, and that his wife travels with him to some of the warm and sunny events.

• During the awards ceremony, Greg McMillan’s elite running team was presented with a $25,000 grant from Running USA. For a program like his, that is a game changer. Greg and his runners took to the stage to accept the award, and some of them broke down in tears of gratitude. The entire room of 500 people lost composure at that point, and there wasn’t a dry eye in the house. It was a powerful moment. I resolved to root for his kids whenever they’re racing. They all got up for the early run the next morning and ran along with us, which was a lot of fun.

• I got my first look at our 2011 Honda LA Marathon Finisher’s Medal, and it looks great! The good folks from Maxwell Medals were there, and they slipped me the goods. I can’t wait to share it with all of you.


February 7, 2011

Wesley Korir Visits with SRLA

One of the highlights of Wesley Korir’s visit to Los Angeles last week was taking him to Banning High School to visit with their 60 SRLA kids training for the Honda LA Marathon. If you’re not familiar with SRLA, it stands for Students Run Los Angeles. This important non-profit organization trains nearly 3,000 at-risk youth over a 6-month period to run the full LA Marathon each year. Of the kids who finish the Marathon, 92% go on to post-secondary education. That’s a staggering statistic, and testament to the power of running as a teacher of life lessons.

So it was a pleasure to introduce Wesley to these kids. We had previously been to the Honda headquarters in Torrance to speak with the Honda running club. The good folks at Honda are also huge supporters of SRLA, so some of them came with us to Banning High School. Wesley asked me what he should say to the kids, and I asked that he just “tell his story.” Wesley is so endearing as a person, and his story so interesting, it’s impossible not to be inspired by him. Furthermore, because he lives and trains in Louisville, Kentucky–where he earned a degree in biology–he’s completely fluent in English.

He really had the kids’ attention, and afterward they lined up for half an hour while he signed autographs. Then they were off to practice on the track. And Wesley went out and ran with them. He couldn’t help himself. The kids loved it as Wesley went from group to group to get a lap in with almost everyone. He then stood on the track and high-fived every one of them as they ran by. It was a day that I hope will stay with all of the kids for quite some time.


February 7, 2011

A Day at the Races

Santa Monica High School coach Tania Fischer (107) leading the Masters Field

Living legend Colleen De Reuck was untouchable, finishing more than a minute ahead of 2nd place

Pete Magill on his way to victory in the masters men's race

The Buffalo Chips youth running club from Sacramento gets ready to start the junior women's race

Local powerhouse Arcadia High School lined up next to Harvard University

And they're off!

Shalane Flanagan demolishing the field

Eventual men's elite winner Brent Vaughn (807) getting ready to make his move

This Saturday marked the return to San Diego of the US Cross Country Championships. Held alongside the water in Mission Bay, this event featured the top masters, elite, and junior XC runners in the United States. I had never been to this event before, so I made the drive down to see what it was all about. Here are my observations:

• Athletes present included nationally-ranked runners from the high school, NCAA, and professional ranks, and they were competing for spots on the world championship elite and junior teams that will travel to Spain next month. Because of this, the event had the feel of the Footlocker High School race, the NCAA championships, and the Olympic Trials all rolled into one day.

• The course was a beautiful 2K loop in a grassy park alongside the bay. I decided to run the Community 4K in the morning. What better way to get a feel for XC than to race on the same course that Shalane Flanagan, Colleen De Reuck, Matt Tegenkamp and others would take to later in the day. When I hear “Community” associated with a race, I think of the local 5K: moms with jog-strollers, a lot of kids, and a generally…well, slow…field. That’s what I was hoping for, anyway. In fact, the race was nothing like that. I stood on the start line watching one high school team after another show up looking like they meant business. Every kid was skinny, wearing spikes, and obviously far, far faster than I. Occasionally, a guy my age would stroll up to the line. I’d think Great–here’s someone I can run with. Then I’d look down and see the shaved legs, spikes, and singlet from a track club. Once the gun went off, I suffered but had a great time. This was my first XC race since seventh grade, and I loved it. In comparison to a 5K or 10K on the road, you feel like you’re actually racing. I highly recommend checking out the USATF XC calendar and entering some events in the fall. They’re a fun addition to anyone’s running schedule.

• The junior events were fascinating to watch. Most runners were 17 or 18, and they came from both high school and college programs. Some schools, like UCLA, Washington, and Oklahoma State sent full teams of runners and coaches. The top 6 kids qualified for the world championships, so there was fierce competition at the front of the field. Aisling Cuffe, from upstate New York, went wire-to-wire to win the girls race. She hasn’t lost a race all season, and she’s headed to Stanford in the fall.

• The field for the masters women featured icon Colleen De Reuck–she’s run in four Olympic Games, won major marathons (Berlin, Honolulu), medaled at the World XC championships, you name it. She ran her race virtually on her own and won by a huge margin.

• Second behind Colleen was American Joanna Zeiger. You may remember her as the fourth-place finisher in the triathlon at the Sydney Olympic Games in 2000, and more recently as the 70.3 World Champion. I got to spend some time with her, and she’s one of those uber-achievers who seem to excel at everything they do. As if being a successful professional athlete isn’t enough, Joanna also has a PhD from Johns Hopkins in genetic epidemiology. She’s does her research, conveniently, in the training mecca of Boulder, Colorado. Impressive.

• If you’ve never watched elite runners from a couple feet away, you can’t understand just how fast they’re going. Like many sports, running is much more impressive in person than it is on TV. I witnessed Olympic medalist Shalane Flanagan put on a clinic as she demolished the women’s elite field. She has a particularly powerful and fluid stride that had spectators shaking their heads in astonishment. Like she’s from a different species. With her blond hair and medal potential, I can see her becoming the poster child for the US Olympic Team at the London Games next year.

• The men’s elite field stuck together for most of the race in a pack of 20 or so runners. It resembled a motocross race as they whipped around the course at a 4-something pace jockeying for position over hills and around corners. Former Colorado Buffalo Brent Vaughn emerged from the pack with two laps to go and ran to a solo victory. Interestingly, he’d started the USA Half Marathon Championships in Houston the week before and dropped out. He said he felt like quitting the sport! But he got back on his horse, came to San Diego, and ran to one of the most important wins of his career.


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