Tuesday, February 2, 2010

The Orient Express or Marathon Tales from Overseas

Caroline Gammons, Runner Extrordinare

I am 43, mother of 4 and have lived in HK for 15 years.  Not sure where the time went.  I've always loved running for exercise.  During SARS (2003) my friend and I were stranded in New Zealand for 6 weeks and we started running together to keep sane.  After her last baby, we decided to challenge ourselves to a marathon.  We had a friend of ours train us - Maria!!  She had a PR of 3:18 and had run 12 marathons so we did whatever she told us!  She has since written training schedules for me for all 5 of my races.  She's moved on to Ironman races, but still helps me out!

Number of marathons and PR
I have run 5 marathons: Hong Kong, Chicago, Boston, New York, Grandma's......I'm running Seoul, Korea on March 21 (yahoo!)  I PR'd in Chicago with a 3:33!!!  I think it's kind of funny that most of my races have been done in the US.  There is only one marathon here in HK, anything in SE Asia would be WAY too hot/humid, China is polluted......so that leaves US, New Zealand, Australia.  I guess also, that while my times were decent, I wanted to do NY and Boston.  I applied for London this year in their lottery, but was sadly rejected.  I'll try again next year.  Supposed to be a flat and fast race.
Favorite Marathon, and why
My favorite would have to be Boston.  I was just so excited to be running there!  There is something about running on the streets of a great city like Boston when no one else is allowed.  It is your privilege because you've earned it.  That is cool.  Running through all the neighborhoods, little kids at the end of their driveways passing out oranges and candy, the Wellesley girls.....it was just great!
Most scenic/beautiful marathon or triathlon
In theory, Grandma's should have been the most scenic.  Running alongside a beautiful lake on a summer morning....I didn't see much of that scenery though.  It was so dang hot and humid that all I could do was look at the pavement and put one foot in front of the other!  
My husband Chris did the Phuket, Thailand Triathlon and that was spectacular!  Started on the tropical beach, bike through the little villages with the kids chasing you and cheering for you, finishing off with a run through the palm trees lining the beach.  As a spectator - I think I got the most out of it!  Plus it's a smaller race so the kids all got to help out with sponges, water and run the last 400 M to the finish line.
The difference between overseas events and US events
Certainly for HK, it just isn't a "running" city.  The gov't can't possibly change traffic patterns for longer than 5 hours!  So you don't get the support from the city.  However, in Tokyo (my friend just ran it last March), the crowds were bigger than NYC and there are loads of whirlpool tents** at the end of the race for runners to rest their weary legs in!  That one fills quickly so get your registration in early if you want to run it.  The same is true for Macau.  They are just at the beginning stages of the running/racing world.  **like
Any bad experiences at any races?
I ran Boston in '07 which was the year of the late Nor'easter.  The rain, wind, and temp (freezing) were not kind, but it was Boston and it was fine.  I ran Grandma's in 80 degree + temp and 80%+ humidity and that was not nice.  BUT, I think Hong Kong takes the top spot.  My very first race - not sure what to expect.  No one, not one person other than the volunteers handing out water was on the course to cheer you on.  At about mile 22 there was a lone bystander on a pedestrian bridge that clapped for me and my running partner.  Sad really.  Maybe 50 people at the finish line.....14 were family and friends!  The worst memory was of a runner on the ground who seemed to be bluish in color.  We passed by him on the other side of the street at mile 13 and later found out that he had died.  It was determined he had had a heart attack.  
Races you'd like to do -- why?
I'd really like to do the Great Wall of China 1/2 marathon.  Not sure I'm up for the full as it has loads of stairs.  More of an endurance race.  I think of all the rich history involved with the Wall and would like to be able to say I've run on it.  I'm saving that one until Emma, my daughter, will run it with me.  I'd also like to do the Marine Corp Marathon in DC.  I guess I'd consider that my hometown race.  Running on the streets of DC, around the monuments would be a treat.
Any great brand of technical clothing we are missing out on here in the US
I buy all my clothing in the good 'ol US of A.  It's funny, but Asian women don't like to show their arms - so that makes it very hard to find running tanks here!!   
Type of shoes you wear
Asics Gel Kayano.  I'd really like to pick up a pair of Newton's when I'm in the US next summer.  They don't sell them here.  
 Training advice to become a fast runner like yourself
I think that speed work is important.  Sacrifice the miles to get your legs turning and your heart adjusting to the quickened pace.  

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