“It’s like therapy,” Rodriguez said. “I used to think that runners were crazy, until I started running with them.”
Both runners are participating in this year’s Long Beach Marathon, with Nguyen running his sixth consecutive half-marathon and Rodriguez adding another full marathon to his résumé. Rodriguez was on the Cerritos College cross country team in the 90s and has been doing various marathons as a pacesetter and runner since then.
Despite their many experiences with completing marathons, both runners agree that preparation is always important for a successful race.
Nguyen said he prepares for marathons by increasing how many miles he runs each time he trains. He also uses his medical marijuana card to obtain a positive, focused state of mind.
“I do medicate before I run,” he said. “That just puts me in a Zen-like mind aspect, and I just keep on running.”
Rodriguez recommends joining a running club.
“When you join a club, it’s like joining a class,” he said. “They’re going to help you with tips and directions for how to do better.”
Long Beach offers a variety of running clubs that are open to people of all ages and abilities, such as Runner’s High, GRVL Runners, A Running Experience Club and CSULB’s very own Running Club.
Diet is also an important aspect of marathon preparation. According to runnersworld.com, foods such as salmon, whole-grain pasta, almonds and sweet potatoes will help someone stay healthy and benefit his or her cardio endeavors.
Knowing the course of the marathon can also benefit the running experience. Traveling on a flat-ground surface can be easier to run in due to the lack of hills, while trails demand for all muscles to work together. A flat course is one of the reasons why Nguyen favors the Long Beach Marathon over other marathons.
“It’s one of the flattest courses around,” he said.
In addition to physical preparation, a strong mentality is crucial to continue training and completing a marathon. Nguyen uses his earphones and listens to music or an audiobook to keep running, while Rodriguez focuses his mind on controlling the pain that exercise can bring.
“I always tell people to think about a good memory or a bad one,” Rodriguez said. “Either one is going to push you to keep going.”
After completing a marathon, Rodriguez recommends applying cold water to the legs for recovery and resting with the legs elevated to help with blood circulation.
Nguyen recovers by eating bananas and “taking it easy.” He also enjoys the free beer provided by the Beach Bum Club at the end of the Long Beach Marathon.
“That makes the recovery process easier,” he said.
Along with the empowerment and healthy experience that comes from participating in a marathon, Nguyen and Rodriguez enjoy the company of other runners during a marathon.
Nguyen said his favorite thing about the Long Beach Marathon is the people.
“They’re waking up at six in the morning just to run, and they’re paying good money just to run,” he said. “These are the people that you’d want if the zombie apocalypse happened – to survive with because they’re in shape. They’re not lazy, and they have a good mental attitude.”
A marathon can be challenging no matter the distance, but Rodriguez said what’s most important is that you finish. He recalled a friend who spontaneously ran her first marathon when she was in her 40s.
“She was overweight, she was depressed, she had so many things going on,” he said. “Everybody was telling her [she] won’t be able to finish, and I told her ‘never listen to anybody because nobody knows who you really are.’”
“She did it,” he said. “She finished in eight hours, but she finished.”