Residence: Los Angeles Occupation: architect Number of L.A. Marathons run: 4 Best race: In last year's Marine Corps Marathon, I ran 3:11 and qualified for Boston, which I'd been trying to do for a while. I had such a good summer of training -- I used all the resources in L.A. and used the city as my own gym -- I ran on the trails in Griffith Park. I think it paid off. I pushed myself a lot. The weather in D.C. was perfect -- a little cloudy, and I felt it that day on the starting line that this was going to be a good day. What's intriguing about the marathon is that it's not just about how hard you train, but it takes everything to come together. Worst race: I ran the Chicago Marathon in 2005, and the last six to eight miles were pretty bad. People talk about that course as being great because it's flat and fast. But I think if you run a flat course, you have the same pounding, mile after mile. At mile 17 I felt terrific, but by the time I was at mile 20, my lower back was killing me and the bottoms of my feet were numb. There were people cheering and saying, "Only three more miles!" and I wanted to strangle them. I was thinking, "I can't run another 100 feet." I had this overwhelming feeling that my body wanted to stop, but I knew if I had stopped, I wouldn't have gotten up. Strategy this year: I'm going to try to save more this year for the hills at the end, around mile 20. . . . I wish I could do something about those long stretches by downtown that are flat and hot, in the industrial areas. Going through there is hard, but you just need to hang on. It almost sucks the life out of you. I'll be satisfied with a time of 3:15 or 3:20, but if it's hot, I may have to add five minutes to that. I really want to come out with no major injuries and good, solid training for Boston. Advice for newbies: A lot of times you'll get to the final miles and you don't feel like you can finish. If you can get to mile 22, there's so much energy from the crowd that you'll be able to finish. When you start to have doubts, have faith in your training. If you're fit enough to get to 22 miles, then you can finish. L.A. has great crowd support. Pre-race ritual: I won't eat at restaurants two days before the marathon. I'm afraid of any kind of freak food poisoning. It's never happened to me, but I've heard about it happening to other people. When I travel [for a marathon] I'll go to a grocery store and get fresh things and make a sandwich. I also don't eat a big meal the night before the race -- I'll do that two nights before. Otherwise I'll feel way too full the next day.
Ringo H.W. Chiu / For The Times