Otto Lam of Wayne Tackles Marathon Two Weeks after Spartathlon

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By Kyla Leathers, Staff Writer

Otto Lam, a Wayne runner on the Skechers Performance Elite Team, and father of Wayne Hills junior Olivia Lam, competed in the Boston Marathon on October 11.

For the first time in 125 years, the Boston Marathon was hosted in the fall, due to the COVID-19 pandemic. Usually the race takes place in early April, which is a time of unpredictable weather. Autumn’s weather is more consistent, which was the bright side of having a postponed race. Although 20,000 runners flooded the streets that day, it is safe to say few of them had probably accomplished something like Otto had just two weeks earlier, the Spartathlon. Spartathlon is an ultramarathon that takes runners on a difficult 153-mile journey from Athens to Sparta, which is limited to a 36-hour window. Otto finished the ultra in 34:43:39. 

The Boston Marathon is a fast course if paced correctly, which can be difficult with its unique terrain. The course is mostly downhill, but has some short uphills in the first 16 miles, then four long uphills after the 16-mile mark. “The last one [is] Heartbreak Hill. This is the point where many runners hit the wall, but for those who trained hard and successfully battled to the top of Heartbreak Hill, they are rewarded with a fast five miles downhill to the finish,” Otto said of the race, which he completed in three hours and twenty-five minutes (7:50 pace). “This deceivingly challenging course made the Boston Marathon a truly unique and attractive race,” he described. The morning of October 11th hosted temperatures of low 60’s, which is warm for a marathon.

However Otto’s training consisted of much hotter days that prepared him for less than ideal temperatures. “I felt relatively comfortable because of my training through the summer in hot and humid weather,” he said. 

Ultra Marathons take a big toll on the body, and the minimal recovery time is about two weeks, which presented challenges for the Boston Marathon which was two weeks afterwards. Knowing that he was pushing it, Otto set reasonable expectations for how he wanted to perform that day (the day of Boston). “[Spartathlon] has been my goal since 2020. I’ve been spending the past two years focusing my training on slow, long-distance running to build my endurance with very little speed work. Going to Boston just two weeks after Spartathlon, I knew I would not be able to finish with a fast time since I was not fully recovered from the Spartathlon and hadn’t trained for the fast pace. Yet, I felt confident that my endurance training would carry me to the finish.” Although Lam has run faster marathons in the past, he clearly accomplished a lot within those two weeks, and expressed his satisfaction with the results he had at Boston. “With few expectations and simply the goal of finishing, I felt very relaxed going into the race. I was able to enjoy my journey from Hopkinton (the start) to Boston (the finish) in a reasonable time without any struggle.”

Although everything went smoothly at Otto’s race, every marathon is difficult. “A marathon, 26.2 miles long, is quite far, and it’s hard to stay focused and motivated, he said.”

When asked what keeps him motivated, he said, “I usually break the race up into four or five sections to help me stay focused. When things get tough, usually toward the late miles, I set a short-term goal to keep myself motivated, such as closing in on a runner that’s a hundred meters ahead of me, which helps distract me from what’s hurting me,” stated Otto. He is all about breaking up the race to make it mentally easier to keep going. He reminds himself that “a marathon is a 10K race with a 20-mile warmup! If I’m not having “fun” during the first 20 miles, then I’m probably pushing too hard, but if I’m still having “fun” during the last 10K [6.1 miles], then I’m not working hard enough!”

Otto offered some advice for runners and athletes who want to do marathons or ultras.

“Just like any other endurance sport, long-distance running takes a lot of patience and discipline. My key to success is keeping my training consistent, staying injury-free by focusing on running form, and resting/recovering well. It’s also important to focus on nutrition as you demand more from your body. Finally, you will be spending hours, sometimes days on your feet, so get the best-fitting running shoes that you can afford!” he said.

Lam also said, “Remember, don’t be afraid to go outside of your comfort zone to take on new challenges. You will run into setbacks as you explore uncharted territory, but don’t get discouraged; this is how one becomes a stronger and more experienced runner!”

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