Saturday, March 24, 2012

LA Marathon 2012

A marathon is a marathon and there is no other word for it. It is a 26.2 mile foot race. It’s tough. It’s humbling. It exhausts perfectly good athletes. And it is addictive.

But I almost always have the same experience around mile 18 or so. After about three hours of running, I begin to think that it would be okay if I never ran another marathon. By mile 20 I am thinking about how there is nothing wrong with just running half marathons. You can get in great shape training for a half marathon. And after the race is over, you still feel like going out for breakfast.

And by the time I get home, hang up the well-admired medal and take a much needed shower, I’m still thinking contented thoughts about it being my last marathon. But then, something weird happens while I sleep. (I think it might just be that I sleep.) But in the morning a small spark of something has germinated in my mind and I actually start thinking about next time.

Then sometime during the day after I talk to a marathon friend, and there is that discussion about marathon times and how they could be improved, and how we feel pretty good, you know, considering. And then before you know it, I’m hooked.

This year I decided pretty early in the year that I wanted to run the LA Marathon again and that I wanted to be an official Students Run LA mentor. I had run with an SRLA team in the past, but I had never committed to being an official mentor. This year I decided I wanted to be part of the team, help out with Saturday practices, run all the mid-season races. I wanted to see the kids go from start to finish in the training.

Shalom encouraging some of our SRLA team after our last Saturday morning training run before the marathon.

Of course, that goal became a little more complicated in September when we moved to Malibu, more than 20 miles from the South LA high school where my friends coach the SRLA team. But I still really wanted to be a part of the team, so every Saturday morning before dawn I drove my rattle-shaken minivan down our mountain, into the city to run with my kids. I know I only saw them a couple times a week, but I really developed an affection for each of them as I saw them go from running their first 5K to completing the marathon. They worked for it, each of them. And they made it. All of them. I’m so proud of them.

Although the kids all ran at different paces, SRLA coach and my long-time friend Shalom and I ran close enough to the same pace that we could run side-by-side every Saturday morning. I grew to really appreciate that weekly appointment for long distance running and hours of catching up on our lives.

Shalom and I are in the middle of the road. I'm waving over that other runner who is wearing black sweat pants. Kip, my kids and Shalom's parents ran around LA, catching us four times along the route for pictures and encouragement.

We were hoping to set a PR and get in around 4:30. But marathons being what they are, we slowed down somewhere around mile 20 and I had to settle for 4:39. It was about three minutes longer than that first marathon I ran in 2009, and only five minutes shorter than my worst time in 2011 when we battled torrential downpours.

But aside from the chip times, I really enjoyed most of this marathon. The weather was gorgeous, and I made a point of noticing everything we passed. I love LA. I love the mountains and the ocean and the diversity of our communities. I love the people.

The race started at Dodger Stadium and went through Chinatown, downtown, Little Tokyo, Olvera Street, and that was just the first few miles. We ran past familiar places in East Hollywood where Shalom and I have spent so much time working with Kairos and Hope. And then there was the touristy section of Hollywood and West Hollywood and Beverly Hills. By the time I got to Beverly Hills I was ready to listen to a little music and stop noticing everything, but I still enjoyed the now familiar mile 18 crowds cheering along the stretch through Century City and then the endless road through the Veterans.

Somewhere in the middle of the race I realized that my inner thigh, groin muscle was tense, hurting. By mile 23 it was really hurting and around mile 24 I started walk/running and I wondered if this would be the year I crawled to the finish line – the year I took 6 hours to finish. Just about the time I decided to give up, I heard a friend screaming my name. She jumped into the street, taking pictures. She was so excited, I couldn’t help but smile. And smile. And then I was running again.

Then I saw my family standing at the corner of San Vicente and Ocean, just a little over a mile from the finish. I decided to run it in. I don’t think I slowed down from that point. I just looked up at the finish and ran. If there was anyone I knew on the sidelines that last mile, I am sure I didn’t see them. I was locked on that inflatable “Finish line” bridge over Ocean Boulevard. I saw the clock. I heard the announcer. I think he was apologizing for making a joke when I was crossing. I knew I hadn’t made my time, and I was disappointed that I had lost Shalom somewhere around mile 20. But I made it.

That is another funny thing about finishing a marathon. Sometimes I have felt elated. Other times, I have felt a let down. This time was somewhere in between. I think sure, I made it, but I could have done so much better. That is the nasty thing about comparison. It always robs you of the joy of just delighting in the present. A Chinese woman who I had passed back and forth several times over the course started talking to me as we walked through the finisher’s corridor. She must have had a limited command of English because she kept saying the same word over and over “Unbelievable! Unbelievable! It is unbelievable! I did it.” That made me smile too.

I guess I need to embrace that word, “unbelievable.” It is amazing that I can run that far.  And I am so thankful to be healthy. I am thankful to have a family that supports my running and friends that don’t roll their eyes and say “she is doing it again.”

As for next year, I don’t know. I am going to enjoy this race one step at a time.
It's no glamor shot, but I am smiling after running 25 miles at this point.

Back home


  1. Thanks for sharing. Mom

  2. I couldn't leave it saying "1 comments," so ... Thanks for blogging again. We love to read your thoughts, the ones we can read.