My Los Angeles Marathon Experience

Wow, that was fun.

Yeah, I said fun. Three days after I crossed the finish line of the 24th Los Angeles Marathon, that's the word that still comes to mind when I think about the whole experience. Yes, my legs are a still a little sore and it hurts a teeny bit to walk down steps or down the hill I live on, but I don't regret the experience at all. Running my first marathon was amazing, unreal, tough, grueling... and sooo much fun.

Think of it this way: Only in marathons do you get to run in the middle of the street with people dressed up as Darth Vader and carrying light sabers, folks wearing Spiderman suits, blue afro wigs, and, ahem, running in a testicle suit.
Mile 8 running with some balls on Twitpic
Seriously, run down the street dressed in that testicle suit on any other day and people will not cheer for you. They'll dial 911 instead.

While I've been relaxing over the past couple of days, I've been trying to come up with some way of summing up the entire experience. There's just too much that happened! I could start with the night before the race and tell you how I, the Queen of Insomnia, took some Tylenol PM. That "PM" means it's supposed to put you to sleep. Pfft! Two hours after I took that stuff, I was STILL awake!

I could tell you about how before every long run, I always eat some toast with peanut butter and have a cup of Earl Grey tea, and so I did the same thing on Monday. Or I could share how while waiting for the race to start, I watched my hands shake like crazy because I was feeling so nervous.

Hmm... maybe marathon observations in list form:

1) The Start: Talk about a crazy adrenaline rush!!! I totally cheered as we ran over the starting line... and there, standing on a platform was the Mayor of Los Angeles, Antonio Villaraigosa. He looked positively bewildered and like he was thinking, "Look at these ca-razy people! How many of them voted for me? How many could I get to vote for me if I run for governor?"

2) Crackberry: Because I'm such a tech nerd and I just got a new Blackberry, I decided to do race updates on Twitter and Facebook. I'd also planned to take a picture at every mile marker, but, uh, it's kinda hard to run and use a Blackberry at the same time, so there were definitely some gaps where there were no pics.

3) Spectators: Some of them yell, "Hey, you wanna cigarette?" and some of them have orange slices and cups of water, but they are all cheering! They're out there with signs and posters, chillaxing in their lawn chairs, and showing the wonderful diversity that exists in Los Angeles.

4) My kids: The best spectators were my family and friends that came out... especially my little boys. The look on my son's faces when they saw me between mile 19 and 20 is one I'll never forget. They were in awe! Oh, and my five year-old tried to jack my pretzels that I had pinned to my running belt. He actually started running alongside me, trying to snatch them. Post race, they kept hugging me and telling me how proud they were of me. I feel like such a good role model for them!

5) Death: Without fail, on long training runs, I'm fine for the first dozen miles or so. Then I start to not feel so fabulous at around mile 14 or 15. I start wondering why the heck I'm doing this to myself. I start to want to just go sit down on the curb for a second and rest. This feeling only lasts for a couple of miles, and I know this so that's why I told my family to come see me after mile 17. That way, I couldn't let them down and not show up.

6) Running Buddy: My running buddy, Ollie, who I've trained with for most of the past year, was amazing. When I was feeling like I was going to die, he didn't ditch me just because he was feeling better. We stuck together and crossed the finish line together. Here we are at around mile 20:
Mile 20 in 4:19 on Twitpic
I smiled a lot during the race. I couldn't help it, I was so happy to be accomplishing something so amazing.

7) Weather: I'm SO grateful that the weather stars aligned because all last week I was stressing out about the possibility of heat. (Last year was 100 degrees on Memorial Day.) However, we had a super deep marine layer (that means fog) so all the sun and hot weather I was terrified of didn't materialize until I was maybe at mile 18 or 19.

8) Students Run LA: It was so fun to run the race with almost 4,000 high school students! They were amazing and so full of energy. It got me thinking that in another 10 years when my kids are in high school, maybe we can all run a marathon together...

9) Water: Lots of volunteers stand along the course with cups of water and those are great for drinking and for dumping over yourself to cool things down when the sun's starting to feel super hot. But, it wasn't till I'd dumped maybe four cups of water over myself and was totally wet that I remembered my shirt was white... oh well.

10) The LA Leggers: Are hands down, the best running club in Los Angeles. If you want to run a marathon and you live in LA, come train with them. Everybody is so encouraging and they know their stuff. I'd never run more than three miles before last August when I started training with the Leggers... plus they had special support stations along the marathon route just for us and it was SO good to see their friendly faces!

The Finish: After mile 20, your mind starts thinking, "I've got this. Only six miles left... that's nothing!"

Yeah, six miles actually turns into nothing when you've already run 20 of them. I could see Downtown ahead of me, and with every step those skyscrapers were getting closer.

The finish was challenging because it was an uphill grade going into downtown. Because we've been training in Santa Monica and Venice, it helped to think stuff like, "We just crossed out of Venice and we're in Santa Monica now. We're almost to the Ferris Wheel!" Also, I was very grateful I've been running in my super hilly neighborhood. That helped a lot.

Around mile 23, I started feeling really emotional, and had to wipe tears off my cheeks. I felt so good, and so proud of myself... this was a really serious goal and I was thisclose to achieving it! I also kept thinking of my kids waiting at the finish and how happy I was to be able to prove to them that you really can do anything if you set your mind to it.

And my gawd, when we turned off Olympic Blvd. and onto Flower Street and could see the 26 mile marker ahead, and then beyond that, the finish, I was SO happy. Both sides of the street were packed with people behind barriers who were screaming like crazy, ringing cowbells... OMG IT WAS NUTS!!!!!

The last .2 miles after crossing the 26 mile mark was totally surreal. And then I was over the finish line, I was giving Ollie high fives and hugs, and somebody was putting a medal over my head!

I walked three more blocks, found my family, got a million hugs from my kids, my friend Maisha took them home with her, my husband too me home, and I sat in a big tub of ice water for awhile! Then I took a hot shower and, two hours post-race, I was chilling on the couch with my medal!
Yeah, it's kind of heavy for an everyday necklace, but I had to run 26.2 miles to get it, so I'm not taking it off anytime soon.

Since then, I've been taking it easy, sleeping, taking slow walks around the neighborhood, stretching... and thinking about my next marathon. Yes, I want to do another one. I'm not sure which one or when it's going to be, but I'm going to do another one for sure!

I do have to say thank you to all you sweet people who thought of me and wished me well. It really means a lot... and you were another reason I kept going. I couldn't very well come back to this blog and say, "Sorry people, I just decided to quit at mile 17 because I was tired!" could I?

And what about you? Really, if I can run a marathon, you can do one, too. Think about it... the idea is not that crazy. Besides, you might surprise yourself and have a LOT of fun along the way!


Laura Harley said…
Congratulations, Liz! What a huge accomplishment! I love how you took us all with you on your journey. I was thinking as you sent updates from the race, what an awesome example you're setting for your kids. Beautiful!
Liz Dwyer said…
Hey Laura!

Thanks for the congrats! There is nothing like seeing the look of pride in my son's eyes. They have been really sweet, holding my hand as I slowly walk up the stairs to our place, and giving me extra big hugs and kisses. It's really something... and in a world where there is so much to beat our self esteem down, I love that they are seeing that you can discipline and train yourself to accomplish something that seems totally insane and impossible.
Malik Akbar said…
Well, you're so inspiring (I'm so happy for you!), that I just might try it. I've run a 1/2 marathon a couple of times, but 26 miles scares me. But then I was listening to the author of "Born to Run" on NPR talking about Tarahumara indians running a couple of hundred miles just for kicks, and between that and you, I think I'm ready to give it a shot. September 19, Wright-Patterson Air Force Base, Ohio; I'll be there. Hopefully we'll see you there. Four months is plenty of time to train ;)
Nerd Girl said…
Whoo hoo! How amazing you are! I'm so glad that you did what you set out to do! Truly inspiring - and I love the way you wrote up your experience. Congratulations :)
sippinwineman said…
I'm so proud of you! With the soaking of the water with a white shirt on. .. .yeah, no picture, indeed. lol.

I bicycle (instead of jogging). I do approximately 26-28 miles every weekend. My house to the Smithsonian and back. I don't get the residual pain that I used to.

Every time I think of you jogging, I hearing the Gap Band chorus from "Yearning". Keep it up, Madame Angelista.
Jameil said…
i'm cool on doing ti myself but you rock! i'll just do a 5k. for me i've always thought it was out of the realm of possibility. i'm gonna do it! what are pretzels? when i suggested the white shirt i then thought what about sweat? glad you overcame that. when i saw your mile 18 pic i was like you're almost there! nothin now! lol.
Anne said…
Congratulations Liz! I'm so proud of you! A 5K is a challenge for me, you are such an inspiration! Thinking of you getting emotional as you were finishing and approaching your family nearly brought ME to tears! Great job!
April said…
Congrats! My mom walked it this year, but she's run it in previous years. And Sylvia's old Principal ran it for his first time this year, too!
Um, yeah, if I wanted to, then yeah, I could probably do it. But I'll take that cigarette instead!
OMG! You are such an inspiration to me! Bless you for sharing your journey this year. It's amazing because you just started a little bit ago! Wow.

I just beam when I think about this!

(Now come to Vegas for the 1/2 December 6th)
Anonymous said…
That's really great and quite an accomplishment.
Sundry said…
Wonderful wonderful description! Very exciting! I read the whole thing out loud to Dana--yes, through tears after item #4 and then laughing, too at those boys!--and he says you're his hero. Me too! What a great thing. Man, I'm not a runner, but you actually make it tempting!
Jen said…
Liz, what I couldn't get over with your posts on Monday was seeing that HUGE smile on your face - even as the miles kept piling and piling on. Wow.

Your joy was palpable.

As I kept saying during the race - you ROCK. You just rock.

What an inspiration.
Unknown said…
Congrats! It's great how you can do something so amazing for yourself and at the same time inspire your kids. I only do half-marathons but my girls are always so proud. Then they try to jack my medal.
Liz said…

*bows down*

You are seriously my hero for doing this. I have toyed with the idea of running a marathon for a while - even going so far as to train for a bit. But I can't imagine actually completing one! Wow. You go, girl! Or rather, rest. You deserve it!
Monique said…
Wow, amazing. I got out of breath just contemplating the L.A Marathon. :) Congrats!
Liz Dwyer said…
A couple hundred miles sounds a little daunting to me! If you've done a couple 1/2's, you can def do a full. I don't know about that one in Ohio... I am seriously thinking Chicago though.

Nerd Girl,
Thanks for the congrats! I like doing what I say I'm going to do, and this year was so challenging with the race day being moved twice. I'm really glad I documented the experience though. :)

LOL, yeah, no pics of that. After a certain point, I didn't even think about a see-thru effect, I just kept pouring the water! That must be a lovely bike ride. I used to bike dozens of miles a day when I lived in China. Here in LA, I'd be scared I'd get hit by someone driving and talking on the phone. I was just listening to some Gap Band this morning. "Burn Rubber"! :)

You can definitely do it! I'm sure of it. Pretzels during the race are good for me because of the salt in them. Helps keep me from getting dehydrated. Also, my stomach does not like sugary energy stuff very much, so a few pretzels helps me neutralize the sugar in gatorade or those clif shot blocks.

How's it going? How's your garden? Thanks for the congratulations. A year ago I wouldn't have thought I'd be a running inspiration for anybody! I get teary-eyed still thinking about the look on my son's faces. It was really something.

Wow, congrats to your mom! That's fantastic! I really think it's true that 50% of doing a marathon is mental and the other half is physical, so if you want it, you can do it! But no cancer sticks for you! :)

Yeah, it's not so long ago that I decided to take this on! Vegas 1/2 marathon in December! I'll definitely see if I can come out for that!!

Thank you so much!

Aww, so sweet of you all. As long as I live, I will not forget that child saying, "Mommy!" and then, eyeing my pretzels, saying, "Hey, can I have those pretzels!" It was SO funny! --You know, you could try for a shorter distance, like a 5K or 1/2 marathon at first. Thank about it! :)

Hugs and thanks! I really could NOT stop smiling... except for a couple miles in there where I would've preferred to be stuck in the foot with a needle! (Ok, maybe not!)

Ms. Wooden Shoes,
Oh yes, there have been SEVERAL medal jacking attempts around here! My youngest had my 1/2 marathon medal and the LA marathon medal on at the same time last night and was going, "Yeah, c'mon, I'm hip-hop runner boy!" Lordy...

Juggle Jane,
That is SO very sweet of you to say! It is hard for me to rest, but last night I finally slept for about 12 hours straight. I guess I really needed the sleep! I wanted to do a marathon maybe 8 years ago and couldn't keep the training up with a newborn and the work schedule I had at the time. I'm so glad I was able to do it now. Maybe you can try to train again?

Thanks so much for the congratulations! I felt a little out of breath afterwards for a few hours. It was a little weird, but I'm all back to normal now!
pooneh said…
super proud of you! I believed you could do it the second you decided.
you are a wonderful role model, not just to your sons, but to many of us readers as well.
Nina Moon said…
Congratulations! I'm in awe! And how wonderful that your kids were there and could witness your accomplishment! You rock!
Liz Dwyer said…
Thank you SO much for saying that! Aagh, the pressure of being a role model! ;) Hugs!

So kind of you to offer your congrats! I had the chance to do some out of town marathons and didn't want to do them as my 1st b/c I knew that logistically, I couldn't work it out for my sons to be there. It was really important to me to share the experience with my boys!
Dirty Red said…
Congrats Boo!

I wish I had the dedication to prepare to run for a amarathon! I find it hard to make myself hit the gym 4 times a week. Even though membership at my gym is free for all employees and it is a state of the art gym. You go girl. So are you doing it next year also?
Yeah it was great reading your messages on Twitter. Just the fact you actually did something you set out to accomplish is such a huge inspiration you have no idea!
Liz Dwyer said…
Dirty Red,
Yes, I think I'm going to do it next year as well. I really enjoyed all the prep, and I'd love to experience the whole thing all over again. It was such a great way to experience LA!

Thanks! Finishing this race has remotivated me in a whole lot of ways. I'm excited to get back to lots of other things, like my novel, that I've been putting off.
Shiona said…
Way to go! They had it on Channel 4 but they were just following the newscasters and the lead people. I would have liked to see the whole thing televised. Next year I think I'll volunteer.

I can imagine what an awesome feeling that was crossing the finish line!
Lola Gets said…
Congratulations! I tried to walk a marathon before, but I only made it to mile 13 in my training before I had to quit due to pain.

Yea you!!
Liz Dwyer said…

It would be nice if they'd show more footage of regular runners. There are more regular people than elite runners, for sure!

Thanks for the congratulations! Walking is definitely an endeavor and just as grueling. I don't think folks always realize that it's just as physically taxing.

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