Los Angelista's True Tale of LA Marathon Adventure!

If you know me in real life, you know I smile a LOT. That's no different when it comes to running marathons. I smile at the start of a race, smile in the middle when I'm feeling the most mental and physical exhaustion, and I sure as heck smile when I get the finisher's medal at the end.

OK, I'll be 100% honest. I cry when I get the medal. And on Sunday, March 21, 2010, I collected my THIRD piece of marathon bling! Keep in mind I ran three miles one time when I was 25, but never anything over that until I decided to do the couch potato to 5K program in May of 2008.

Who'd have thought that 12 years after my first three miles I'd be up at 4:45 a.m. getting ready to leave my house to run my 3rd marathon? I wore my red Run Team Sparkle skirt with my Cherry Marketing Institute "Powered By Red" campaign shirt. On my hat, I had both my Depeche Mode pin sent to me all the way from the UK by fellow fan Mandy Needham, and my GOOD pin. My iPod was fired up with my favorite tunes. I was ready to rock... but I had to get to the marathon's starting point, Dodger Stadium, first.

LA traffic isn't known for being a piece of cake, but with only two roads open into Dodger Stadium, a different approach to getting 25,000 people to the start needed to happen. The traffic was so bad at 5:15 a.m., two hours before the race, I gave up on taking the official entrances, got off the freeway, snuck through the Echo Park hills, and somehow managed to get my car right across the street from the closed Sunset Blvd entrance to Dodger Stadium. From there I walked up the hill to the stadium.

This was not an auspicious beginning, but as I entered the stadium, I got a big hint the race would be special - the loudspeakers were blasting Depeche Mode's "Strangelove"! No kidding, when I heard it, I got all teary-eyed. Aww, my favorite band's music playing right when I walked in. All traffic woes were forgiven!

The Start

While waiting EONS to use the bathroom, I got to see an elite runner and her entourage get to go to the front of the line. She was pretty much the size of my 9 year-old. I wished her luck and then those of us in line joked about how she'd have time for an ice bath, shower, nap and lunch by the time we finished the race!

After the 45 minute bathroom wait, I managed to find members of my pace group, watched thousands of other runners mill around in the too-small start corral, and watched other desperate folks take to the hills to use the bathroom - the port-a-potty lines were just WAY too long.
Former American Idol contestant Allison Iraheta sang the National Anthem, Mayor Villaraigosa got booed, the race start was delayed yet again...and then Randy Newman's "I Love L.A." began playing. It was finally time to start!

Mile 0-5

We ran in a loop around Dodger Stadium to begin. It was an uphill slope first, which was good because it kept me from going too fast - that's what I tend to do during races because I'm all amped up.

Not even half a mile in, I saw a runner who'd fallen. He was the first, but certainly not the last injured runner I saw along the route. I was determined to NOT be one of those runners, and all was well as we streamed out of Dodger Stadium, ran through Chinatown and past City Hall. Unfortunately, as luck would have it, my unhappy knee began acting up around mile three.

Running west on 1st Street, there's a MASSIVELY steep hill right before mile four. Everyone around me walked that sucker and I kept imagining the elite runners booking up it. How.Do.They.Do.It?

One nice thing was that at the top, a fantastic group of Korean drummers were jamming! It was also majorly beautiful running around Echo Park Lake. So many runners stopped to snap photos!

Mile 5-10

Miles five through eight are my home turf. I run some part of that stretch two or three times a week. My family was at mile seven and the look on pride and amazement on my son's faces was absolutely priceless. Tears again! Also, here's a fantastic time lapse video shot from around around mile 6.5, just before Sunset Blvd and Vendome. I was in there somewhere!

The first station for my awesome running club, the LA Leggers, was also at mile seven. After that, the trek into Hollywood took me past this hilarious Capitol Records landmark sign. I also saw this cute father/son duo's t-shirts - I hope one day my sons will run with me so we can get coordinated tees, too!

The hills weren't anything major in this section. The road just rolls gently... but as we went along, my knee kept letting me know it was VERY cranky. Instead, of listening to it, I told myself I was feeling great and focused on the lovely Hollywood landmarks.

Mile 10-15

This section of the race is hands down where I was beginning to feel serious pain. My left knee felt like I was being stabbed by a serial killer. I kept going because the mentor for my pace group was right next to me, telling me I could do it. Great folks like fellow Depeche Mode fan, Diane, came out to say hi and cheer for me, and my running club had another support station somewhere between mile 15 and 16. I can't tell you much about the scenery here because I was so focused on putting one foot in front of the other, but I did love this marquee on the Laugh Factory. The "cheerleaders" in West Hollywood were also pretty awesome. I wonder if any of them ever dated the football captain?

At the mile 15 LA Leggers support station, I inhaled some ibuprofen, got my legs sprayed with some sort of pain relieving spray, and I prayed for the best. At this point in the race, I saw so many downed runners. Folks were sitting on curbs looking totally desolate. I just kept picturing that finish, visualizing myself crossing it, and saying, "I don't quit. We don't quit."

Mile 15-20

The ibuprofen began kicking in around mile 17 or 18. Running down Rodeo Drive was fun, but running down Santa Monica Blvd? Not so much. Mile 17 was supposed to be "Cheer Alley" - screaming cheerleaders going nuts and pumping us up. Pfft. They were there but they weren't cheering. Instead they were standing around like someone stole their pom-poms and force fed them Twinkies.

There were some fun hills in this section. Not super steep, just long, steady upgrades. Here's me going up one at mile 18.5 - see, STILL alive and by this point, the ibuprofen was doing a GREAT job masking the pain in my knee. Terrible in the long run, I know, but I was all about short term victory at this point.
I was with one other member of my running club and we kept each other going by saying, "Let's just run till that far away stoplight and then walk for a minute." At the tail end of this section, we entered the Veteran's Administration - federal property, and it was lined with flags! SO sweet!

Mile 20-26.2

I knew when I came out of the VA, I was in the homestretch. My family was at Mile 21 and I was in such a zone, I ran right by them. My sons ran out onto the marathon course, calling my name. Thank goodness I heard them hollering! By this point I was running by myself and when I'd see someone running ahead of me, I'd just focus on going fast enough to get past that person and make sure they didn't pass me again. Pain in my knee? What pain? I had a LOT of time to make up and the ibuprofen was working it's magic, so I booked it.

When I reached the end of San Vicente and turned left onto Ocean for the last 1.2 miles, I could see the finish ahead of me... but I was confused because the spectators were not on the level of last year's race spectators. I don't know what happened, but they were comparatively LAME. At mile 25.5, I don't need someone standing there staring at me like I'm crazy. Cheer, dammit!

I quickly put their lack of spirit out of my mind and ran as fast as I could toward the finish. I started crying well before reaching mile 26.2. I just get SO emotional at the end of the race - and it's not just because it's about to be over. I just feel so proud and accomplished. So few people attempt marathons and whether I'm a fast or slow runner, I'm doing something extraordinary.

Finally, with one last burst of speed, and while coincidentally listening to the SAME song I listened to while crossing last year's LA marathon...

...I was over the finish line with a final time of 6:03:55. It's slower than last year's time, but given all the pain issues, I'll take it. I finished, and I still had a really good time during the race.

Post-race, Santa Monica was an insane parking lot. I knew it would be bad for the same reasons the start was bad, but really, it exceeded even my worst nightmares. No police directing traffic was a big mistake. My husband could only find parking on the edge of Santa Monica and Venice, so I had to walk super far to meet them. It was fine because it didn't hurt me to keep moving a little bit, and the traffic was less insane down there.

Over two hours post-race, I finally arrived home. I soaked in a tub of ice, ate some leftover tofu stir-fry, and watched the health care reform debate! After the vote passed, I went to House of Pies and positively inhaled a veggie burger, fries and a slice of cherry pie! - I sure hope cherry pie counts as part of the "red recovery" routine!

I'm going to need to rest my knee up for a little bit since I want to be ready for the LA Leggers marathon training season which starts at the end of July. Yes, I'm going to do it again. I'm just hooked on running, and as hard as marathons are, I love them. They're FUN!

I'm already mentally envisioning crossing the finish line for next year's race. I want my little collection of medals to grow, so I'm also plotting four races I'm going to run between September and the end of November - Disneyland 1/2, Chicago 1/2, City of Angels 1/2 and maybe the Santa Barbara Marathon.

Thank you for all your encouragement and support. It means so much to know there are wonderful people like you sending me good luck wishes. Want to run next year with me? Join the Leggers! I'm not kidding, if I can do it, you can do it, too!


Joy said…
Hey Liz!!!
Great post! I hate that my "bathroom break" separated us. :( But I kept it going and finished at a little over 7 hours. Your story was my story too. My knee was KILLING me but I kept at it. I refused to quit because I finish what I start. :)
Thanks again for the inspiration to start this in the first place. I think I may do it again too!
I am in awe!

Congrats Liz.
Nerd Girl said…
Congratulations Liz!!! You ran well AND looked good doing it. Rock on!
April said…
You're so awesome! Congrats!
Liz Dwyer said…
I was sad, too, but I'm SO glad you made it through! Your knee has been bothering you all season so serious kudos to you. Glad you're going to do it in 2011!!! ;)

Thank you! Maybe one of these days I'll start really traveling and end up doing a marathon someplace cool like Italy!

Nerd Girl,
Thank you so much for saying so! :)
Liz Dwyer said…
Thanks for the congrats! You down for 2011? :)
Cheryl said…
CONGRATS!!! You did amazing - BOO on the knee pain! My first marathon I ended up walking the second half due to injury. But hey - you finished and you looked FABULOUS doing it!
I saw your tweets during the Marathon...awesomeness!! Congrats!!
Stacy said…
You totally rock! I'm just starting to run, and I'm happy when I can run for 20 minutes without stopping! LOL!!! I can't imagine running for 6 hours. I am in complete and utter awe!

Keep it up girl! You're an inspiration! Keeping my fingers crossed that I can do my first 5K next month.
Liz Dwyer said…
Thank you! Yes, the knee pain was a real bummer but I'm glad I got through the race. Last Thursday I went out for a run & was in such pain I had to stop after less than a mile, so I'm grateful angels were watching over me and helped me thru!

Aww, thanks! :)

Oh that's great that you're starting to run! Congratulations on that. I used to never imagine running for that long either, but the time goes quickly - that said, I'd love to be able to make it shorter! I really admire Oprah for running her marathon in 4:30!
Jen said…
What a great post to return to! I've been doing some things I really needed to for the past couple of months, but you TOTALLY ROCK and it's so fun to return on this post. Yippeee!!! So glad you had such a great experience!
nick said…
Congratulations, Liz, you made it! Not sure it's a good idea to keep running through the pain, it might be harmful in the long run, but hey, they're your knees, who am I to comment?? And your young 'uns look really proud of you!
1969 said…
So proud of you. What a huge accomplishemnt and thanks for the great post. I felt like I was there cheering for you! Congrats.
Liz Dwyer said…
YAY! SO glad you're back in Bloggywood and that I get to share my marathon adventures with you! :)

I'm not so sure that was a good idea either. My knee is not happy so I'm really going to rest up for sure. My boys were SO proud! They made my day!

Aww, thank you! Want to come run LA in 2011 with me next year??? ;)
Sarah Auerswald said…
Liz, you are a goddess! Amazing!

Oh -- and I just want to say the letters I have to type to prove I'm not a robo-spammer are "rednec". No lie.

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