Well, that wasn't much fun.
Today's race was my fourth Los Angeles Marathon, my first since 2001-- and by a considerable margin, my slowest. (I finished in a 3:57, and had to trot to break 4 hours at the end. In 2001, I ran a 3:30:45 at LA.) ) Age and weight gain have slowed me down, as has the fact that my friends and I do most of our running in the mountains, on more forgiving dirt. We only did one long training run on pavement, and we all suffered today on the hard and cruel asphalt. I ran the first fifteen miles with a good friend of mine, but she began to cramp and had to drop. I passed two more of my normally much faster buddies as the race wore on. I had several long periods of walking, plus one extended potty break. The fact that most of the hills are in the second half, and that the sun was quite bright, didn't help matters...
Though my favorite races have clearly become the mountain marathons and 50Ks, I admit I love running through the various communities of Los Angeles. The folks whose view of LA has been formed by "Crash" (sorry to harp on this again) ought to have been out running today; more than 20,000 ethnically diverse runners running through a huge variety of neighborhoods, cheered on by passionate and warm crowds. We had Korean drummers drumming, we had gospel music on Crenshaw, we had Native American dancers, we had salsa and rancheras blaring. I heard "si se puede" over and over again, and was encouraged to press on in a dozen other languages.
When I'm tired and in pain, I get sentimental -- and twice in the second half of the race, the enthusiasm of my fellow runners and of the large and diverse crowds made me puddle up. I started to cry at a water stop around mile 21, and some folks must have thought I was in physical agony. I waved off their concern, but had to stop and compose myself. Somehow, all of these people out in the bright sun just to cheer on perfect strangers seemed so wonderful and kind, it overwhelmed me.
Los Angeles is my adopted home town, and I love it with every fibre of my being. But as my friends and I decided after the race, we're done with these darned paved big city races. It's back into the mountains for us, and we'll all be happier running on dirt.
After the race, I was so tired I took a little nap in the middle of the street. My wife snapped this picture just as I was getting up. Click to enlarge.
More on family obligation and autonomy tomorrow. And it was nice to come home to this bit of news about hoops, women's progress -- and women's prowess.
Update: It must have been a slow day or something. I ended up just missing out on finishing in the top 10% (finishing 2076 out of 20,043), despite a sub-par performance -- and I was easily in the top fifth of my age group. I'd be prouder, but I think that big-city marathons attract a lot of walkers! And big props to my running buddy Jannifer Heiner, who was the 45h overall woman in a time of 3:27. She had to wait for the rest of her miserable friends to stagger in.