I Finished! 2008 Los Angeles Marathon

That was really my goal: to finish. And so I did. And I think I’ve gotten it out of my system. Maybe I’ll do it again sometime, but my guess is that it’ll be a long time, and maybe I’ll do some half-marathons every now and then.


I’ve had a lot of thoughts about the marathon along the way, many during training, and many more during the event. So here goes:

The hard part about my experiences here is that I’ve only done one marathon, so I can only speak about what I think worked – I have no control marathon to see what might have happened if I planned or ran differently. But I’m fairly sure I know what things did and didn’t help me out.

I did the carbo-starving then the carbo-loading. Hard to know if that helped, but I’m actually guessing it did. I had more energy late in the race than I typically do on longer runs. I also didn’t exercise at all the day before.

We drove to Hollywood and Highland and parked there. Then we took the subway one stop to Universal, and followed the huge, huge crowd to the starting line. I’m actually surprised to say that we crossed the starting line about three minutes after the gun. With so many people in the crowd, I would have guessed it would take ten to fifteen minutes to get across the line. But the field was pretty wide, and people really started moving as soon as they crossed.

I ran with my friend Sam, and our best move, as recommended by many, was to keep the place slow in the beginning – ideally no faster than we’d want our average to be. We were both wearing Garmin Forerunners, so we could each tell at a glance how fast we were moving. And we definitely had the temptation out of the starting line to get going fast. We kept it pretty reasonable up the first hill on Cahuenga. But coming down the hill, we had to slow down a bit. That’s hard; on a downhill early in the race, to go slow feels pretty counter-intuitive. But we did, and we think it helped. We did go faster during that part than probably any other part of the run, but slower than we could have.

The course wound through familiar territory including Hollywood and then Hancock Park. We saw some friends we knew and scored a banana. Then we turned basically south, and went under the 10 freeway. That was where I started to have my first doubts. I was sorry that I did the easy part of the run (the first part) where I knew the lay of the land; now I would be running in new terrain from here on, essentially.

That’s really what it was down there for me – new terrain. Frankly, there’s not much of a reason for me to be in that part of town ever. I’m a little surprised that they want to drag the runners through there. We have so many great parts of town to cover – the beach, Venice, Santa Monica, Beverly Hills, Griffith Park, etc. But maybe they need to stay in the LA city limits the whole time, or maybe they just can’t close streets in those parts of LA.

So hitting the halfway mark was pretty uneventful. I was slowly eating my GUs. And throwing the used containers on the street, along with my used water cups, and anything else I was done with. I feel pretty guilty doing that, but I do know that someone is going to come by to clean it all up behind me. Still, it’s no different than littering.

At one point, I realized that it was getting hotter, and I took off my hat. Immediately I knew I had to keep it off, so I waited until no one was beside me, and chucked it to the curb. As luck would have it, a homeless man was on the sidewalk nearby and started screaming at me for throwing it and leaving it there. This, amid the cups other runners were dropping everywhere.

On some of the streets in this part of town, the crowd thinned a bit. Really, overall, the crowd cheering us on was pretty amazing. But here in parts you’d go 50 feet with no person, and no music. In a way, it was peaceful. And then there were some boosters making the most of the quiet. I remember vividly a woman walking toward the runners down the sidewalk shouting about how hard we were working and what a great thing we were doing and how envious she was. It was really quite nice – she boosted my spirits.

Amazingly, the crowd on the sidelines and the volunteers were unbelievably supportive. They’d read your name off your bib to cheer you on, tell you that you look great, and tell you they were impressed. They really were there just to support you, and that alone is a great booster.

But the volunteers made the run work. I probably took water or gel or Gatorade or something from 30 people, all told. These people are standing there for hours with outstretched arms offering you everything from pretzels to bananas to oranges to water to candy – I even think I heard one group offering beer. Some of these people were organized by the marathon group, but many others were just out in front of their houses with bottles or water they bought. I’m pretty sure I couldn’t have run this far without them.

At mile 19, nearing downtown, Sprint had runners with cell phones. So I teamed up with one, and she ran alongside me as I tried to call my wife. My brain wasn’t working too well, so I first dialed my own cell phone – and didn’t realize until I got my voicemail announcement. I did talk to my wife just as she was getting on the subway to meet me at the end.

Starting in the early 20s, with the bridge uphill over the LA river to Boyle Heights, I began to feel significantly weaker. Sam insisted that I keep replenishing my sugar, which I did, and I’m sure that helped. From about mile 21, I had a GU or something similar at least every two miles, maybe more. I went to the bathroom and I realized that I needed to drink more water, so I took a cup from every group from there on. But even so, I just began to feel totally wiped.

I don’t think I “bonked;” I think I was just getting worn down. But I pushed on, and as the miles started to hit 23 and 24, I saw the end in sight. Crossing back over the LA river had a good psychological impact; I felt like I was in the home stretch. The last few miles did drag on – partly out of anticipation, and partly out of exhaustion.

After mile 25, we saw our families and friends – a wonderful feeling! We barely even slowed (we were moving pretty slowly by this point) because we just wanted to finish. Just beyond them was the mile 26 banner. We ran past that, turned the corner, and saw the finish line. We sped up just a tiny bit and crossed.

And then I could barely walk. Stopping and starting is hard, but until you finish, you know you want to get to the end. Once you hit the end and stop, you feel like nothing can make you move again. We moved very, very slowly.

In the end, my time was 4:29:35. I’m really ecstatic that I did it in under 4:30. I didn’t really expect to, although I was hoping for it.

Next time: more preparation, with more long, long runs. If there is a next time . . .


Leave a Reply

Name Email Website URI