Los Angeles Marathon; Feb. 14, 2016; Los Angeles, CA
Lifetime Marathon #31, California Marathon #2
This was a race day unlike no other that I have ever experienced. It was the first time that I have run a race that was purely focused on someone else the entire time. I guided Tony from the start line at Dodger Stadium through Hollywood, across Los Angeles, and to the Santa Monica Pier and loved every minute of it.
We started by meeting up at Dodger Stadium pre race. My friends that work for the St. Jude Heroes managed to give Tony & I passes to visit the charity suites prerace. This was super cool, we lounged in the suites at the ballpark for an hour or so and used no line bathrooms (I heard later the regular porta lines were cah-razy, so I’m glad we had no hassle bathrooms). As race time got closer we made our way into the staging area and the starting corrals.
This was where my first (and really only) big complaint about this race begins. There was such a big deal made about which Corral you could be in. My bib was for the 2nd corral, but Tony was supposed to start in the open corral. My game plan was to pull him along with me into B and stay to the back and hopefully have a little time before the crowds began to catch up to us. Going into race day my biggest concern was dealing with large packs of runners. But 2-3 minutes before the race start the volunteers dropped the corral barrier ropes and everyone moved up wherever they wanted to. What is the point of the tight security around the corrals if there aren’t staggered and wave starts?
[steps off soapbox]
The race started great. A nice climb to get out of Dodger Stadium followed by a quick bathroom stop and we made our way into downtown LA. The crowds weren’t as bad as I thought they would be mostly due to the race being on 4-5 lane roads. I tried my best to keep Tony to the outside of all of the turns too to avoid people that dart to the inside to hit those tangents. Some were unavoidable.
Tony was a great tour guide for the city of Los Angeles. In addition to telling him when to come towards me or away from me to dodge people I also told him most of the cross streets as we went through intersections. He would tell me about the buildings that around us and what was coming up soon. As we ascended the gigantic hill just before the Walt Disney Concert Hill he told about the group playing drums at the top and that they play to the rhythm of “I think I can, I think I can, I think I can”, also I believe they were playing alternating paradiddles.
We ran through Hollywood down Sunset Blvd, stopped for a few pictures, and visited with the Team Ritter Cheer station for a quick second. The weather was much better than anticipated, the temperatures didn’t get near as high as they were predicted to be which made most of the run very pleasant. We made our way across town and onto Rodeo Drive in Beverly Hills. Tony told me that this was the priciest place in town, I let him know that I’m a Julia Roberts fan. Around Mile 16 was a difficult place for us. The road width became smaller and the runners packed into a 2 lane street that was much harder to navigate both of us through than the roadways before. This was where I struggled the most keeping Tony safe weaving around people.
At Mile 21 or so Tony started to have a few muscle cramps and we slowed down. There was also a large gap in water stations here that was uncommon across the rest of the course. He had lost his salt tablets during the run somewhere and was really beginning to struggle. Luckily, I have the best running friends in the world and as Tony was starting to really feel pain my pal Richard ran up right behind us salt capsules in hand. I whipped up a salt cocktail at the next water stop, we shuffled around for a mile or so until we reached the BlindStart cheer tent in Mile 23. I had a Red Bull, Tony had a Mountain Dew. Another quarter mile or so down the street we were stopped by a big group of Tony’s friends including the runner who guided him through the California International Marathon last December in Sacremento.
After that we started to feel the cool ocean breeze coming from the Santa Monica shores and Tony was feeling better. Salt and sugar always do the trick. We ran in the last 5k with no stops, no troubles. As we came to the finish line Rudy, the race announcer, called out my name and Tony’s name before we even hit the mat that gives them that information. He felt like a superstar. We crossed the finish and collected our medals and bags.
I have never felt so great about a race before. Times and distances don’t matter as much as doing good stuff. I battle with the story of this marathon at the risk of sound selfish. “Look how great I am for doing this.” Rest assured that is not the reason for sharing the story. Look how great Tony is for not letting an obstacle stand between him and doing something great. Look how great Tony is for encouraging the people around him. We were passed by seemingly hundreds of runners during the marathon and time after time, person after person went by and patted him on the back and told him they were inspired, he was incredible out there. Early in my running life I told myself that I wanted to be a beacon of encouragement, someone that could always provide the advice and excitement to those running around me. Tony was exactly that before we ever made it to the starting line.
On a side note, I am making a New Year’s Resolution to take more GoPro video during races and work on vlogging. The downside to this is that I lost the balance of pictures to video and didn’t take very many. But I have a pretty great video that I put together over on my Facebook Page.
After the race was over I had worked out a plan with the race announcer, Rudy, to surprise Brooklyn as she came to the finish. I waited in the announcer tower with Rudy & Bart Yasso until I saw Brooklyn coming down the street then snuck down the tower and stayed out of sight. Rudy called her name over the PA system and distracted her with a hug over the rail while I snuck through a little gap in the fence and was on one knee, ring in hand when she turned around (startled none the less) to find me behind her. It was a perfect moment that I could not have orchestrated without the help of Rudy and a few other friends.
After everything was over we met with Team Ritter for dinner and pictures and to recap the day from everyone. An unbelievably incredible day.
Finish – 5:17:34
25-29 – 798/1251
Male – 6698/11501
Overall – 10306/20623