I came into this weekend untrained. My last long run was January 12. Only six days ago, I decided that I would, in fact, toe the line for this marathon.
Ron and I decided that the plan was to run between eight and 10 miles, then do a walk/run of a quarter-mile off and on until the end of the marathon. I knew truthfully that I would get a great 10K. My goal pace was to have 13:30 overall, and maybe even PR. (Anyone who goes into a marathon without that kind of a thought really is lying. Even if you’re untrained, you know in the back of your head there is just this little niggling voice that says maybe this time.)
Let me start by saying that I love the Los Angeles Marathon. It’s broken my heart, and given me great joy. It’s where I’m from, and going there and running the streets is like being back inside of my own soul. So I was very excited that I could even drive down and participate this year.
As usual, I went to the expo on Friday instead of Saturday. There was a 40 minute line just to get in the door, but you would expect that with 25,000 marathoners. The expo was fabulous, and I just had a really good time looking at all of the fun events and stuff you get to buy. And you start thinking about all of the races that you can run in the future. And you forget that you’re running a marathon in a day and a half.
Setting the clocks forward on Saturday night was a little bit tricky. I wasn’t sure which clock would set and which one wouldn’t. So I had about four hours sleep and finally close my eyes around midnight.
My parents drove me to Dodger Stadium at five in the morning. The drop off is always very smooth and as soon as I got my stuff out the parking attendants moved my parents along. I roamed around Blue Heaven, got in the bathroom line twice, and finally made my way down to the start line where the nonstop “I love LA” by Randy Newman plays for about an hour. I never get tired of that song.
As predicted, my first 10K was great. I was at 11:54 at 11:59 for mile 1 and 2. And I knew in the back of my mind that I probably should slow down, and on most normal marathons I would have. But considering it was going to be 85°, I thought I would run as much as I could before it got too hot. My 10K split was at 12:54 pace, but I knew I would not be able to keep that up all day. The second 10K was much slower, as at mile 10 I started my planned walk and run. As I’m writing this, it seems to me that it was more like mile eight.
From about mile 10 to 14, I kept up the running and walking as best I could. The streets are starting to get hot and littered with that smell we all love… water that has been trampled on and heat from the cement. It makes that perfume that only marathoners know… And then, I started to slow down. Like really slow down.
At mile 13, I nearly got a little dizzy and thought I should not even try to walk the rest of this marathon. I realized that I was going to be out there for a very long time. So, the only thing I could do was to start to pace myself with water and electrolytes and salt tablets. I was taking a salt tablet every 45 minutes, and sipping drinks all day. Every time there were slices of oranges or apples or bananas I took one whether I wanted to or not. At mile 15 or 16, the grim reality set in. I was on a death march.
So I decide to do the only thing that I can do. Just enjoy my music, and try to be grateful that I was even out there at all. Untrained legs, bruised feet, but a full heart.
This joyous feeling left me around mile 17. As I trudged through Beverly Hills, I even stopped in a bar, and told the guy I would pay him $10 if I could use his bathroom. He said no problem, just go in there… and even the bartender made me a big tall drink of very cold ice water. If you have never done the Los Angeles Marathon before, I urge you to try it. The spectators and families and people that are supporting you are just amazing. One of the finest things about this marathon.
At mile 18, people are starting to text me to watch out for the heat …people told me that there were runners lying here and there along the marathon course. Ambulances were going back and forth. Apparently, mile 22 was full of downed runners. A guy who I had been running with at some point in the marathon was on the side of the road with a paramedic. It was now beyond hot and everyone was really in pain. People started to come on to the course with sunscreen and spray runners. Firefighters opened up all the hoses, so there were people being sprayed from city water.
Around this time I got the best text of the day. My little sister Laura was at mile 20. I was so excited I almost cried, except I really couldn’t get any liquid out of my eyes. I couldn’t believe she had come. I was starting to be concerned that I might have some sort of heat exhaustion later, so my focus was only to drink.
I thought I would never get there. It took another hour at least for me to finally get to where she was, and she met me with the biggest bottle of Gatorade that I have seen. I was so excited to see her, and she reminded me of what true love is. Here she is, sitting in the heat waiting for me to walk by. Just to show her support. She’s been there for four marathons, and I love her (her text: You runners are crazy!) And because the course was so late, most of the Gatorade was gone ahead of me, so I stuck this bottle in my top and walked with it the rest of the way.
At mile 21 I wanted to cry. I still had a really long way to go, almost 2 more hours of walking. At that point I figured I might as well keep going, even though if my sister had stayed one more minute, I would’ve gotten in the car with her.
And I remembered my sweet friend Ali. Who is undergoing chemo, who was supposed to run this marathon with me. All of a sudden, my hurt feet and my back and my heart could make it five more miles. Because I don’t have cancer. Because I don’t have to vomit from chemotherapy. So the pink race continued.
They said, make it to the beach, it will be cool. I kept waiting for that, and we turn the corner around mile 23 to a very warmish wind. There was nothing cool about this course or it’s weather.
Okay, so nothing spectacular here. I couldn’t even shuffle to get across the finish line. I made it just under eight hours.
Here’s the deal. You cannot run a marathon or walk the marathon on untrained legs. Around mile 19 my quads were on fire. I’ve trained for five marathons before this, so I know by the time I get to race day, my quads are ready, and they do not hurt. That’s the whole point of training. Yesterday, on untrained legs, I really suffered. And I mean that not in an emotional way. I really learned that there is a purpose for 16 or 18 weeks of training. That you are actually building your legs to take you across that finish line. I’m not the best marathoner, but I am always trained very well. Yesterday proved to me once again that unless you really are fully trained, don’t even bother getting to the line. Even though I was doing this for my friend, and I have the bib, it was a very foolish move in some ways. And right here I want to thank my coach Ron. In the beginning he sent me a plan and said he would just be a good support, but he ended up being someone that I completely trusted when I didn’t think I could go on one more step yesterday. So even though he wasn’t officially it, yeah. He kind of was.
I will end with this. One of the finest moments was walking through West Hollywood, and there was a woman standing on her porch. She was by herself. As I started to walk by, she started to clap I looked up at her like why are you even clapping for me? I’ve done nothing. I’m just here walking. She looked at me and she said “you are an inspiration.”
And I am reminded again that everything that I want to know about myself happens on the marathon course. I’m super emotional today, because one more time I’m leaving Los Angeles. But I’m not leaving with broken dreams or a broken heart. My father fixed me French toast with extra bacon. My mother hugged me and fixed my legs with muscular therapy lotion. I talked with both of my sisters today. I am completely blessed. My children texted me when the marathon was over and said that they were proud of me. I really have done nothing. But I learned again why I love marathons.
I think I’m done. But I say that every time. We will see.