My dad moved to San Pedro after he and my mom separated in late 1986, and one of our new traditions we adopted on our weekend visits with him were excursions to a small, dinky donut shop in the corner of a raggedy strip mall off of Western Blvd. I never liked this tradition. It could be because I never liked glazed donuts, or, because I felt so out of place in this new place that we suddenly were forced to accept as home. However, one morning while sitting in the back of my Dad’s midnight blue Buick I noticed a poster for the LA Marathon hung in the window in the sandwich shop next door to the donut shop. I remember that moment like it was yesterday. I knew what the marathon was, but we were primarily a 10K family, so I did not know any marathoners, and dismissed it as an enormous feat of physical endurance that my seven year old mind could barely imagine, and not nearly understand, but I was intrigued.
I am not positive, but I think that fateful Spring morning was in 1987, I ran my first LA marathon sixteen years later in 2003. This year was the race’s 32nd year, and my fifth time running the race, and fourth year in a row. I have run both courses, and the Stadium to the Sea route is the absolute definition of an upgrade. The course starts at Dodger Stadium, which sits just above downtown, and provides an amazing point of view of our signature city, and the spectacular landscape between the start and finish line. Furthermore, I was more excited to race this year than any other because of two reasons:
1.) I wanted redemption after a poor race showing last year.
2.) I was in the best shape of my life.
The first reason started to lose its grip on me when I began to evolve into the runner I only dreamed about a few months ago. I knew that I would have a better race than last year, that felt like a given, so the second reason was what mattered most, how fast could I run it?
I have noticed as I grow older that my priorities and passions in life have only shifted slightly. I am also acutely aware of my strengths and weaknesses. What is interesting is how reflective one can become when parenting a nearly adult child. Obviously, there are choices I made as a teenager that I wish I could take back; I am human. I never wanted to disappoint my parents, siblings, or coaches growing up, but I know I did. I don’t want to disappoint them today, either, but I am sure I have and will. Except now, I’ve realized more than anyone, I don’t want to disappoint myself. That is what I wish for Hannah, for her to think of herself first, make her passions and goals her top priority, because if she can be her best self to herself, she will discover it is easy to be mighty for everyone else.
Meanwhile, I am very happy with how the race turned out on Sunday. It is incredible that after forty-two marathons, the last fifteen or so being stuck at a respectable, yet seemingly immovable plateau, I finished my forty-third four minutes faster than my personal best, but 3:16 was not my goal, 3:14 was.
Nevertheless, I had the time of my life. I did experience a few hiccups, of course, but that is all part of the marathon adventure. It’s too long of a race for everything to go right. For example, I was not in a seeded corral this year, which meant I had to start WAY farther back in the crowd. Oh, well. Next, a few yards after the mile one marker a Students Run LA runner ate it right in front of me, poor thing. I stopped to help her up, but she got herself up, she was just stunned while staring at her skinned knees, and absorbing the shock of face-planting, still I told her, “You’re fine, you’re fine. The toughest part of the race is over!” Therefore, maybe I lost those two minutes within the first two miles, but I wouldn’t have wanted the race to go any other way.
The truth is that if I was seeded how I should have been, how I have been the previous three years, I may have launched off the starting line and ran WAY too fast over the first mile and burned energy that I needed to draw upon later in the race. Plus, it was kind of cool to be among the mortals running this race, rather than sizing up the freakishly-toned, “all-business” runners, like myself, who I would have been surrounded by near the front. Instead, I stood among runners who were nervous just to finish the race, not nervous to finish it in a super-human fast time. I appreciated being humbled. It was exactly what I needed to shift my mindset, trust my fitness and experience, and go with the flow. I knew that I would still have an exceptional day, even if it was not exactly the day I wanted.
It’s odd to admit this, considering all of the writing I have done about running marathons, (remember how I published a book about my first 35?) But, I can’t really describe how I felt the next twenty-four miles at this LA marathon. Or, maybe I want to keep those feelings to myself.
I will share that I was very well-prepared; my coach had me primed and ready to go with an excellent plan of action that I followed to a “T”. Also, I have never felt more at ease, and conversely at my redline near the end of any race. Most of all, I know I can run faster. I know that I will not settle for a 3:16 marathon PR, and I look forward to running many more marathons in the future.