When I decided to run six marathons in six months, I pegged the LA Marathon as my final race in that series. I thought it would be a big, fun, fast and local race to run. Well...it was big.
I consider most marathons a challenge, but LA was a filthy battle.
It all started at 3 a.m. on race day. The ungodly wake-up time should have hinted that bigger challenges were to come. I arrived in Santa Monica at 415, met up with my training pal, Bill, and hopped on a shuttle to Dodger Stadium. For all of the complaints from last year, the process was very smooth. I did pay in the end, however, as we arrived to the start line at 450 for a 730 race start.
Bill and I found a couple of seats and tried, unsuccessfully, to catch some shut-eye. The music in the stadium and the blistering cold wind kept that from happening. After a couple of hours sitting in the cold we made our way towards the start.
After what seemed like an eternity spent at one of my least favorite places (Dodger Stadium), we were finally off and running. Slow at first, as over 20,000 people made their way through the start, and then things opened up for Bill and I. About a half-mile in, the threatening clouds opened up and gave us a light rain.
We flew through the first couple of miles thanks to some step downhills and found ourselves way ahead of our scheduled pace (for a 4:20 finish). The rain kept coming, even harder now. We managed to keep our pace well ahead of schedule and were rather enjoying the moderate rain fall. Then it got nasty.
Somewhere around mile 10 it started to really come down. I'm not talking a light California rain, i'm talking an Oregon during the winter type of rain. Throw in the wind and we were in for a battle. The rain got so hard at points that Bill and I were taunting it and begging for more. Nuts, I know, but we were literally stuck in it so we might as well accept the challenge.
Feet soaked from puddles, rain in our faces and cold temperatures not doing any favors for our muscles, our pace slowed a bit in the later miles. We had crossed the 13.1 mile marker under two hours and were well ahead of that 4:20 pace.
The spectators along the course provided a lot of encouragement for Bill and I in the late miles. With shouts of "Fight On!"(for Bill in his USC shirt) and "Looking good!" (for me, of course), the few spectators that braved the rain provided tons of encouragement.
Twenty miles in and we were chugging right along. The light conversation we enjoyed the first several miles had all but stopped as we focused all of our energy on moving our bodies forward and fighting the urge to walk.
Mile 22 came and Bill wasn't next to me. I looked back to see him with a hand on his right hamstring, clearly not happy. The cold weather (and probably the 22 miles he just ran) got to his hamstring, but he didn't let that slow him down. A little stretching and a whole lot of motivation got him running again, and faster than he was before! What a stud.
The final four miles were all downhill, pushing us towards the finish line. By this time we were completely soaked and still freezing. The finish line was no longer our goal, but the means to an end. Dry clothes and heat were what we wanted most.
We pushed hard at the finish and came in at 4:19:16. Not only did Bill beat his goal of 4:20, but he CRUSHED his previous best time of 4:41.
The race was finally over. My six in six was complete. More important to me was that I finally had the pleasure of running a marathon with my pal, Bill. Great job out there, BP...it was an honor to "Fight On" with you and I can't wait to do it again!