I’m an Orange County runner who loves the LA Marathon. My first 26.2 adventure was the Orange County Marathon on May 3, 2009. I did not achieve the 4 hour marathon for which I thought I was capable, so I signed up for the 24th LA Marathon three weeks later, naively thinking I could perform better. Predictably, I was slower, but the energy of 15,000 runners devoted to a single race - compared to the small, split crowd at the OC race (5918 finishers but only 1339 ran the full) - was exhilarating and I was hooked. 2009 was the only time I ran the OC. March 18, 2018 will mark my 10th consecutive LA Marathon.
The Legacy Runners are one of my favorites aspects of the race. The special dedicated start they received in 2015 was such a fantastic way to commemorate their dedication and perseverance. Two years prior, I came across a Legacy runner for the first time in four LAM runnings. His bib denoted all 28 years he had run the race, and it was inspirational. I could never be a true Legacy runner, but I could certainly aspire to their spirit. In that moment, in the middle of my 4th LAM, I committed to running 20 consecutive LAs. “I won’t even be 60!” was the thought that clinched it for me. Now I’m almost halfway there, and I won’t be stopping at 20.
I could start a new legacy club for those who have run the Stadium-to-Sea course every year since its 2010 introduction. That route change elevated the race into a unique experience that brings me back every year. Running has allowed me to connect to the other cities around the world I've visited because I can see all the small details. LAM offers that same opportunity to the 26,000 that sign up every year because Los Angeles is a fabric of communities, each with a distinctive personality. The joy of LAM is having so many of them threaded into a single 26.2 mile journey.
The dragon dancers in Chinatown...the taiko drummers pulling you up the big 1st Street hill to the Disney Concert Hall and Ahmanson Theater..the iconic Echo Park Lake fountain that’s in every B-roll shot of LA. Winding along Sunset Boulevard until you can look up at Mile 8 and see the Griffith Observatory and the Hollywood sign. Passing by the landmark theaters of Hollywood Blvd: Pantages, El Capitan, Dolby, TCL Chinese (it will always be Graumann’s in my heart.) The opulence of Rodeo Drive. The roar of dozens of local high school cheerleading squads as you pass into Century City. The sereneness of the VA Hospital. The Brentwood families enjoying Sunday morning brunch coffee and cocktails, cheering us on as we challenge the last hill up San Vincente Boulevard.
Every year since 2014, I’ve convinced a friend to run LAM for the very first time with these scenes. The conversation starts the same way every time: “I'm thinking about running a marathon,” they’ll say. “You should come run LA with me!” is my instantaneous response.
It’s the personal connections formed through running that are the most meaningful to me. I was just across the start line at the 2016 edition, making the slight turn past the KTLA cameras, heading towards the Dodger Stadium exit to Cesar Chavez when I spotted a familiar black and white striped singlet, the distinctive moniker of the Fulham Running Club from London, England. I managed to catch up to him and started a conversation.
“I ran the Fulham Palace parkrun last year.” “What a coincidence, I volunteer at the Fulham Palace parkrun!”
“My name is Darren!” “I’m Bob” “You came a long way for this race, have a great one!”
I’ve met a lot of people at races, riding a shuttle to the start line, waiting in the starting corral, but usually those interactions are transient, a forgotten memory once the gun goes off. This time, finding a single point of common ground amongst 20,000 runners, from a different country no less, moved me to post a blind greeting and congratulations to Bob on the Fulham Palace parkrun Facebook page (@fulhampalaceparkrun) later that night. A few comments from fellow parkrunners later, and Bob and I were FB friends.
I made it back to the Fulham Palace in London this spring, shortly after completing the Paris Marathon, hoping to have a pint with Bob, but ironically, he was in the U.S. for the Boston Marathon. He made sure the parkun volunteers knew I was coming, and I was heralded as “Bob’s friend” the entire morning. I became reacquainted with two runners I’d met at my first parkrun in 2014. And I made a host of new friends, including one who just set a Guiness World Record for the “Fastest Marathon dressed as a Cheerleader” (http://carbsandkilometres.com/) and another with a sister, who lives in LA, who’s encouraging her to come run the 2018 LA Marathon. I know the perfect person to give her all the knowledge she needs to run this city’s magnificent course.