Sunday, March 2, 2008

LA Marathon 2008 - Mile 13

When I was a kid, I did all sorts of stupid things, just because my teachers told me to do them. It was because of such idiotic hero worship that I ended up in the Philippines when I was 15, helping run basketball and volleyball camps and because of that push that I ran the Los Angeles Marathon when I was 17. I sure as hell wouldn't have done that on my own.

I remember walking a lot. I remember aching shin splints and wanting to cry. I remember my dad waiting for me at the 24th mile and running the last mile in with me. I still have that stupid medal, and every year, I wonder what the hell I was thinking and simulaneously wonder if I would ever be crazy enough to try it again.

There's something so unifying in the community when it comes to the LA Marathon. There's a certain pride in being on the parade room, and although every year, our streets close and we're stuck in our neighborhood, it doesn't really matter. It's almost an honor to be able to get up early and walk down the block to cheer on the thousands of people who are crazy enough to attempt the 26 mile run.

This year, I was on my own, thanks to the family being on vacation. I took my camera and one of two pups and headed down to the corner just in time to catch the two female leaders speed by toward Mile 13. A huge cheer arose from the crowd around me. It was a sparse group of people: it was still early, and there were groups of neighbors, main Latinos, drifting onto the curb, setting up chairs and chattering amongst themselves as they settled down, and waited.

When the first male passed, the cheerful shouts grew louder, and two sets of families, one on either side of me, decided to begin the process to pass out water bottles. The children were especially excited by the prospect, and as the chase pack of males passed, the crowds had grown thicker, and I saw the emergence of stacks of water bottles.

As the elite runners came and went, the race belonged to the community, and there emerged a contest of sorts between the two families with their stacks of bottles. Little kids chased in front of each other, doing everything they could to be the one to place a water bottle in a passing runner's hands. The second family seemed to have more trouble than the first, thanks to the first's posession of smaller bottles. In response, the second family emerged with cups. The first family countered with a two year old - hoping to surpass the first in cuteness alone.

It seemed, however, that both families were trumped, when about an hour later, a train of four cars slid in behind us. Emerging from the truck was a family carrying crates of bananas, apples, pretzels and muscle spray. Feeling meekly invisible, I watched as a man removed a card table and placed it a foot from me. Suddenly, I was overtaken when the entire famly of at least fifteen descended and crowded around me, bringing their fruit and pretzles and basically muscling me out of my primo photo taking spot. It's hard to get mad at their zealousness, but... damn.

Still, one of the great things about the marathon is the solidarity these neighbors show to the strangers who pound pavement through the usually busy Normandie. The fact that these neighbors spend money of their own for the thrill of validation that comes when a bottle is taken from their outstretched hand is amazing to see. And the runners themselves are always uplifting. In the throng, there exists, always, tiny nuggets of stories that burst into savory slices of life: the SWAT relay team, racing to honor their fallen comrade, the two year old toddler who joyfully toddles his way with his panting mother, keeping her spirits up, the buffly heroic Zorro, who cheerfully waved his blade at thrilled spectators.

Every year, as I watch the runners go by, I swear I'm going to get back on that concrete. Every year, I come to my senses. But regardless of my lack of ambition; it's nice to watch.

Check out more pics on my flikr account.


  1. Awesome story. Last night I ran 2.3 miles in 26 minutes, and I was about to die. So a marathon- not happening.

    But really nice pics!

  2. That's so great that you ran the medal is excellent! It's one more than I'll ever have!