The LA Marathon 2011 (worst.race.ever.)

Today is the LA marathon. I know right now runners are preparing for the race by stretching, sleeping in the stands of Dodger’s stadium or hoping their shuttle makes it to the start line in time. I cannot help but reminisce about my past experiences with this race.

I first ran this race in 2010. I knew it was a big race, which is not always my favorite, but it just seemed like something as a Southern California runner, I had to do. If anything, just so I could “yes” in response to the many times I have been asked “have you run the LA marathon” as soon as somewhere heard I ran marathons.

The LA marathon 2010 was my best marathon experience, to date. It was not my best time, but I felt the strongest throughout the whole race and I was energized by the amazing volunteer/spectator support along the way.

I love that this race is point to point and you never see the same thing twice. I love how well attended the race is and that there is rarely a quiet moment wheew someone is not cheering for you. I love seeing the various landmarks around the course, such as; Rodeo Drive, Sunset Blvd., the Hollywood sign, etc.

I said a rare thing when this marathon was finished, “I would do it again.” This is the only marathon I have ever repeated. 26.2 miles takes me a long time to run and I would prefer not to see the same thing twice.

I talked this race up immensely to two of my friends. I guess my enthusiasm was contagious enough, that they decided to run it in 2011 with me, as their first ever marathon. (I also touted it up as a great course for a first time marathoner.)

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The day before the race was sunny. We heard that there may be some rain, later in the morning. The year before had been a little hot towards the end, so I thought some clouds and showers would be welcome.

I had no idea that a storm of plague like proportions was coming.

The day started off rocky, when I lost 1 of my contact lenses in the hotel bathroom. My friends helped me look all around, but it went to the mysterious place that contact lenses seem to go, as you try to put them into your eyes with only half, or none of your vision in tact. The first causality of the LA mizathon (what the race shall be referred to, henceforth).

I decided to run with no contacts in, which is the equivalent to running as Mr Magoo. I was still super pumped about the race and thrilled to run with first timers. It is exhilarating to relive the first time excitement vicariously through them.

Here I am looking like a complete a-hole, obliviously ignorant for what was to come.

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It was finally time to start. The sky was cloudy, but nothing ominous.  I was full of adrenaline and the first few miles flew by.

At mile 3, the skies opened up and started dumping rain. This was not typical Southern California drizzle, or scattered showers. It was nothing like I had experienced before. It was like movie rain, it had a fake-this-can’t-be-real quality to it.

It never stopped.

I was not dry for hours after this point. The next 23 miles, we ran in the pouring rain, which was bad enough, until the wind picked up and sent a chill through everyone’s drenched clothes. You could feel the wind in your bones.

People started dropping out left and right. We saw many aid units around the course treating people for hypothermia.

Warning! Highly unflattering pictures ahead, but they accurately sum up how I felt:

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I remember a point when my friend looked at me and asked, “don’t you have any words of encouragement.?!” I said, “ I’ve got nothing, this just sucks!”

This is me around mile 16, realizing my iPod was completely dead.  The second causality of the LA mizathon.

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I felt like the race would never end! Even though I did not feel very happy with my time, I was elated to be finished!

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Relief was not soon felt though, When I went to retrieve my checked bag, I found the pods they were in to be in absolute chaos. The bins were labeled with numbers, but the contents were not matching up. The floor was wet and flooded. If my car keys had not been in there, I would have said forget it. After about 20 minutes of looking, I finally found my bag.

Now we had to get back to our hotel, which was by the start line, 26.2 miles away. There was supposed to be shuttles that took the runners back.

Trying to find one in the rain and wind was total confusion. A race volunteer put us on a public bus, whose driver was NOT happy to have a bus full of soaking, wet runners. He was arguing with the race volunteer and refusing to take us to the start line. He also kept saying that he was on break and wanted to enjoy his sandwich. All I could think was, “I wish I had a sandwich!” However, the bus was warmer and not in the rain, so we stayed put.

Once he started, he kept making his regular stops and was saying that he would not be taking us back to the start line, he was going on his regular route, then back around again. A few runners were arguing with him, but finally, my friend and I decided to get off.

We were back in the rain and wind, looking for a taxi. We finally ducked into a restaurant (where food smelled amazing, at this point) to call a taxi.

Did I mention neither of us had our wallets? Yeah, those were both back at the hotel. The taxi took us to our hotel, where I sprinted out and fumbled to the front desk. We had already checked out of our hotel, and our bags were waiting up front. I bumbled around to search with poor vision for my wallet. My friend stayed behind apologetically to let the driver know what was going on, but he was NOT at all happy with us.

All I wanted at this point was dry clothes! You can see in the picture how soaked we were. I could literally ring water out of myself.

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We went to find restrooms to change in. I was SO grateful for dry clothes! I went out the exit when I was finished and sat on a bench to wait for my friend.

Little did I realize, the bathroom had 2 exits. In my blind state, I went out the wrong exit. I was waiting on one side, with my friend on the other. I wondered what was taking him so long, but figured I should stay put since I could not see well enough to search for him.

After about 20 minutes, I heard an unknown female voice calling me. My friend found a female hotel attendant to look for me. He thought I had finally succumbed to hypothermia and passed out! He asked a female to come in to the ladies room to look for me and she found me on the other side of the restroom.

We FINALLY headed home. I was craving a warm shower and meal. After dropping my friend off, I drove 20 minutes home in the most terrifying drive of my life. It took me about 10 minutes to realize I was on completely the wrong freeway.

Later on that evening, I found that cell phone no longer worked and my insurance did not cover water damage. The third causality of the LA mizathon.

I know my experience with the weather and race was a complete fluke. 2012 had perfect running weather, as March in Southern California typically does. I only feel bad that my friends’ first marathon experience was so poor. Neither of them has felt inclined to do another marathon since.

I can only laugh about this experience now, and it has made me a stronger runner/hiker. Often when I am struggling on a run, or when I am feeling sorry for myself while backpacking, I think, “I did LA, I can do THIS!”

I am glad that the weather is perfect today for all the runners. I wish anyone running today the best of luck! It truly is a great race and maybe one day, I will in fact, do it again.

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