Sunday, March 19, 2006

Los Angeles Marathon XXI

Sunday was the 21st running of the Los Angeles Marathon. I woke up to clear blue skies and temperatures in the 50's. It looked like a perfect day to run a marathon. But I wasn't running this year. After last year's LA Marathon I had decided that I was done with it. Of the 6 different courses I've run it is my least favorite. It seems to me to be a pretty tough course.

A couple of weeks ago I had almost talked myself into running it anyway. It is my hometown marathon and I knew I could sign up last minute and give it a go. I finally came to my senses on that one, luckily. Yeah, I probably could have finished but I doubt that I would have gotten a decent time. No sense in gutting out a marathon just because I could. Besides I already have Californina crossed off my list of states!

As an alternative to running the marathon, I had approached some friends about riding the route as part of the Acura LA Bike Tour. Nobody seemed really very interested. The idea of paying $35 to ride the streets of LA at 5:45 a.m. didn't appeal to them.

Since neither one of those ideas panned out, I tossed around the idea of volunteering at a water stop. On Tuesday evening I was discussing the possibility with my wife. Our 15 year old son overheard our conversation and asked if he could join me. I wasted no time in signing us up. Volunteers can sign up on line and choose the water station of choice. The current need is shown and is updated live as people volunteer. I signed us up for the Mile 24 water stop. Our assignment was from 8:00 to 2:00.

I got my son up just after 6:00 am and he actually got up without much trouble. I stopped and picked him up donuts for breakfast at his request. I had oatmeal at home. We drove to downtown LA and found a parking space on Catalina St. at Olympic Blvd. We were within a 100 yards of our assigned water stop.

When we first got there the bike riders were still going by from the bike tour. My son was very intrigued. He told me that he wants to do that next year. We started working just a little before 8:00. We set up trash receptacles, carried water and poured hundreds of cups of water. We were ready to go at least an hour before the first runners came by. The first people to come by were the wheel chair and handcrank athletes, followed by the elite runners. The elite runners each have their own water bottles set up on special tables in the middle of the street. It is amazing how smoothly they go by. I know what I feel like at the 24 mile mark and they sure didn't look like I feel.

It is really interesting to watch the change in the makeup of the field as the day wears on. At the beginning the flow is fairly spread out and everyone is running along at a nice pace. They all look relaxed and smooth. The elites were pretty spread out and I thought what a lonely 26 miles that must be. The real crowds don't start until about 3 hour marathoners. As time goes on you start to see a couple of people stop and walk to get some water. Then later on more people start walking. By the time you get to the 5:30 marathoners, the flow of runners is beginning to thin out an lot and more and more people are walking. There are a lot more pained expressions on faces at that point as well. The back of the pack runners are very appreciative of the volunteers and thanked us for being there quite often. We left our assingment about 2:30. There was still a decent flow of people coming by. The Captian of our water stop said that they would be there until at least 3:30.

I really enjoyed working. It was interesting to see a marathon from the other side. As a bonus there was a musical group from Altadena Baptist Church set up adjacent to our water stop, so I got to listen to worship music all day long. I loved that.

During the race I spotted Coatman and Dean Karnazes. I leave it up to you to sort our your feelings on the impact of either one of these guys on running.

I also spotted some friends and took some time to run along with them for a few minutes. Congrats to Abel, who we used to see every week up on the Santa Fe Dam when we were all training for NYC. We haven't seen him lately. I ran along with Jim, a friend from church. He was hurting pretty badly. His hips have been giving him some trouble. I got to run along with Lori from work and her training partern Lorna. Lori is one of the first people I ever met at my job when I started there 20 years ago. This was here first marathon. She seemed to be really enjoying the experience. The weather was a little windy as the day wore on. I felt cool in a t-shirt handing out water, but it was probably pretty nice for running.

My son had a great time as well. On the way home he told me of his great plan for next year. He wants to park the car in the same spot, then ride our bikes to the start of the bike tour, ride the tour and ride back to the water stop to volunteer for the rest of the day. Could be fun. I'm really glad that I got this opportunity to share the day with him doing something I love and that he got into it as well. Earlier in the day, before the runners started coming along, he volunteered to walk a couple of blocks to get a cup of coffee for a lady that was working with us. I'm not sure how I ended up with such a thoughtful kid. He is a good kid, but as a parent I get to see the "demon possessed" side of him as well. Teenagers - such strange and wonderful creatures.


Robb said...

Clearly, the best part is was to spend the day with your son. What a great memory for both of you...and you sprinkled in the spirit of kindness as volunteers! Have a great week!

angie's pink fuzzy said...

Sounds like a beautiful, fun day.

Lisa said...

Oops, thought I posted to the blog, guess I just e-mailed you. Duh...

Anyway, I'm glad you and Bryan had such a great day. I know he will remember it forever. So now it's your turn to paintball??!!!

Anne said...

My husband and daughters volunteered at a water stop at a Rock 'n' Roll marathon, Miles 11 and 22. They reported similar impressions of the crowds as time went by. I actually beat them home that day (they had to be there by 4:30 a.m. and didn't get home until 3 p.m.!). Glad your son was inspired enough to want to be more involved next year.

Donald said...

L.A. is a difficult course - it doesn't seem like it on paper, but the last half runs really hard.

It's also one of the few events that brings the whole city together, with runners and volunteers like you. Glad you had a good day there.

DREW said...

Great race report from the other side. Makes me want to take my boys to a station.

Joe said...

Terrific story, Darrell. The time with your son is wonderful, the service to the runners is awesome.

At that mile marker, the spread of skill must have been very evident. How cool!

jeff said...

what a sweet opportunity, d. if your son backs out next year on the cycling part, give me a holler. i'd love to cruise around la at zero dark thirty in the morning =)

Danny said...

my dad begged me to run for years. as long as i lived at home i rebuffed him. it was only after a few years in another country that i picked it up!

anyway, the first race we ran together was a great experience. (we eventually went on to a run a half marathon together.)

even volunteering together is pretty cool. just being able to share interests together - no matter what they are - is not always so easy. so good for the two of you!!

Rae said...

What a great day! As a runner it's so rare to see the other side. I bet you guys had so much fun! I love race volunteers!

I saw Coatman in Miami (I beat him!). I think that stuff is so exciting. Dean would be cool to see but I don't think I would be faster than him!