Here’s a fun video shot and directed by our friend Jon Dunham. If you don’t know him, you should. He directed the terrific film Spirit of the Marathon. Whether or not you ran the 2010 event, this video really captures what that day felt like.
I found this vintage “Hello from Los Angeles” postcard in one of my drawers this morning. It looks an awful lot like the “Greetings from…” postcards we did for the Honda LA Marathon. It’s even got photos of Mile 3 and Mile 26 on it. Maybe we’ll recreate a card like this for the 2011 race.
I had the good fortune of spending a couple days with Wesley Korir a week ago. He’s the two time and reigning champion of the Honda LA Marathon. He’s also one of the genuinely nicest people I’ve ever met. We invited Wesley and his lovely wife, Tarah, to visit from their home in Louisville to throw out the first pitch at the Dodgers/Angels game on June 12th. Here are some of the highlights of our weekend together:
• I lined up a training partner for Wesley while he was here so he wouldn’t miss any workouts. Thanks to my friend Brian Livingston for taking on the unenviable task of trying to keep up with Wesley. After one run in Griffith Park, Wesley told me had run a hilly 16 miles at an eye-popping 5:30 pace. “Just another training run” is how Wesley described it.
• We drove Wesley and Tarah down to Honda headquarters in Torrance to have a look at the new CR-V that he won here in March. Wesley seems to put a smile on anyone he meets, and we had an enjoyable visit with Steve Morikawa, Erik Wedin and Teresa Phillips from Honda.
• While driving around LA, Wesley shared with me that he got his first pair of shoes (not running shoes, mind you, just shoes) when he was 18. That’s where his beautiful forefoot-striking technique comes from: 12 years of barefoot running.
• We visited the site of Wesley’s “This is My Town” LA Dodgers billboard. He and Tarah both got so excited when they saw the 50 foot-wide billboard towering over Crenshaw Blvd that they screamed, “There it is!” Take time to drive by this if you have a minute—It’s just north of Pico Blvd.
• Wesley also mentioned to me that he’s starting a foundation to benefit kids in Kenya—the Kenyan Kids Foundation. Even though he’s lived in Louisville for about 6 years, he has continued to support causes back home that are important to him.
• I took Wesley and Tarah to Houston’s for lunch one day. I thought there would be an appropriate selection of salads, lean meats and other training fare for Wesley. We sit down and Wesley promptly orders a cheeseburger and fries! How great is that? Wesley’s philosophy has a lot to do with enjoying every aspect of his life, and he manages to live that way. Even at lunch.
• I was constantly impressed by Wesley’s language skills and intellect. He let slip that he was actually accepted to Harvard but that they didn’t offer full scholarships, which he needed. So he went to Louisville and hasn’t looked back.
• We got to Dodger Stadium early on the night of the game so he could do a TV interview with FSN Prime Ticket for ThinkCure! weekend at the Stadium. Wesley has that certain charisma that few athletes have, no matter how experienced they are in front of the camera, and he deftly handled the questions. This guy really has game, on and off the field.
• Time to take the long walk out to the pitcher’s mound and throw the first pitch. I was terrified for him, honestly. It’s hard enough for a veteran pitcher to hit the strike zone, but a guy who grew up in Eldoret, Kenya? I figured he’d be lucky to get the ball to the catcher in three bounces. They hand Wesley his ceremonial ball, and he marches straight out to the mound with a huge grin on his face. This is the real first pitch, only a minute or two before the game starts, and most of the 56,000 fans have taken their seats. Wesley’s image is blown up huge on the jumbotron for all to see. I can barely muster the courage to watch. Without any hesitation, and before I can even get the camera up to my eye, he rears back and hurls a four-seam fastball right down the middle. Strike!
That’s right, only 269 days to go until the 2011 Honda LA Marathon presented by K-Swiss. You haven’t heard much from us lately, because we’ve been busy getting ready for liftoff. You’d think that this time of year would be the time for us to sit back and relax. Not so. It’s amazing how much there is to do right now. We’re working on the website, debriefing with our civic and brand partners, and thinking about how to improve next year’s event. Here are just a few of the things we’re working on:
• We know that some of you are still waiting for your 2010 participant shirts. Please be patient with us. We had a vendor problem that has now been fixed, but the shirts are still a couple weeks away. A soon as we get them we’ll turn them around as fast as we can. You deserved your shirts months ago, and it’s our fault you don’t have them. We’re working as fast as we can to fix the problem.
• Stay tuned for an announcement regarding the opening of registration for the 2011 race. We’ll get those details out next week. As most of you know, the 2010 Honda LA Marathon sold out. This year you’ll want to make sure you sign up early.
• We’ll feature the same Stadium to the Sea route in 2011. Although we may make a few very minor changes, plan on once again starting at Dodger Stadium, traveling through four municipalities plus the VA, and then finishing at the Santa Monica Pier.
• For us, the most important thing we can offer to you, the runner, is a great LA Marathon experience. That starts with your interaction with us now and continues through the Expo, race day and all of our post-race communication. Our terrific staff spends every day thinking about all of the details, and there are thousands of them, that will improve your experience. When something is really amazing, I say that it’s “Epic.” And I hope that virtually all of you have an Epic 2011 LA Marathon.
On the way home from my Mammoth Road Trip I stopped in Lone Pine to run the Wild Wild West Marathon. Rather, since I’m nowhere near marathon shape at the moment, I was planning to run the 10-mile option. This is a trail race with Marathon, 50K and 10-mile courses.
I checked in at the local school on Friday night to pick up my race bag and enjoy the pasta dinner. Held in the school gym, it had a wonderfully grassroots feel. Something like 100 runners in the whole event. I love these home-spun races that are truly about the joy of running.
Here’s how the race day went for me:
4:45 AM—Woke up feeling great. After a quick breakfast, I headed the 6 miles up to the campground that was hosting the start. Elevation there was 5,000’, and the alpenglow was just hitting the summit of Mt Whitney. Devastatingly beautiful scenery.
6:00 AM—The small crowd of runners gathers for the start at the back of a pickup truck. It’s so much fun to see ultrarunners gathered together—is there a more eccentric group of athletes? They skewed older. I’d guess the average age to be in the low 50s, and there were many incredibly fit senior citizens. Inspiring. I was observing the way the ultra folks accessorize on race day. So many options!
• Shoes—Road shoes, trail shoes or go full “Born to Run” with the Five Fingers?
• Socks—Short running socks, compression socks or rock the gaiters?
• Hat—Do we sport the doo rag, the baseball hat with the neck flaps or the cowboy hat?
• Number bib—it goes either on the hat or the shorts. Never on the shirt.
• Music—Run with or without the iPod?
• Shirt—If you’ve run Badwater, that’s the shirt you wear to earn the respect of your fellow competitors. Lacking that badge of courage, you go with the most obscure ultra participant shirt you can find in the drawer (“The Drunk Pumpkin 50K,” for instance).
6:01 AM—The only instructions from the race director before the start: “If you get lost we’ll bury you where we find you.” With that, the horn sounds and we’re off. The race goes straight uphill for the first 6 miles. In deep sand. At altitude. Unlike most of the participants, I’m only running 10 miles, so I set a brisk pace. It doesn’t last long, however, and by Mile 3 I’m sucking wind as runner after runner blows past me.
7:15 AM—Most runners are power walking the steep hills. As a 10-mile runner, I’m meant to hang a right around Mile 4 and loop back to the start/finish. I get to Mile 6 at a fork in the road. There’s a man standing there and I ask if I am supposed to take a right here. “Whoa! You missed the turn miles ago, son!” OK, decision time: backtrack and try to find the turn I somehow missed, or throw caution to the wind and run a full marathon today? I haven’t run more than 10 miles since Chicago in October. I’m overweight and not nearly ready for a marathon at altitude with 5,000’ of climbing. So I go for the marathon. “Let’s do this!” I think to myself. Life is about opportunities, and one needs to seize those when they present themselves.
7:30 AM—By this time I’ve started running alongside Duane from Reno. He’s 66 and a great grandfather. He smoked for 25 years and didn’t start running until he was in his 30s. He now routinely wins his age group in ultras, is a bike racer and avid snowboarder. From here on out I’ll refer to him as The Inspiration. He sets a mean pace and I’m just trying to keep up.
7:45 AM—The Inspiration and I hit the Mile 7 aid station, manned by Grizzly Adams. The guy’s got a beard down to his belt, and elk hide jacket and he’s slicing oranges with a 12” bowie knife. He’s straight out of central casting. Would have been worth carrying a camera just to get a shot of this guy.
8:00 AM—The Inspiration and I are on the 7 mile long downhill section, clicking off 8-minute miles. We’re feeling good, but I’m quite sure that as soon as I hit the halfway point I’ll blow up.
8:30 AM—We hit the halfway mark and I’m still ok.
10:00 AM—Now at the Mile 20 aid station, I continue to hang on to the pace of The Inspiration.
10:40 AM—We can’t find any mile markers at this point in the race. But we pull up to an aid station and the person there says we’re at Mile 23.7, and that it’s all downhill to the finish. I’m going to make this! The Inspiration and I open it up and bound down the hill towards town. Could we crack 5 hours? We pass a couple guys. We hit the paved road and I start visualizing putting my arms in the air as I cross the finish line.
11:00 AM—Curve ball. The course markings direct us back onto a dirt road heading down into the sagebrush. Headwind. Still no mile markers. But we’re clearly nowhere near the finish. The Inspiration starts pulling away from me. My gas tank hits empty. In any marathon you have to pay the piper sooner or later. I hit the final aid station and beg to know “how much farther?” She says we’re “at least 2 miles” from the finish. I can’t believe it. As I stagger onward, runners start passing me left and right.
11:20 AM—I finally limp across the finish line in 5:20. The Inspiration is waiting there with his wife, and they generously offer to give me a ride back up to my car, which is still parked at the 10-mile start/finish. I’m exhausted, but happy to finish the event. One never knows when adventure is going to call, and I’m glad I was able to answer the phone.
This week I headed up to Mammoth to spend some time with Andrew and Deena Kastor and Josh Cox. I wanted to hear more about the Mammoth Track Club and learn about the track that Andrew and Deena are building there. Deena and Andrew graciously hosted me at their beautiful rental condo, which is an amazing place to stay, particularly if you’re a runner. When she’s in town she likes to stop by and talk running with people staying there. Nothing like picking up some tips from an Olympic bronze medalist and winner of both the London and Chicago Marathons.
Deena and Andrew are in the process of creating a high altitude training mecca in Mammoth. A lot of college and high school kids already travel there in the summer to take advantage of the epic running conditions. But the whole altitude training scene in Mammoth is going to blow up as soon as the track is done. The first phase of the project is funded and about to break ground. Deena took me on a tour of the site, and it’s really going to be amazing. The setting is spectacular, and runners will be able to do track workouts at 7,000’ year round. I can imagine runners from all over the world flying in to take advantage of this set up.
I was also able to spend some time with Josh Cox and his lovely wife Carrie. I have long followed Josh on Twitter. He really understands how to build a community around running. He’s also now sponsored by K-Swiss, the footwear and apparel partner of the Honda LA Marathon. By extension, Josh is now part of our tribe, which is exciting. We’re already brainstorming about fun projects we can do. Loved his energy and passion.
After that it was off the the Wild Wild West trail run in Lone Pine. I couldn’t stop taking pictures as I drove down the Owens Valley. IMHO one of the most beautiful drives in the world. More about my trail run experience in the next post.
This week I was invited by Coach Jerry Palazzo to visit his club’s practice at Foothill High School in Tustin. The Equalizers are one of the top junior track clubs in the nation, and I was eager to see what their practice was like. The club had first come to my attention when one of their members, 10 year old Constantine Yap, ran a 3:03:40 at the LA Marathon. Then last weekend I watched 12 year old Hannah Stemper run in the Elite Field at the Coaster Run. She finished with an extraordinary 18:50 time in the 5K. I was certainly intrigued.
Coach Jerry, along with assistants Marty and Richard, have built up a huge and enthusiastic group of runners from age 6 to 14. Some travel from as far away as San Clemente and Monterey Park to run 4 days a week. There was a sense of enthusiasm, commitment and passion evident in both the kids and the coaching. Separate groups stretched, did core strength workouts and then attacked repeat 1000s. It was truly inspiring to watch these kids having fun as they learned some of the lessons that endurance sports teach so well: goal setting, perseverance and overcoming adversity.
While a few of their kids, like Constantine and Miguel Bautista (13 year old who runs a 4:37 mile), are currently ranked number one in the nation, more exciting to me was the camaraderie and team spirit that was on display throughout the session. Thanks to all of the Equalizers coaches, parents and kids for a memorable evening.
I had the good fortune to ride in one of the lead vehicles during this year’s Honda LA Marathon. Along with my colleague Dave Klewan and Bart Yasso from Runner’s World, I jumped into a sweet new Honda FCX hydrogen vehicle for a morning at the sharp end of the race. This was critical for Dave and I, as we needed to see what was actually happening out on the course. The experience exceeded all of our expectations. Not only were we able to get a runners-eye view of the entire Stadium to the Sea route, but we did it while listening to the outstanding live radio broadcast on KLAC 570. We all had ear-to-ear grins the entire morning. Front-row seats for the women’s race, the volunteer support, the Taiko Drummers at Disney Hall, the Drag Queen Cheerleaders in West Hollywood, the Beverly Hills block party, the landmarks, Cheer Alley, Purple Heart Hill in the VA and the insane energy that characterized the Emerald Final Five. Incredible. Here are the photos I took during that drive. My only regret is that I don’t get to run this glorious route!
A super cool time-lapse video of the race by Cody Westheimer…
I’ve said it before, and I’ll say it again: The more our community can adopt the LA Marathon as their own, the more successful the race will be. When people are inspired to create art, music, photography, blog postings and anything else based on this great event, the Marathon becomes more personal and relevant to everyone. Witness this beautiful photo essay by Tokyphotography.com. Looking at these made me feel like I was right there in the middle of the pack. Thank you for this beautiful report!