As we near the 26th running of the Honda LA Marathon presented by K-Swiss, I’m deep into the process of creating video content. We use these pieces a number of ways: On our Youtube channel; to promote our live broadcast on KTLA; and as components within that broadcast. I’m shooting a number of great stories that involve charities, elite runners, places on the route, and celebrities. Here’s a look at short versions of two great stories: Wesley Korir and Flea talking about their Favorite Miles on the course. Look for more in-depth segments on both of these guys as we get closer to the race. I can tell you that they’re two of the most inspirational people I’ve met!
If you frequent our Facebook page, you may have noticed a vigorous debate taking place recently. Passionate Honda LA Marathon participants are going back and forth discussing the merits of our 2011 Finisher’s Medal, which we revealed when we hit 4,000 Likes on the page. Some folks love the medal, some hate it, and others are somewhere in between. I’m not overly concerned that everyone isn’t in love with the medal. After all, it’s virtually impossible to make everyone happy. And that’s especially true with a group that is as smart and opinionated as marathoners. What is important is that there is a conversation going on. That shows people care. They care enough to voice their opinion—one way or the other—about the elements we’re designing for this year’s race. The minute your customers stop caring is the minute you’re in trouble as a business. So I say, “Bring on the comments!”
For those of you that are interested, allow me to explain how we arrived at this design. One of our goals this year was to create a little more consistency in the design of our assets. We wanted a common visual thread that would connect things like the poster, the medal, signage, and the participant shirt. I felt that a hand-illustrated vibe would put a human touch on these visual elements and make them feel more approachable. So I started with a terrific English illustrator, Adam Hayes. He developed the terrific type pattern that incorporates the names of the cities and landmarks that the Honda LA Marathon runs through and past. Working with Eric and Fiona at Collective LA, we formed Adam’s type treatment into a pair of running legs. This gave the art the connection to running that it needed. After that, it was about figuring out different versions of the art that would work for different assets, like the medal. At this year’s race, keep your eyes peeled for different usages of this art all over Los Angeles on race weekend.
I stumbled out of the hotel at 6:00 am to find hundreds of other runners with bibs on. We stood around in the chilly pre-dawn air waiting to start our event. As my watch neared 6:30 we surged ahead toward the starting line. Any runner certainly knows the drill, and it’s always a challenge to coax one’s body into a hard running effort this early in the morning. I’m talking of course about this year’s Running USA Conference in San Antonio.
Each day started with a group run that seemingly EVERYONE participated in: Boston Marathon Race Director Dave McGillivray, New York Road Runners Chief Executive Mary Wittenberg, Runner’s World legend Bart Yasso, and the list goes on. Hundreds of race directors, vendors, magazine editors, and other folks affiliated with our sport. They were all out there each morning putting in their miles. And socializing. It was like a business lunch taking place at a 7:30 pace! What better way to talk running business than while you’re on a run? But the key takeaway for me was that almost everyone in the sport of running is there for a reason: they LOVE the sport. And that’s really powerful when you think about it. How many other sports, or businesses, can boast a passion quotient like that?
Here are some highlights from the conference:
• Hearing Bart Yasso tell one great story after another about his far-flung running adventures. As the Chief Running Officer of Runner’s World, his job is to travel to events and spread the gospel of running. I know, I know–he has arguably the greatest job in the world. He told me that he spent exactly three weekends at home last year, and that his wife travels with him to some of the warm and sunny events.
• During the awards ceremony, Greg McMillan’s elite running team was presented with a $25,000 grant from Running USA. For a program like his, that is a game changer. Greg and his runners took to the stage to accept the award, and some of them broke down in tears of gratitude. The entire room of 500 people lost composure at that point, and there wasn’t a dry eye in the house. It was a powerful moment. I resolved to root for his kids whenever they’re racing. They all got up for the early run the next morning and ran along with us, which was a lot of fun.
• I got my first look at our 2011 Honda LA Marathon Finisher’s Medal, and it looks great! The good folks from Maxwell Medals were there, and they slipped me the goods. I can’t wait to share it with all of you.
One of the highlights of Wesley Korir’s visit to Los Angeles last week was taking him to Banning High School to visit with their 60 SRLA kids training for the Honda LA Marathon. If you’re not familiar with SRLA, it stands for Students Run Los Angeles. This important non-profit organization trains nearly 3,000 at-risk youth over a 6-month period to run the full LA Marathon each year. Of the kids who finish the Marathon, 92% go on to post-secondary education. That’s a staggering statistic, and testament to the power of running as a teacher of life lessons.
So it was a pleasure to introduce Wesley to these kids. We had previously been to the Honda headquarters in Torrance to speak with the Honda running club. The good folks at Honda are also huge supporters of SRLA, so some of them came with us to Banning High School. Wesley asked me what he should say to the kids, and I asked that he just “tell his story.” Wesley is so endearing as a person, and his story so interesting, it’s impossible not to be inspired by him. Furthermore, because he lives and trains in Louisville, Kentucky–where he earned a degree in biology–he’s completely fluent in English.
He really had the kids’ attention, and afterward they lined up for half an hour while he signed autographs. Then they were off to practice on the track. And Wesley went out and ran with them. He couldn’t help himself. The kids loved it as Wesley went from group to group to get a lap in with almost everyone. He then stood on the track and high-fived every one of them as they ran by. It was a day that I hope will stay with all of the kids for quite some time.
This Saturday marked the return to San Diego of the US Cross Country Championships. Held alongside the water in Mission Bay, this event featured the top masters, elite, and junior XC runners in the United States. I had never been to this event before, so I made the drive down to see what it was all about. Here are my observations:
• Athletes present included nationally-ranked runners from the high school, NCAA, and professional ranks, and they were competing for spots on the world championship elite and junior teams that will travel to Spain next month. Because of this, the event had the feel of the Footlocker High School race, the NCAA championships, and the Olympic Trials all rolled into one day.
• The course was a beautiful 2K loop in a grassy park alongside the bay. I decided to run the Community 4K in the morning. What better way to get a feel for XC than to race on the same course that Shalane Flanagan, Colleen De Reuck, Matt Tegenkamp and others would take to later in the day. When I hear “Community” associated with a race, I think of the local 5K: moms with jog-strollers, a lot of kids, and a generally…well, slow…field. That’s what I was hoping for, anyway. In fact, the race was nothing like that. I stood on the start line watching one high school team after another show up looking like they meant business. Every kid was skinny, wearing spikes, and obviously far, far faster than I. Occasionally, a guy my age would stroll up to the line. I’d think Great–here’s someone I can run with. Then I’d look down and see the shaved legs, spikes, and singlet from a track club. Once the gun went off, I suffered but had a great time. This was my first XC race since seventh grade, and I loved it. In comparison to a 5K or 10K on the road, you feel like you’re actually racing. I highly recommend checking out the USATF XC calendar and entering some events in the fall. They’re a fun addition to anyone’s running schedule.
• The junior events were fascinating to watch. Most runners were 17 or 18, and they came from both high school and college programs. Some schools, like UCLA, Washington, and Oklahoma State sent full teams of runners and coaches. The top 6 kids qualified for the world championships, so there was fierce competition at the front of the field. Aisling Cuffe, from upstate New York, went wire-to-wire to win the girls race. She hasn’t lost a race all season, and she’s headed to Stanford in the fall.
• The field for the masters women featured icon Colleen De Reuck–she’s run in four Olympic Games, won major marathons (Berlin, Honolulu), medaled at the World XC championships, you name it. She ran her race virtually on her own and won by a huge margin.
• Second behind Colleen was American Joanna Zeiger. You may remember her as the fourth-place finisher in the triathlon at the Sydney Olympic Games in 2000, and more recently as the 70.3 World Champion. I got to spend some time with her, and she’s one of those uber-achievers who seem to excel at everything they do. As if being a successful professional athlete isn’t enough, Joanna also has a PhD from Johns Hopkins in genetic epidemiology. She’s does her research, conveniently, in the training mecca of Boulder, Colorado. Impressive.
• If you’ve never watched elite runners from a couple feet away, you can’t understand just how fast they’re going. Like many sports, running is much more impressive in person than it is on TV. I witnessed Olympic medalist Shalane Flanagan put on a clinic as she demolished the women’s elite field. She has a particularly powerful and fluid stride that had spectators shaking their heads in astonishment. Like she’s from a different species. With her blond hair and medal potential, I can see her becoming the poster child for the US Olympic Team at the London Games next year.
• The men’s elite field stuck together for most of the race in a pack of 20 or so runners. It resembled a motocross race as they whipped around the course at a 4-something pace jockeying for position over hills and around corners. Former Colorado Buffalo Brent Vaughn emerged from the pack with two laps to go and ran to a solo victory. Interestingly, he’d started the USA Half Marathon Championships in Houston the week before and dropped out. He said he felt like quitting the sport! But he got back on his horse, came to San Diego, and ran to one of the most important wins of his career.
I’ve just spent 48 hours with Wesley Korir, our two-time defending champion. He’s an extraordinary person with an incredible story. I’ll share a lot of that with you soon, but I wanted to get up this video clip from this week’s appearance on KTLA Channel 5. More on the way.
It’s officially crunch time if you’re training for the Honda LA Marathon. You’re into your long runs of 16-22 miles, hard tempo runs, and, hopefully, some speed work. Let’s talk about that last part for a minute. You may have heard speed work variously described as “intervals,” “track workouts,” or “fartlek.” (That’s “speed play” in Swedish). However, all of these words are essentially describing the same thing: training your legs to move fast by moving fast. The idea is to actually run faster, for short periods, than you will run in your marathon race. By training this way periodically, your body adjusts and acclimatizes to the needs for increased oxygen uptake and muscle fiber recruitment demanded by increased leg speed. Let’s call it pushing the envelope.
After repeating speed work on a weekly basis for a month or two, you will really start to see the results. That goal marathon pace just doesn’t seem as difficult anymore. It’s important to note that this type of training is beneficial to any runner, not just competitive athletes. It may sound intimidating, but it’s actually a lot of fun, whether you’re running 12-minute miles or 6-minute miles.
Last week, I joined Coach David Levine and the LA Running Club for their Wednesday night track workout at the Santa Monica High School track. David is a terrific coach with a deep understanding of marathon training, and he’s got about 50 runners out there on a given Wednesday evening (workouts start at 6:30 pm). There are all levels of runners there, and it’s a welcoming, inclusive, and fun atmosphere. One of my favorite things about track workouts is the social aspect. It’s an opportunity to inject group energy–like a spinning class or a master’s swim workout–into your running week. I find a track workout to be tremendously energizing. David lead us through an extensive stretching and warm-up routine, which is a good way to ease your body into the workout and avoid injury. We then ran four 7:30 intervals at 5K pace, with 2:30 rest in between. He had the stopwatch, so all I had to do was worry about running. Kind of liberating, actually!
Furthermore, running around a track with a coach is a great opportunity to actually get some coaching. One problem with running by yourself all the time is that no one gets to look at your running form. And that’s important. Running is actually a complex biomechanical movement, and it takes an expert eye to help you develop an efficient stride. Last week, David gave me tips like “knees higher!” as I ran by on the track. It’s really no different than learning a smooth golf swing, or tennis stroke. Once you get some feedback, then you can practice on your own.
Anyway, I highly recommend the Wednesday night track session with Coach David Levine. See the LA Running Club website for more details. If you can’t make that, find out about a track workout in your area–there are tons of them. Good luck and good training!
Our words here have been scarce over the last two months. I don’t have a credible excuse, but I can at least share with you what we’ve been busy with. As many of you know, there are two big seasons in the marathon world: Fall and Spring. Our event, along with London, Boston, Big Sur, and others falls into the Spring category. That means that Fall is prime time for us to be out at other marathons speaking to runners, sponsors, charities, and elite athletes. So we take our show on the road and set up a booth at all kinds of events. Over a 9-week period between October and December, I was at seven different events: Chicago Marathon, Long Beach Marathon, Rock n Roll Los Angeles Half Marathon, Hirshberg Foundation LA Cancer Challenge 5K, New York City Marathon, Gobble Wobble Turkey Trot, and Rock n Roll Las Vegas Marathon.
It was an exhausting stretch, but productive on so many fronts. We ran some of these events, had an Expo booth at others, or did both in some cases. Most of us in the office run other events year round as a way to keep in touch with our customer’s point of view. If we don’t understand that, then how can we expect to put on a great event?
Stacy Embretson, our resident ultramarathoner, even went up to Marin County to run her first 50-miler. Impressive! Furthermore, while I manned the Expo booth at the Chicago Marathon, she was up at 1:30 am on race day to work with their starting line crew. How better to learn one’s craft than to spend time with folks like Chicago Race Director Cary Pinkowski who really have logistics figured out?
In November Director of Partnerships Dave Klewan and I both ran the New York City Marathon. It was an unforgettable experience, and our first time participating in that event. What struck us both was the international nature of the race. You see the 25,000 foreign runners walking around New York for days before the race. It’s extraordinary. The non-running New Yorker might not notice all the track-suited runners from Russia, Thailand, France, Italy, Holland, Mexico, Chile and other countries (111 of them!) walking around the city, but as a runner you are aware of them. I felt like a Wizard in Harry Potter who could see the other Wizards that were invisible to the Muggles. This event made me understand that, as runners, we’re part of a global tribe with shared interests and passions. How great is that?
I also spent a lot of time working our Expo booth. This duty goes beyond recruiting runners for the Honda LA Marathon. While that is one of the goals, I also see our Expo presence as a chance to hold open office hours right out in public. And you never know who’s going to swing by and say hi. I had interesting and meaningful conversation with an amazing number of people. Some highlights of the Expo trips include:
• Marathon legend Frank Shorter stopped by to say hi at one event. I loved hearing his stories of racing in Europe against our own Rod Dixon and Steve Prefontaine.
• At the Long Beach Marathon Expo I met a nine year old boy who first ran our race when he was six. Yes, I said six years old! (His time that year was 9 hours)
• In Las Vegas I spent time with K-Swiss athlete Josh Cox, who went on to win the race, and Meb Keflezighi, who signed his inspiring book for me. Both of these guys are gracious, smart, and interesting people who are marvelous representatives of the sport.
• Our own two-time champion Wesley Korir graciously signed autographs in our booth at Chicago, then went out the next day and ran to a gutsy 4th place against a stacked field in oppressive heat.
• I watched the Chicago race from the side of the road, having never spectated at a marathon before. I always wondered what a 4:50 pace feels like, so on an empty stretch of road at Mile 15, I got out and ran alongside Wesley and eventual winner Sammy Wanjiru. Let’s just say that 50 yards was about as far as I got with them!
The learnings from our Fall Field Trips are many, and we hope to use these to improve the quality of the Honda LA Marathon for all of you.
Here at the headquarters of the Honda LA Marathon presented by K-Swiss, we’re proud of many things. Things like our iconic Stadium to the Sea course that travels down Hollywood Boulevard, Sunset Strip, and Rodeo Drive before finishing at the Santa Monica Pier. We’re proud of our 65 Official Charities that hope to collectively raise $4 million through this year’s event. And the scholarships we offer to 2,800 middle and high school kids who run the full Honda LA Marathon as part of Students Run Los Angeles. All of these things are exciting components of our race.
However, what we’re most proud of is the chance to live up to our mission statement: “We inspire athletes and connect communities.” We are the stewards and curators of the LA Marathon experience. That’s a privilege, because it means we get to help people change their lives through running. No matter if you’re an elite athlete flying in from Kenya or running your first marathon, we get to build an experience for you. That, to us, is exciting, and we take great pride in the quality of that experience. From our online conversation with you months before your race right through your training and your race day experience, we’re here to make the totality of your Honda LA Marathon journey a memorable one.
We talk a lot here about the “transformational power of sport.” And that is something that potentially affects every single participant in our event. And by “participant” we don’t mean just runners. There are so many people who come together and make the Honda LA Marathon a reality: Volunteers, Spectators, Brand Partners, charity participants, city governments, local law enforcement, fire, and safety personnel. It’s a long list, and there are few events that pull together that many people from that many communities. The sum total of this group energy is a powerful connective tissue that unites an entire city for a day. As a runner in the Honda LA Marathon, you’re the lifeblood of this event. You supply the kinetic energy of the event as you travel from Stadium to the Sea.
Looking forward to Sunday, March 20th, our goal is to inspire every athlete and connect every community associated with the event. We hope you all enjoy the experience.
Race to be more runner-friendly, add loops through Chinatown & Little Tokyo;
Starts at Dodger Stadium, finishes just steps from the Santa Monica Pier
One of the world’s greatest marathon routes just got a little better. The 2011 Honda LA Marathon Presented by K-SWISS will once again start at Dodger Stadium and finish on Ocean Avenue, just steps from the Santa Monica Pier. Along the way, runners will pass all of the great landmarks of the 2010 race – along with a few new ones.
The 2010 Marathon featured the debut of the Stadium to the Sea course, which took runners through four cities and the federal VA property, and drew a sold-out field and hundreds of thousands of spectators. The newly revised course adds Chinatown’s Dragon Gateway and the Little Tokyo Historic District to an already impressive list of landmarks that includes Los Angeles City Hall (mile 3), Grauman’s Chinese Theater (mile 11), the Capitol Records Building (mile 11), Sunset Strip (mile 13) and Rodeo Drive (mile 17), among others.
“We believe this marathon course gives runners a unique opportunity to experience the best of Los Angeles,” said LA MARATHON LLC Chief Operating Officer Nick Curl. “With the addition of Chinatown and Little Tokyo, the Stadium to the Sea course will show runners even more of what makes Los Angeles so great.”
In making the announcement, race organizers unveiled a first-of-its-kind animated course video that takes viewers through the twists and turns of the newly updated Stadium to the Sea route. The two-minute video, available at www.lamarathon.com, provides an overhead look at some of race’s grand icons and indicates elevation changes throughout the course.
The new trips through the communities of Chinatown (mile 2) and Little Tokyo (mile 3) were made possible by a simple change at the starting line: In 2010, runners began with a loop around Dodger Stadium before heading out to city streets. But race organizers determined that a direct route from the stadium, without the loop, would facilitate both pre-race and starting-line logistics. In particular, traffic flow should be much better before the race.
In a slight change at the finish, runners will now end the race at California Avenue, three blocks north of the 2010 finish line, giving them additional post-race recovery space. Organizers plan further announcements about race-day logistics as the March 20, 2011 event draws near.
“While the 2010 Honda LA Marathon was a huge success, we believe in constant improvement,” Curl said. “These changes are designed to make the runner experience even better, and to inspire even more of Los Angeles along the way.”
Registration for the 2011 Honda LA Marathon is underway, and the race is expected to sell out. Runners are encouraged to sign up at www.lamarathon.com, where a full course map, list of landmarks and the animated course video may all be found.