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Kristen and the LA Marathon

On Sunday, I had the chance to witness Kristen in run the LA Marathon.

It. was. awesome. 

The Road to LA

After completing her 5th Half Marathon last spring she started thinking about LA.

A marathon is intimidating. A 5k or half had become pretty manageable for her. One builds on the next, you know what to expect, and lots of people are happy there… just improve on the last one to better your time.

She spent a month or so toying with the idea. When you consider the length of time it takes to prepare for the marathon– in her case about 6 months of training– and all the things that have to go just right– a few runs during the week, a long run on the weekend, three kids, a husband who travels for work, nutrition, injuries, illnesses, and all the normal stuff– it’s a huge undertaking just to train.

The last several weeks has been a series of longer and longer training runs. We’d wake up early on a Saturday and I’d drop her off, track her for 3-4 hours using Find My Phone, drop off water every few miles, then pick her up at the end.

One week she circumnavigated most of San Diego Bay from the Coronado Bridge all the way down to Imperial Beach then up through Chula Vista and National City to San Diego.

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Another Saturday we drove up to Oceanside and she ran all the way to Solana Beach along the Pacific Ocean

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Marathon Day

In the week leading up to the race all of the talk was about the heat. An early Spring heat wave pushed temperatures to the mid-90s with 15% humidity on Saturday. That kind of heat and 27,000 runners going 26 miles just don’t mix. The last 24 hours of wondering about the impact of the heat were no good. You wanted to get it out of your mind, but dang– that’s too hot to run that far.

Kristen barely slept on Saturday night. Nerves and excitement and all of that. When my alarm went off at 3:45 am, she was already up and just about ready to go.

I dropped her off at her Santa Monica shuttle at 4:30 am and went back to bed. Our friend April crashed at the beach house, too… I took her over to the same shuttle stop at a pedestrian 6:30 am before heading back to the house one more time to check on our kids. When the race started at 7, I packed up my stuff– a cooler full of frozen towels, my camera, and my phone to meet her along the way.

11 Miles In

My first stopping point was about 11 miles into the race in the business district of Hollywood. My experience in LA is so limited (Despite living just 2 hours south, we avoid LA like new moms avoid sleep.)

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A legacy runner, someone who has competed in each of the past 30 years in the background and a high school student, part of a “Students Run LA” initiative, in the foreground. And some dude carrying a cross for 26 miles. This is the LA Marathon.

The first thing you need to know about the LA Marathon is it’s very diverse. Usually, the races Kristen has run in have been predominately 30-something year old white people. But that just wasn’t the case in LA. There were people of every walk of life, every age… middle schoolers and elderly… every ethnicity, and every cause.

But, more importantly, Kristen was in great spirits.

In LA, you get to run with all kinds of people... even guys who run in full Native American head dress for 26.2 miles.
In LA, you get to run with all kinds of people… even guys who run in full Native American head dress for 26.2 miles.

I asked her how she was doing… GREAT!

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From here, I made my way south from the race course to start navigating through the side streets, grabbed some coffee at Starbucks, and made my way to West Hollywood to try to see her 45 minutes to an hour later.

15 Miles

When I found the race course at exactly the 15 mile marker, Kristen was still a mile or so down the course, so I took a while to stand there, people watch, and cheer folks on.

Here’s something awesome about big races. Everyone comes out to cheer people on, even if they don’t know a single runner in the race. They show up, they cheer, they encourage, and lots of people even bring things to give to runners out of their own pockets… fruit, water bottles, and er– hot dogs and pizza slices, too.

Marathons are full of interesting things... like men with hip length dreadlocks peaking at TV motorbikes.
Marathons are full of interesting things… like men with hip length dreadlocks peaking at TV motorbikes.

And when I finally spotted Kristen, she was still having a blast FIFTEEN MILES into her day.

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22 Miles

From West Hollywood, I went back to our minivan and started to work my way across town more to get to the next spot on the course, 22 miles, in Brentwood– most famous for being the home of O.J. Simpson. To get there… I had to wind my way through neighborhoods like Beverly Hills… where my minivan made me feel like I was on the cast of Beverly Hillbillies.

From there parking was a real problem. I ended up finally finding a spot about 5 blocks from the race course. And in my rush, I forgot to take notes on where I parked… more on that later.

By this time the heat had kicked in. Racers were super fortunate that an unexpected, un-forcasted cloud base made it pretty pleasant most of the morning, high temperatures in the mid-80s. But that started to burn off late in the race. And it started to get really, really hot. 

In this last set of pictures I want to point out some of the lasting impressions I had on the marathon.

The marathon is a community effort. Tons of official and unofficial volunteers make it a GIANT 26 mile long celebration.
The marathon is a community effort. Tons of official and unofficial volunteers make it a GIANT 26 mile long celebration. The family to my right knew a couple runners, but their endless supply of orange slices and ice made hundreds of runners smile.

And don’t forget about causes. I’d say a quarter of the runners were running to raise money for something.

Team World Vision had more than 600 runners, raising money for clean water in Africa.
Team World Vision had more than 600 runners, raising money for clean water in Africa.

And– oh yeah– this smiling lady.

At 22 miles, Kristen had never run this far. Notice that she's smiling and having a great time while runners around her aren't quite looking so fabulous.
At 22 miles, Kristen had never run this far. Notice that she’s smiling and having a great time while runners around her aren’t quite looking so fabulous.

By this time, she was starting to get tired and hot, so she accepted my invitation to take 2 minutes off to cool down… bring on the frozen towels!

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Having just come through a non-shady part of the race with 4 miles left in the blazing sun, 2 minutes of cooling off really seemed to help.

And at this point… it’s just a victory lap. Six months of training and it was abundantly clear she’d finish her first marathon!

26.2 Miles

After this pit stop I got a text from April, she was at the finish line and looking for a ride back to the beach house.

The problem was that I was 4 miles away… cell service was jacked up with so many people trying to post selfies… and I HAD NO IDEA WHERE I’D PARKED!!!

Seriously. I was so pumped to go see Kristen at 22 miles that I forgot where I parked. 15 minutes later I finally found my way and was back in the car.

From there, I got lucky and guessed a side street that went all the way to Santa Monica, Colorado Street. And I took that all the way to where I could see the finish line… but then got stuck in traffic. I picked up a very tired April and then we spent the next two hours trying to find Kristen and make our way back to Venice Beach.

Success!

Huge congratulations to Kristen. She made it look easy… if 26.2 miles can be easy.

And I don’t know what her next challenge will be. But I think it’ll involve a bike and swimming. 

By Adam McLane

Kristen and Adam live in the San Diego neighborhood of Rolando with their three children.

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