On March 18, I ran the Los Angeles Marathon. This was the first time I’ve done this race. I was registered for it in 2016, but had to cancel my trip because I was recovering from an injury. Deb and I traveled to Los Angeles together, and built a short vacation around the race. It’s the first time either of us has been there.
We flew to Los Angeles on Friday and stayed at the Hampton Inn in Santa Monica. All the hotels in Santa Monica are expensive, but that’s where the race finishes, so it seemed like the most convenient place to stay. We were able to avoid driving by relying on a combination of public transportation, guided tours, and rideshare services. We took a taxi from the airport to our hotel.
We checked into our hotel room Friday afternoon and immediately took the Metro Expo Line into downtown Los Angeles. There was a train station within a block of our hotel. There were about a dozen other stops before downtown, so it took about 45 minutes, but it only cost $1.75.
The expo was at the Los Angeles Convention Center. After I picked up my race packet, we spent about half an hour exploring the other booths. There were hot dog vendors outside the convention center. We smelled the food grilling before going in. When we came out again, we were getting hungry. I was sold when I saw the hot dogs were wrapped in bacon. We also had some yogurt samples from the expo.
On Saturday, we took a guided tour that included Beverly Hills and Hollywood. Our tour started with a drive through the Pacific Palisades, and a few other upscale neighborhoods. Our tour guide pointed out the current and former homes of several celebrities.
Our first stop was in Beverly Hills, where we got out and explored Wilshire Boulevard and Rodeo Drive.
We had lunch at the Farmers’ Market. Then we continued to our next stop, which was the Walk of Fame on Hollywood Boulevard.
We eventually continued into the Hollywood Hills.
After driving back through Laurel Canyon, we saw several famous sites along Sunset Boulevard. I would see some of these places again during the marathon.
One of the last things we saw before returning to Santa Monica was Fox Plaza, which is the building that was used for exterior shots of the fictional Nakatomi Plaza in the movie, “Die Hard.”
We had dinner at a small Italian restaurant that was only two blocks from our hotel.
Sunday was race day. I had to get up early to catch a bus to the start of the race. When I registered, I selected a 5:00 pickup, but I got there about 45 minutes early in case there were long lines to board the buses. Last year, there were long delays because of new security procedures. They appear to have worked out those issues, because this year the bus loading went smoothly.
This was the 33rd annual Los Angeles Marathon. Over the years, they’ve had several different courses. The current incarnation, which has proven to be popular, starts at Dodger Stadium and finishes on Ocean Boulevard in Santa Monica. It’s called the “Stadium to the Sea” course.
The buses dropped us off outside the stadium, where we were able to come inside and wait until it was time to line up.
One of the nice things about this venue is an abundance of real bathrooms. We could also sit down in the stadium seats. It wasn’t heated, and there was a gear check, so everyone wore extra layers.
About an hour before the race, I bumped into my friend Robert. We dropped off our gear bags, made our final bathroom stops and made our way to the start corrals. We were both seeded into the same corral. We had to line up early, because they close the corrals about 20 minutes before the race.
When I registered for this race, I didn’t know it I was going to run or walk. As recently as a few days before the race, I was planning to race-walk. After learning about some food and beer stops along the route, I changed my mind and decided to run it, but without any time goal. This was a “go easy and have fun” race. That gave me opportunities to stop and take pictures.
I didn’t take a close look at the elevation profile, but I was expecting this course to be fairly flat. I was surprised how much downhill running there was in the first two miles. Downhill running still makes me nervous. I quickly lost track of where Robert was.
After leaving the stadium, we had this view of the downtown buildings, bathed in the light of the early morning sun. After taking this picture, I spotted Robert and caught up to him. We ran together for most of the race.
At two miles, we entered Chinatown. This was the beginning of a short loop through the streets right around the downtown area.
Around four miles, we encountered a tiring hill and took a short walking break. That gave me a chance to take a picture of the Asian drummers.
Just past five miles, we turned a corner and reached a stand with free chili dogs. This has been a tradition in recent years. Robert and I both stopped for chili dogs. Then we took a walking break until we finished eating.
We turned onto Sunset Boulevard, which eventually led us to Hollywood Boulevard. We went through a few ethnic neighborhoods, including Little Armenia and Thai Town. At about 10 miles, I had to make a bathroom stop, and Robert went on ahead. When I resumed running, Robert was nowhere in sight. I picked up my pace and gradually moved up through the field, hoping I would eventually catch up to him.
Along Hollywood Boulevard, I started to see some familiar sights, like the Pig & Whistle, the Chinese theatre, and Madame Tussaude’s Hollywood Wax Museum. Then we made a sharp left, and I felt a welcome breeze. It was a sunny day, and I was starting to get hot.
After a quick right, we were back on Sunset Boulevard. The breeze was gone, and I got hot as I started climbing a long gradual hill. I eventually caught up to Robert, but it took me more than two miles.
By now, I was getting tired. I felt relieved when Robert suggested walking part of the hill. For the rest of the race, we took short walking breaks on each hill.
As the road curved to the left, we felt the wind again. That made all the difference in the world. Along Sunset Boulevard, we passed a few more familiar landmarks, including Mel’s Drive-In, The Viper Room, and the Whisky a Go Go.
After a brief jaunt over to Santa Monica Boulevard, we turned onto Doherty and entered Beverly Hills. At the corner, there was a large group of police officers. One of the runners gave them a shout out, but incorrectly addressed them as LAPD. They all shouted, “No!” They weren’t LAPD. These were Beverly Hills cops. Oops.
While we were in Beverly Hills, I got to run down Rodeo drive.
I had heard about a pizza tent at mile 15. I was looking for a pizza tent, but never saw one. Stopping for a slice of pizza during a marathon would have been fun, but I still enjoyed the route.
We continued to take short walking breaks on the hills. We were going slower in the second half than we did in the first half, but it kept us on pace for roughly a 4:15 finish.
At 21 miles, we passed a Hash House Harriers tent, and we each had a small cup of beer. If was non-alcoholic, but it was cold and refreshing. We were in Brentwood now, but we were almost to Santa Monica.
There was a street with a fence down the middle. On the left side, there was a USC cheer squad. On the right, there was a UCLA cheer squad. We were supposed to choose sides. Deb roots for USC, so I went to the left.
The last few miles had a slight downhill trend, so we didn’t do as much walking. In the last mile, we turned onto Ocean Boulevard. Now, it finally felt like we were almost there. I finished in 4:12:59. Robert finished right behind me.
The finisher medal has designs on each side. This is the “Stadium to the Sea” side.
I had a few post-race refreshments and retrieved my gear bag. Then I headed for the beer garden to have my free beer. From there, I only had to walk another half a mile to get back to the hotel.
While I was running the marathon, Deb took a Warner Brothers studio tour. The tour guide asked everyone which TV shows they watch and tailored the tour accordingly. Deb got to see the sets of Big Bang Theory and Friends, among others.
After we both got back to the hotel, we walked down to Santa Monica Pier.
On our way back, we took a detour through Santa Monica Place. Neither of us had a real lunch, so we had an early dinner at The Cheesecake Factory. I was long overdue for some California pizza.
Distance: 26.2 miles
Average Pace: 9:39
Lifetime Marathons/Ultras: 350