In late March my wife and I traveled to California to take part in this year’s Los Angeles Marathon. I’ll say it now…it was a great experience and I highly recommend it.
In looking for a spring marathon together we had originally set our sights on running Rock ‘n’ Roll New Orleans. We had some logistical issues (no babysitter for a long weekend) so we searched around a little more. I still had some airline miles from my previous job that were going unused, so we threw caution to the wind and figured that we’d go big or go home. LA was the chosen destination and it proved to be a great choice.
So, if you know anything about us we don’t just go to run. We sightsee. A lot. My wife is an event planner by profession and as soon as the registration for the race had been processed then the planning spreadsheet was created. I should note that this blog may turn out to be more a whirlwind tour of Los Angeles with a little run thrown in the middle versus a race recap LOL. What do they say about keeping off your feet before a marathon? We seem to ignore that and go by the rule ‘No sleep until Philly’ whenever we go on a road trip. As this was going to be a special trip for us I invested in a refurbished GoPro for the trip. Lot’s of experimenting including running in my local park to see how I could manage this on race day. I think the local wildlife must think I’m really weird.
Training for a spring marathon means training through East Coast winters. Although this was not a terrible winter (save for a really cold snap) we didn’t have too much snow compared to prior years but it was just the cold that was bone chilling. Hence, most of the training took part indoors on the treadmill. Knowing that we would be running soon in sunshine with palm trees framing our streets this was motivation for pushing through those endless hours running and not getting anywhere. I think I made it outside for long runs about 50% of the time but I did log at least one 20 miler inside on the treadmill. Plus side is that I got to catch up on a lot of Netflix shows.
We headed to LA on the Thursday before the race. We had an early morning flight but with the time change we arrived early afternoon. We stayed in Culver City which was fairly close to the airport so the drive was short. We picked Culver City as the race finished in Santa Monica about 10 minutes away and being a point to point race the buses left from there to the start on race morning. It was close enough and just being a few minutes away from Santa Monica itself was cost effective. We dropped our bags and headed straight to Santa Monica and some warm sunshine. We scoped out the area a bit and rented bikes to travel along the beach towns towards our destination for the evening in Abbot Kinney.
Friday was race expo day and we got up early to head to downtown LA to pick up all race bibs and gear for the weekend. We got up early because we had heard many times over that driving in LA was really bad. That’s all everyone seems to go on about when talking about LA. However, I must have been lucky the whole visit as we never seemed to have any traffic issues the time we were there and we drove around a lot….again, the event planner with us.
The expo was at the Convention Center just behind the Staples Center and we had fun walking around before we actually got into the expo. Once inside everything was clearly marked and identifiable. As we walked in we bumped into Rudy Novotny the race announcer. I know Rudy from meeting him at runDisney events in the past. He gave a shout out to ‘Team Shenanigans’. Good times.
The marathon sponsor this year was Skechers and the merchandise area was full of cool looking and very reasonably priced gear, definitely not New York City Marathon pricing for sure. I ended up buying a fun shirt representing the course and my wife bought a fun hat. She had more luck at the Lululemon pop up store outside of the official merchandise area. Doesn’t she always seem to have ‘luck’ at Lululemon??? The expo was not huge for a race this size and we went through fairly quickly. A lot of sponsors for local races which wasn’t going to be of much interest to us visiting for the long weekend. I did bump into my friend Michael who was using this marathon as a stop on his way to his 50 States goal. I also took the opportunity to treat myself to the Normatec vendor’s offer of a free leg treatment. Very relaxing.
After the expo we took a trip up to the Griffith Park Observatory for the afternoon after a stop at the steps famously used by Laurel and Hardy in the short film ‘The Music Box’. I had seen this movie many times over the years and had planned to make this a stop on our trip as I noted it was near the Convention Center. That’s a lot of stairs before a marathon. Mind you, the hike up to the Griffith Observatory isn’t less of a work out either. The views at the top were worth it. From there we took a drive to Beverly Hills and Rodeo Drive. We would be running through these streets on Sunday so we took the time today to enjoy them at a more relaxed pace before grabbing dinner and a reasonably early night. We had accomplished a lot and we still had a day to go before the marathon.
Saturday morning was the day before the marathon…surely we would stay off our feet today? Nope. We came all this way for this race so we had to pack in as much as we could. We started the day with a ‘hike’ to the top of Runyon Canyon. The views of the Hollywood Hills were spectacular but the sign warning of us to be on the look out for rattle snakes was just a tad disconcerting. Following an insanely crazy breakfast at ‘The Griddle Café’ in Hollywood we spent the afternoon exploring up and down Hollywood Boulevard. Again, we would be running this the next day but I was on the hunt to find some of my favorite stars on the Hollywood ‘Walk of Fame’ as well as the hands and feet in cement at the ‘Chinese Theater’. We also took a tour of the Warner Brothers Studio where my wife and I reenacted scenes from some of our favorite shows on the actual sets…and were given ‘that look’ from the tour guide. Hey, we were having fun. After a nice pre-race pasta dinner at a fancier than I was expecting restaurant (I was fully prepared to be turned away based upon what I was wearing) we headed home for our early (and I mean early) wake up for our 4:30am bus from Santa Monica the next day.
Waking up at near Disney race times is not always fun but we had a great tour of Los Angeles and it’s surrounding neighborhoods planned for the day. I had pre-reserved parking in one of the lots closest to the finish line and we headed out around 4am for the short drive to the buses. The drive was short but the lines to get into the parking was longer than we expected. Nevertheless we were soon parked and on route to the buses. It was quick and easy and the drive from Santa Monica to the starting area at LA’s Dodgers stadium took about 20-25 minutes.
We got there with plenty of time to spare. It was dark so we just followed everyone else into the stadium where all the bathrooms were open on the concourse. These were much better than waiting outside for port-a-potties. Plus we got to sit in the stadium and relax for a while before having to head out to the corrals.
Go time for the race was 7am and so we headed out to the corrals while it was still dark. We missed where to enter into the starting chute and ended up with a whole crowd of people at the barrier at the side of our predicted race pace. It was a bit of a mess trying to get in. People were shoving here and there. We had asked a couple of volunteers early where we needed to be and they didn’t have much of an idea. Anyway we made it into the corrals (with the mob) and set about heading to the starting line and out of Dodgers Stadium. The race announcers mentioned the number of runners participating in the ‘Students Run LA’ program who were running in the marathon today. About 3,000 students would be running their first marathon on the day. They were clearly identifiable in their bright yellow shirts. More on this later.
The LA Marathon is advertised as the ‘From the stadium to the sea’. The course starts in Pasadena at Dodgers Stadium and the course takes you through the streets of Los Angeles and its surrounding neighborhoods to finish along the Pacific Coast at Santa Monica Pier. It is a grand tour with some fantastic sites. The following list of mile markers is from the official LA Marathon website.
- Starting Line
- Mile 1 – Dodger Stadium
- Mile 2 – Cesar Chavez Blvd
- Mile 3 – Downtown LA
- Mile 4 – Disney Concert Hall
- Mile 5 – Downtown LA
- Mile 6 – Echo Park
- Mile 7 – Silverlake
- Mile 8 – Los Feliz
- Mile 9 – Thai Town
- Mile 10 – Hollywood Walk of Fame
- Mile 11 – Grauman’s Chinese Theater
- Mile 12 – Hollywood
- Mile 13 – Sunset Strip
- Mile 14 – West Hollywood
- Mile 15 – West Hollywood
- Mile 16 – Doheny Drive
- Mile 17 – Rodeo Drive
- Mile 18 – Santa Monica Blvd
- Mile 19 – Westwood
- Mile 20 – Westwood/Sepulveda Blvd
- Mile 21 – VA/Wilshire Blvd
- Mile 22 – San Vicente & Bundy
- Mile 23 – San Vicente & 26th
- Mile 24 – San Vicente & 14th
- Mile 25 – Ocean Ave/Palisades Park
- Mile 26 – Santa Monica
- Finish Line
As you can imagine, we were excited by the prospect of some fantastic opportunities to see this city on foot and we weren’t to be disappointed. Conditions on the day were amazing. Clear blue skies and streets lined with palm trees. Just like the brochure 😉
I’m not going to go into detailed description of the course but I will share some of the highlights of the day. At the end of this post I will attach a link to my video (from the GoPro) of our day out on the marathon course. As for the course, in summary, it was great. Lots of eye candy. Plenty of photo opportunities and more hills than I imagined (hey…’Hollywood Hills’, ‘Beverly Hills’…how did I not see that coming). I wouldn’t say this was a course if you are looking for a fast time unless you were going to be near the front. This was the Olympic Trials course for 2016 so it could be considered fast but it was quiet congested mid-pack as there were a lot (or so it seemed) of first time marathoners out there. Going back to what I was saying about the 3,000 Students Run LA participants, you have at least that many first timers and it just made it that much more congested. Don’t get me wrong, these kids were amazing. Running a marathon at that age is such a great achievement but there were many ‘packs’ of runners along the course.
We did have a great time and there were many highlights. Around mile 7 we had our first personal cheer leader of the day. I had met Phillip through my connection with Autism Speaks many years ago. He has since moved on to work with the Arthritis Foundation but as an LA local he came out to support us and even made a sign for us. That was a great boost early in the race. Around mile 20 when things start to get rough during a marathon a cousin, Paul, who loves out in the LA area came out to support us. He was there to cheer on his fellow gym team (Paul competes in stair climbing challenges). He ran along side us for a little while and gave us another much-needed boost. We would get back together with him for brunch the next day. Finally, as we entered Brentwood in the last few miles of the race, Kristen who is another LA local and a member of Team Shenanigans had a cheering section out on the course. So much fun to meet her and to see that she had chalked our name on the ground in anticipation of our arrival. That was awesome to come all this way and have people we knew come out to cheer for us really made the day.
There was so much to see out on this course and the crowd support and the neighborhood support was amazing. There weren’t many quiet stretches along the course. It was crowded but it never really felt quiet. So many people out there. It helps when there is great weather to begin with.
Towards the end of the race it was heating up. The sun was shining and there was not much shade. Neither of us struggled with this but judging from our time we were not pushing it. Not our slowest time as we still seem to take more time out on the course during the Walt Disney World Marathon but an equal number of unique photo stops for sure.
As we headed up Santa Monica Boulevard towards the pier at the end of the race I can truly say that we enjoyed our time out on the course. It was not a matter of wishing the finish line were closer. It was great out there. A wonderful medal and a memorable experience.
It was however a longer than anticipated walk back to the parking lot where we had arrived several hours earlier. We stopped at a Starbucks on our way to the car for a quick refreshment and some much-needed air conditioning before returning to our hotel for a quick shower and more sightseeing. We spent the afternoon driving up the Pacific Coast Highway to Malibu where we had a celebratory dinner by the beach. Cannot beat that for a post marathon celebration.
The next day we had a late night flight so we had a relaxing morning. My wife had thought ahead and booked us massages for after the race. I usually like a deep tissue massage but I was discouraged of this notion by the masseuse for the day after a marathon. She was probably right. We then met up again with cousin Paul and his wife Evelyn for a nice long brunch before taking our sweet time of driving back to spend the rest of the day walking along the beach in Santa Monica before heading off to the airport for the red eye back to Philadelphia…where we could finally get that sleep we needed.
Here is the link to the video I made of the race. It was my first attempt at making a recap video so you may have to cut me some slack. Hope you enjoy it.
Thank you for reading.