On St. Patrick’s Day, March 17th, 2013, I completed the LA Marathon–my second marathon, and the first in over five years. Though my official time was a modest 5:28:44, my previous time was just over 6 hours. Running a marathon requires a huge commitment of time and energy — two resources that are finite and precious. The training can be tedious and painful, and the race itself strained my 50-year-old body.
So why did I run the LA Marathon? Let me begin with a little background.
I started running back in 1976. I was in ninth grade, and I joined the cross-country team at Center Grove High School in Greenwood, Indiana. When the cross-country season ended in November, we’d start the “Roadrunners Club” to keep up our endurance for the spring track season. We’d tally our miles accumulated through the winter, and the coach awarded us with a red t-shirt with the cartoon Roadrunner on the front, and our mileage ironed-on the back. We didn’t call it gamification back then, but that was the general idea.
I continued running when my family moved to Irvine. I didn’t break any records, except occasionally my own. I wasn’t the fastest, and not the slowest. But I showed up, and I ran, even though I never really considered myself a runner. I’ve heard it said that “a jogger runs, but a runner jogs.” Clearly, I was a jogger.
I’ve run on-and-off through the years, though not consistently. But in 2007, I decided to run my first marathon. I trained with Team in Training, raising over $2000 for the Leukemia and Lymphoma Society. A month before the marathon, I came home from a one week vacation with a bug that turned into walking pneumonia. I was in bed for one solid week, and missed my longest training run. But the training still paid off, and I completed the San Diego Rock-and-Roll Marathon. As in high school, I wasn’t the fastest (not by a long shot) but I wasn’t the slowest, either.
After that first marathon, I turned my interest to other physical activities, first mountain biking, and then (after breaking my wrist on the San Juan trail) hiking. I set my sights on a new goal: through-hiking the John Muir Trail, 30 years from when I first hiked it at 18. This epic backpacking trip required months of planning, training and preparation. And in the process, SoCal Hiker was born. I focused all available time and energy on training for hiking long miles on the trail at high elevations, carrying everything I need on my back. There is a time for everything, and this was not the time for running.
Last year I decided it was the time for running once again, and I began training for the La Jolla Half Marathon. This is a beautiful course, running along the coast from Del Mar to La Jolla Cove. I followed the Jeff Galloway run-walk method, and finished with a time that I was happy with (2:20, and my personal best). I thought about maybe running a marathon again, someday. But not until October 2012 did I commit to running this year’s LA Marathon. I blame my friend Jeff Turner for lighting the fire under me.
— Jeff Turner (@jeffturner) October 27, 2012
This time, I followed Jeff Gaudette’s beginner marathon training plan through RunKeeper… mostly. I started training in November, and logged 369.7 miles and over 80 hours of running. A few snafus kept me from completing all the runs I had scheduled, including travel with 18 days in Mumbai and a brief bout with the flu. But I kept plugging away, and on March 17th, I was proudly among the 25,000 runners wreaking havoc with LA street traffic. I finished in 5 hours, 28 minutes — improving my 2007 marathon time by more than 30 minutes.
Why I Ran the LA Marathon
As you see, it’s been a long journey to get there, with a lot of sweat, blood and probably a few proverbial tears as well. Was it worth it? Why did I subject my fifty-year-old body to such a demanding task? What’s the ROI?
I ran this marathon for LA. My wife and I moved to Los Angeles last year, and are loving it. This marathon was my tribute to a wonderful city, and the route itself takes you on a grand tour of that city– from Dodger Stadium to Chinatown, through the soaring skyscrapers of downtown LA and the gleaming Walt Disney Concert Hall, through the heart of Hollywood, past the Chinese Theater, the Walk of Stars; down the Sunset Strip, Rodeo Drive, and stretching out to the beautiful bluff overlooking the Pacific Ocean in Santa Monica. It’s a terrific route, and the crowds lining the streets, cheering, passing out orange slices or water, and sharing high-fives made it even better.
I ran this marathon for me. Because I still can. Because I have the persistence to stick to the training, and the determination to reach the finish line. Because it makes me stronger.
Most of all, I ran this marathon for the ones I love. I ran for my wife, who inspires me to do more, and cheers me on. I ran for my children and my grand-children, to inspire them as well. To demonstrate that my “old man powers” (thanks, Dan) can do pretty amazing things. And to show them that if I can do it, they can do amazing things, too!
There are life lessons in training for and running a marathon. Like so many things in life that we aspire to, it requires planning, hard work and preparation. Obstacles will arise, and you may have to adjust and adapt. Set big, bold goals. Do the hard work, and cross that finish line. That lesson is worth retelling– to myself, my family and my friends. And that is why I ran the LA Marathon.
What is your marathon? Are you ready?