It is important to note that running a marathon is more than just one day. I ran hundreds of miles leading up to this, experimented with a variety of shoes, drinks and foods, while maintaining a zero waste vegan diet. The marathon itself is literally the tip of the iceberg.
I started running once a week almost three years ago. I first tried running by myself, but was inconsistent at best. After spending about six months stalking a local running club, I mustered up the courage to join their group. The group was great because it was a consistent opportunity to run with other people just like me. We are of varying stills and goals, but there are enough people running each week that I can always find someone to run with.
From the beginning
After a few years of casual running, last June I signed up for my first half marathon, the Los Angeles Rock ‘n Roll Half, which was last October. This was a scary notion, because for the first time ever I put my money where my mouth was, and paid for a race. I knew that spending my hard-earned cash would encourage, if not force me to train properly.
In preparation, I joined a second weekly running club and added a third solo run every week. I went from three to 15 miles per week fairly quickly. I had been talking about running the LA Marathon for years, even before I started running. I don’t know what the initial attraction was, but after completing that half marathon in October, I realized that I was in the best position I had ever been in to push through a few more months to run LA.
Fast forward to race weekend – February Thirteenth
Before every major race you must pick up your bib (which displays your unique identifying number). I hate expos. In an ideal world expos wouldn’t exist because the race host would mail it to you after registering. In a perfect world, bibs wouldn’t exist because they are single use, laminated pieces of paper. They are cumbersome. Most people run with watches and cell phones that track their statistics anyway. In a race with 25,000 athletes, a bib opt-out program could prevent a few thousand bibs from being produced.
Another reason why I hate expos is you have be physically present to pick up your bib. I, wanting to be a good citizen, opted to take the Metro to the LA Convention center for the expo. With transfers and walking, this option was definitely longer, but it seemed like the right thing to do. Little did I know (shame on me for not realizing this in advance) that the same day as the expo were the Olympic Marathon qualifiers. This consisted of six mile loop around through Downtown. It took me 20 minutes to cross Figueroa to get into the convention center.
Once inside, it took me just a few minutes to retrieve my bib. I tried to walk back out the way I came, but security told me I had to walk through the guts of the expo to exit. Now we are onto the second reason why I hate expos: the “stuff.
Not only was this expo jam packed with people, it was a maze of stuff for sale. I’m sure this crap is the reason they force you to show up in person. Sorry, I don’t mean to be rude, but I refer to it as “crap,” “stuff,” and “junk,” because it was all stuff I did not need. I don’t like swag. I don’t like single-use items. I don’t like gimmicks. I know plenty of people who look forward to these types of events because they are often filled with the newest technology and products at discount prices, but I am not one of them. If you one of those people, by all means, enjoy the expo. Forcing me to attend, however, was annoying.
The expo was so crowded with upbeat music that I actually started to feel anxious. Crowds don’t normally bother me, but the combination of having difficulty accessing the expo and being forced to wander through it in search of the exit was a little overwhelming.
Another quick aside… the convention center has the word “exit” mounted on the wall in several places, but there was actually only one exit that they would allow you to…um…exit from. I, of course, managed to find every other exit first, but was greeted by a barrier and smaller temporary signs that read, “this is not an exit.”
When I finally made it to the actual exit, I was greeted again with the Olympic Marathon qualifiers, which had not yet ended. Not wanting to wait again to cross the street, I walked North on Figueroa until I passed the reached the end of the event zone. I was trying to get to Chinatown to meet friends for the Chinese New Year Parade, and decided to take the bus. There was a sign listing alternate bus routes due to the event downtown. The bus route I wanted to take was listed, but it wasn’t clear to me whether not this stop was affected in particular was affected. Fortunately (or so I thought) there was a parking guy directing traffic. I asked if he knew is the bus I wanted was making this stop, to which he replied, “read that blue sign.” I told him that there were at least 50 route exceptions listed, but he ignored me.
Feeling defeated, but still wanting to meet my friends, I walked several blocks to seventh and Fig where I was able to jump on the red line.
Twenty minutes later I was in Chinatown with my friends, watching the parade. Participating in another crowded event after what I went thought might have seemed like a bad idea, but it was actually quite relaxing. Once we found our spot, we didn’t move until the event was over. After it was over, we grabbed a quick bite then I headed home. They had somewhere else to be.
Later than evening, I met with some friends for a carb-filled dinner and then headed home to unwind before bedtime. I managed to be ready for bed by 9:00pm, falling to sleep around 10:30. I would get up at 4:15 the next morning.
If you’re wondering why I am telling you this, it’s so that you can put into perspective my mentality and how I was feeling the day before the race. Picking up my bib should have been a quick it event, but it was physically and mentally draining. This was definitely not how I wanted to spend a large portion of my Saturday. Fortunately, I had prepared myself for race day mental challenges, but was able to apply some techniques to my downtown LA pre-race experience.
Who knows, maybe this draining day helped me fall into a better, deeper sleep!