This week, I remembered exactly where I parked my car and arrived at Griffith Park in Burbank 15 minutes before the clock hit 7 a.m. Coaches Kerry and Joaquin were there waiting patiently for the Pablove runners in temperatures which were frigid even by Los Angeles standards (yes, we do get cold temperatures from time to time in Southern California). Coach Kerry brought along his dog and had him (or her, I don’t remember) firmly on a leash as this pup was ready to chase after any bicyclists or squirrels in its radar range. Once the first set of bicyclists went by, the dog was ready to hit warp speed, and I think his barks translated into, “Hey, I want to run with you! Yes! Yes! I want to run! Wait up!”
Once Coach Kerry got his dog under control, he suddenly said, “Maybe we should call this run ‘King of the Hill.’” Little did I know what I meant. We have run up and down hills before, and I have come to welcome them as they are part of the LA Marathon. But this week had us going up a hill like none other before it, and it was definitely not the one Kate Bush sang about back in the 1980’s.
This run would be our first double-digit run of the training season as we were running 10 miles, and the coaches had us going up the hill first on the backside of Griffith Park. Good, I thought, we will get the hard stuff out of the way first. Of course, this particular hill always wipes me out long before I reach the top. Even if I wanted to be like Sylvester Stallone in “Rocky IV” when he reached the top of that mountain and yell out “DRAGO!!!” for all to hear, I never have the energy or enthusiasm to do so.
But here’s where the run took a sharp turn both literally and figuratively speaking. Instead of going down the backside of Griffith Park, we took a right onto a paved road which was shut off to cars but not to runners or bicyclists. The only thing is, this road kept going up instead of down. And once I thought I went as far upward as I possibly could, I found I hadn’t. And then later on, I found this out again, and again, and again. As determined as I was to finish these 10 miles, I realized it would probably be longer than the running time of Lars Von Trier’s latest cinematic opus, “The House That Jack Built.”
Look, I am fine with running up hills, but none of those hills we Pablove runners have ascended previously compared to this one. As my walk breaks increased over my running, I wondered if two maintenance runs during the week was even close to being enough to prepare for this or any other marathon. Just imagine if I had hills like this to run up during my cross-country days in high school. Oak Hill Park has nothing on what Griffith Park has to offer!
Nevertheless, I persisted like all those female politicians running for office during the past midterm elections (many of whom won mind you) and did my best. I tried to keep up with everyone else, but as usual I fell behind the rest of humanity and was more than confident nobody would be waiting for me by the time I got back. On the plus side, there was a nice breeze in the air and, even as the sun rose high into the sky, it was neither too hot nor too cold. On the downside, there were no bathrooms or portable toilets nearby, and at one point I had to drop the kids off in the bushes. That’s probably more information than you need, but I don’t want to leave anything out here.
Coach Joaquin was on hand throughout to make certain we were all doing as well as could be expected. Of course, before we started this run, he did tell us all that if we became sick or died on this run, it was not his fault.
Upon approaching Coach Joaquin at one point, I saw a sign which, from a distance, appeared to say “HELL SPOT.” This sign seemed more than appropriate as this was road which people will have better luck hiking up than running up. But once I got closer, I realized it actually said “HELI SPOT.” I don’t know, maybe I’m becoming dyslexic.
One thing this particular course did have going for it was the view it gave us of Burbank and Glendale. Looking at Burbank from a higher elevation, I was reminded of how it is a much bigger city than I ever bother to realize. It’s not at all dwarfed by the IKEA store which, by itself, probably has its own zip code, and the buildings, homes and apartments stretch out for what seem like miles.
I also thought I could see Pasadena from where we were, but Coach Joaquin informed me were looking at Glendale and that Pasadena was further off into the distance. I knew that. Anyway, at least I could tell it wasn’t Russia.
After making a sharp left turn at one point, I assumed we would not be running uphill anymore, but I was incorrect. Still, Coach Joaquin assured me what goes up must come down. You know, like the Trump Administration.
I did catch up with my fellow Pablove runners who encouraged me to keep on going as they made their way back. One of them told me, “I’d tell you the turnaround is right around the corner, but…” Believe me, I appreciated the honesty.
The turnaround point was at this enormous puddle of water which was truly impossible to miss. Looking at it reminded me of a scene from “Stand by Me” in which the four boys come to what looks like a shallow pond they think they can walk across with no problem. River Pheonix even checks to see how deep it is with a stick. Once he convinces everyone it is safe to cross, they walk straight ahead and realize just how deep the water really is. But that’s not all, remember? LEECHES!!!
It was a huge relief to finally reach the turnaround and head back, but there were still some hills to shuffle up and down, and I spent what felt like an obscene amount of time desperately trying to catch my breath. Once I got back to the main road, I knew it was all downhill from there, and in a good way. It’s nice to see “downhill from here” has a couple different meanings and is more than just something adults tell kids when they turn 18.
The coaches were still around when I returned, and this of course meant they could finally pack their things up and go home. I told Coach Joaquin how the maintenance runs I was doing didn’t seem to be enough, and he encouraged me to get in 30 minutes of exercise each day whether it be running or something else. He also made me see that I did good today and pointed out I did complete all 10 miles. I came, I ran and I finished, and this is something I should be proud of. So what if I came in last? I went through all 10 miles with a sheer determination to make it across the finish line.
Coach Joaquin assured me next week’s course will be completely flat and be only six miles. Still, I need to kick up the workouts during the week. I am now past the point of no return.