Running 23 Miles in the Aftermath of a Torrential Rainstorm (in Los Angeles)

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So, this past Friday in February 2017 saw Los Angeles get pummeled by the biggest rainstorm it has seen in years. Streets and sidewalks were flooded over, old trees were battered, branches were torn off and left on the road for cars to run over or hopefully swerve around, and hydroplaning was not what it used to be. Turning on the radio, it was no surprise to hear the local station playing “Have You Ever Seen the Rain?” by Creedence Clearwater Revival, but I kept praying for someone to play the Beatles’ “Good Day Sunshine” for the sake of some much-needed irony.

Yes, this was the exact same weather I and so many others endured while running the 2011 Los Angeles Marathon. It rained hard and the wind blew at us from the side to where hypothermia became a larger threat than heatstroke. The joke was we never ran the 2011 LA Marathon, we swam it. Heck, I joked I was somehow tricked into doing a triathlon instead of a marathon. Sometimes it is fun to run in the rain, but this was a huge exception.

The rainstorm which came down on us Angelinos happened the day before we Team to End AIDS runners were scheduled to run our longest run of the training season: 23 miles. As a result, I got more prepared for this run than usual. I got a new pair of Brooks running shoes, my red poncho which keeps me warm as well as dry, a new water belt which has two water bottles instead of four, and I had my Monsters University hat on as usual. The only thing I was missing was a new pair of compression tights which I really need to get before March.

Some people also took the time to put duct tape on their shoes to ensure their feet wouldn’t get wet. I should have thought of that, but anyway…

Well, the good news was the worst of the storm had pretty much passed us by when we arrived at Griffith Park at 6 a.m., one hour earlier than we usually show up because of this run’s epic length. There was a bit of drizzle, but nothing which we could possibly drown in. Regardless, the most dedicated T2EA runners could be counted on to show up as they are determined to participate come rain or come shine.

I’ve been through this training program several years now, but the 23-mile run always gets me especially anxious. I know I can do it, but I also know the agony I will be forced to endure once I am finished. Coach James reminded us this is our “celebration run,” and we should not treat this as a race in any way, shape, or form. Still, I knew it was going to be hard to celebrate once this run was concluded. Not impossible, but hard.

One thing I definitely kept in mind was to start off slow and not overdo it. It was in our best interest to save energy throughout this run as it is too frackin’ easy to burn out before we got to the halfway point. Also, it was highly likely we would hit “the wall” on this run more than ever before. “The wall” refers to the mental wall we eventually hit during the run where it feels like we can’t possibly run anymore. It doesn’t matter how big of a carbo load dinner or how many pounds of pasta we ate beforehand because we will hit the wall when we least expect it. The trick is to keep going because these 23 miles won’t run themselves, dammit.

For this run, we actually started out on Forest Lawn Drive. This surprised me as I felt the coaches had long since deemed this part off limits. It’s a dangerous stretch of road to run on, especially when it’s early in the morning, because of the blind corners we are forced to go around. There were points where we had to run single file because we have little warning of what could be coming around the curb. We were also running past a cemetery, and this threatens to serve as an omen of the most unwelcome kind.

But we did survive Forest Lawn Drive, otherwise I would not be here writing about this. The run took us through Burbank and Glendale where passed by such sights as Warner Brothers Studio, Disney Studios, and fast food joints with their burgers which are never as appealing as they look on those posters. When we passed mile signs indicating where we were at distance wise, I found myself saying the same thing, “That’s it?” For some bizarre reason, I thought I was going to complete this 23-mile run sooner than later. What the hell is wrong with me anyway?

We had a wealth of volunteers this time out, and they had plenty of water, Gatorade and other assorted goodies for us to fuel up on. I was keen on staying on top of my salt intake because last year, when I did this same run, I came out of it seriously dehydrated to where I was walking like a zombie out of a George Romero movie. Actually, it also didn’t help that I partied hard with a few Jack and Cokes afterwards. I eventually had to go to urgent care and get hooked up to an IV with fluids. Lesson learned.

I did end up eating a handful of Tostitos lime tortilla chips which had more salt in them than any chip I ever had in my life. My mouth was in shock for a few seconds to where I had to drink almost a whole bottle of water. Talk about an assault of the senses! I have never crammed that much salt into my mouth before. I’m not in a hurry to do it again.

During the last half of the run, I ended up falling behind everyone else which was a bummer. It wasn’t the first time it happened, but before I was able to catch up with my fellow runners. This time I was on my own, clinging onto an almost empty bag of Ruffles potato chips I got from the volunteers. It got to where I started to feel like Chevy Chase when he was running around in the desert and getting all delirious in “National Lampoon’s Vacation.” Granted, I wasn’t actually in the desert, and I wasn’t wearing my jacket as a hat and singing “100 Bottles of Beer on the Wall,” but I had definitely hit that wall I was talking about earlier.

I wasn’t in immense pain, by my muscles were already very sore to where I wasn’t screaming out in agony, but instead just getting irritated over the fact I couldn’t run any faster. It started to feel like a dream where I was stuck in one place and couldn’t move any further. Whether it was Heather Langenkamp getting stuck on those stairs in “A Nightmare on Elm Street” or Patricia Arquette caught in some jelly-like substance in “A Nightmare on Elm Street 3: Dream Warriors,” I was desperate to increase my velocity before some crazed psycho with knives for fingers started coming after me for not running at my assigned pace.

I did have a map of the course with me and kept looking at it every five seconds. Of course, I lost it as it slipped out of my pocket without me even realizing it until much later. But by then, I knew where I was going, and this is even though I felt like Bugs Bunny and kept wondering if I should have taken that left turn at Albuquerque.

This training season has seen me become the slowest runner on the team. It’s almost embarrassing as I used to be faster than this, but in the end I did cross the finish line. I increased my pace as fast as I could as I came up to the finish line, and there were still many people there to cheer me on as I completed my 23 miles. After I was done, all I wanted to do was sit down forever. The first thing I should have done was stretch out my legs, but I didn’t have the patience to bother.

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The coaches treated us with a feast of sandwiches which included roast beef, turkey with pesto dressing, veggie, and ham and cheese. I had one of each as those calories I had burned off needed to be welcomed back in one way or another. And yes, there was plenty of chocolate milk to go around. Us runners need chocolate milk to recover, almost a gallon it seems.

After all this running madness, I went home and crashed in bed for several hours. As I’ve gotten older, so to speak, naps have become more commonplace for me than ever before. It used to be impossible for me to nap during the day, now it’s far too easy for me to taking advantage of one. I’m starting to miss the days where I had boundless energy. Maybe I should start drinking coffee.

Do I feel good about this 23-mile run? You know what, I shouldn’t even be asking myself this question. I should feel good about it. I crossed the finish line to the delight of all the T2EA team who stayed to watch me do so. But I wonder if I can still cross the finish line with the same amount of gusto which I had in the past when it comes to marathon day. Here’s hoping I will when March comes around.

FUNDRAISING UPDATE: Thanks to the threat of me running with an oversized Eeyore on this 23-mile run, I went from having raised $729 to $1,044 in a week. After finishing this run, I finally reached my fundraising goal thanks to my brother Ed Mahoney and have now raised $1,129.70 towards AIDS Project Los Angeles (APLA). But even though I did reach my goal, I still encourage you all to make a donation towards my efforts as every little bit helps those who can no longer help themselves. Even if all you can spare is $5, that will still go a long way. Just click on this ridiculously long paragraph to see how you can help.

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Thanksgiving is Gone, but the Calories Linger On

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Hey everybody. I am really struggling with fundraising right now and could use your help. As in the past, I am running the 2017 Los Angeles Marathon on behalf of AIDS Project Los Angeles, and I have been tasked with raising $1,100. If all my Facebook friends donated just $5 dollars, I would not only meet that goal but surpass it by a wide margin. Before reading on, click here to find out how you can make a tax-deductible donation and stick to the tax man before the year’s end.

I’m finally back in Los Angeles after the Thanksgiving holiday, a time that knows no diet plan. It certainly was a calorie-laden holiday, and my father and brother put together quite the feast. The fact I didn’t suffer much in the way of heartburn was extraordinary as second and third helpings were inescapable. But while on vacation, I wasn’t about to skimp on my marathon training, and running was of the upmost necessity after gobbling down turkey, creamed corn, apple and pecan pie, stuffing and the occasional serving of vegetables. I actually did my recovery run on a treadmill, but I increased the grade to 3% to make it more challenging for myself. My family and I were staying at a house by the ocean, and I did a lot of walking on the beaches and grassy paths which left my heart beating faster than just about anything else, maybe even sex.

This past week had me catching up on making money to pay the kind of bills Donald Trump has avoided paying for years, and this kept me from doing my maintenance runs. So, coming into this 14-mile run, I felt like I was going to fall behind everyone else in an embarrassing way. But at least this time I made it to Griffith Park before everyone else ran off without me.

On my way over to Griffith Park, I had my soundtrack and film score iPod playing on shuffle mode as I was trying to find the right piece of music to get myself pumped up. The best I could come up with was the “Helicopter Chase” theme from James Newtown Howard’s score to “The Fugitive.” Listening to this piece of music quickly reminded of Harrison Ford’s role of Richard Kimble, a doctor wrongfully accused of murdering his wife who ends up escaping police custody and going on the run in an effort to clear his name. Being someone afflicted with an infinite persecution complex, I relate to what Kimble went through even though I am not a vascular surgeon and did not kill my wife (for the record, I am not married).

Today I was planning to run at a 3:2 pace as running at a 3:1 pace was not the same as it used to be for me. But upon learning the rest of the 15-minute group was going to run at a 2:2 pace, I decided to adjust accordingly as I felt it would be nice to run with the group for a change instead of by myself.

Well, it turns out running at a 2:2 pace was the best thing for me as I never struggled for energy or “hit the wall” at any point during this 14-miler. The extra minute of walking allowed me more time to recover, and it felt good to keep up with my fellow pace group runners instead of falling behind which I have found myself doing these last couple of years.

Another notable presence on our running route was the Burbank Police Department, and a motorcycle cop did not hesitate to stop us in our tracks when he found us running on the street instead of the sidewalk. He was quick to inform us that the walking path which runs down the middle of Chandler Boulevard was built for people like us. We never got the opportunity to tell him about how running on asphalt is easier on our joints than concrete, but it probably wouldn’t have made a difference.

Following this, we saw a number of Burbank cop cars pulling one driver after another over to the curb, so clearly they were trying to meet some sort of quota. Not that I don’t support the police, but making an unscheduled and forced donation to them always feels like thievery to me. It doesn’t matter if you deserved to get a ticket or not because, who wants to pay it? A lot of people go 80 miles per hour in a 25-mph zone. Not me, but a lot of people.

One thing my pace group did get to do on this run, and it is something I always hoped we would do, was sing a marching song. One of the runners serves in the military, and he got us to sing along with him. Here’s my favorite part:

“If my chute don’t open wide,

If my chute don’t open wide,

I got another one by my side,

I got another one by my side.

If that chute don’t open round,

If that chute don’t open round,

I’ll be the first one on the ground,

I’ll be the first one on the ground.”

Hey, it was either that or something from “Full Metal Jacket,” and some of the marching songs in Stanley Kubrick’s film are not exactly appropriate for the ears of Burbank citizens.

It took long enough, but the weather is finally getting colder, at least in the morning. It was seriously frigid when we arrived in Griffith Park, but the temperature did rise as the sun came up. I think we managed to beat the heat for the most part, and we arrived back where we started just before it became unseasonably warm.

I am in the slowest pace group now as several other runners have since dropped out of the program for one reason or another, so only the coaches were still around when we returned to Griffith Park. Part of me feels a little disappointed in myself as I kept thinking I would be in a faster pace group after running so many marathons, but instead I have slowed down to where I wonder if I will ever be the svelte individual I was back in my high school days. Hey, I can dream, can’t I?

But seriously, I felt really good about changing the pace on this run. I came through it without feeling hopelessly exhausted, and I felt satisfied in a way I haven’t in some time. There was plenty of chocolate milk left over to cure me of my runner’s hangover, and I drove back to my apartment for a well-deserved nap which lasted much longer than it should have (not that I’m complaining or anything). Next week we have a recovery run, and we will need it after this one. Coach James encouraged us to do our maintenance runs on Tuesday and Thursday so we would have time to recover and to keep increasing our mileage on them. I’ll do my best, but like Boy George once said, time won’t give me time dammit.

Thanks for reading.

Hardwired… To Run 12 Miles

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For some bizarre reason, it slipped my mind that Metallica’s latest album, “Hardwired… To Self-Destruct” came out this week. As soon as I saw it on display at the Barnes & Noble store located at The Grove in Los Angeles, I immediately purchased it along with the Criterion Collection Blu-ray of “Boyhood.” Could I have bought Metallica’s newest album at a cheaper price elsewhere? Perhaps, but I’ve been a big fan of this heavy metal band ever since the “Black Album.” I have been playing “Hardwired… To Self-Destruct” on my car’s CD player endlessly since I bought it, and the first track was playing loudly as I drove out to Griffith Park for another run with Team to End AIDS.

In the name of desperation

In the name of wretched pain

In the name of all creation

Gone insane

We’re so fucked

Shit outta luck

Hardwired to self-destruct”

It’s interesting to listen to those lyrics in the wake of Donald Trump’s surprising, and infuriating, victory of Hillary Clinton in the 2016 Presidential election. Also, I have endured my share of wretched pain I have ran the LA Marathon, and yet I still find a reason to run it yet again.

Today had us running 12 miles as well as traversing over the punishing hill on Crystal Springs Drive. And let’s not forget the other hill we had to ascend on Grandview Avenue. We can complain about running up these hills all we want, but when it comes to the LA Marathon, and we were reminded of this during the recent AIDS Walk, there will be hills. As much as we want to avoid them, they are inevitable and not worth avoiding.

Due to circumstances beyond my control, and I will plead the fifth as to what those circumstances were, I arrived at Griffith Park later than I should have. When I got there, everyone had already started and I was cursing at myself for being left behind. I passed by JC who was quick to remark how I arrived just in the nick of time, and I couldn’t disagree with him on that even if I wanted to. I was peeved I had somehow ended up in this position which I promised I wouldn’t this training season, but Coach Jennifer assured me it was okay as everyone has those moments. She even attempted to drive me out to where my pace group was at so I could join them, but I’m still in the process of learning everyone’s names and faces. She ended up dropping me off at the foot of the hill on Crystal Springs Drive, and in the end, that’s exactly where I needed to start.

You would think after all these years I would have mastered running up the Crystal Springs hill, but I had to keep reminding myself to run a slower pace as I seemed determined to run up this hill so I could get it over with. But with all the running and puffing I was doing, I kept remembering the whole point of this training was to run at a conversational pace, so I had to keep slowing down to make sure I was doing just that. When I finally got to the top, it kind of felt like I was on a wooden roller coaster which was clicking along endlessly until gravity started taking over. Having said that, I did watch myself as I ran downhill. While as kids we loved to let ourselves run wild at any given opportunity, running downhill at warp speed was never going to be to my benefit. This is how nasty injuries occur.

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As I headed on through the depths of Griffith Park, I kept hoping to come across Robin Russell who loves to play his drums in this region of it. The rhythm he loves to play at always help on an especially challenging run like this, but he was probably busy on this particular Saturday morning because he was nowhere to be found. Not to worry though, we are all bound to run into Robin at some point during this training season.

Because I didn’t arrive at the same time as my fellow runners, I ended up running these 12 miles mostly by myself. It’s a good thing I had a map on me, otherwise I could have run in the wrong direction despite my best efforts to avoid such a spectacularly stupid fate. Throughout the run, I kept wondering if a 3:1 pace was really working for me. Some of my fellow pace group runners felt more comfortable going at a 3:2 pace, and I started to wonder if I should do the same. It’s always my intention, when it comes to training with T2EA for the LA Marathon, to run faster than I have in the past. But with my advancing age, something I am safe to say I don’t resemble on a physical level, I owe it to myself to take it easy to where I don’t criticize myself as much. If this means slowing down, then that’s not something worth complaining about.

This particular morning was a cold one, and I found myself wearing a jacket in months, maybe even a year. When I got out of the car, it was still quite frigid, but with the sun already rising in the distance, I figured things would heat up very quickly as Southern California loves to stay unseasonably warm. Indeed, it soon turned into a ridiculously warm November day to where I wondered if California had suddenly moved closer to the Equator alongside Hawaii. Still, it felt like a risk not to leave my jacket on. Out here, we are so used to it never being this cold, ever.

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Coach James was on hand at the Boliver water stop to dispense good advice, and he encouraged me to look into getting Gatorade Endurance Formula. This formula is different from the regular Gatorade which is so easy to find at your local Ralphs Supermarket, and you have to order it online to get it. Considering this is the same formula given to runners on the marathon route, it is something I really should look into getting. Still, why is it only available online? Geez, this is like Indiana Jones trying to track down the Ark of the Covenant.

So, Thanksgiving is coming up next week, and I will be out of town. My plan is to keep up with my cardio exercises as well as my maintenance runs. Where I am going, you can bet I will be doing A LOT of walking at the very least. Plus, with all the delicious food I will end up eating (my dad and my brother are fantastic cooks), I will have more than enough calories to burn off and Alka Seltzer to keep the massive heartburn at bay.

Happy Thanksgiving everybody!

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Please click here to find out more about AIDS Project Los Angeles which I am running the LA Marathon in support of.

Ben Of The Marathon

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After a week away from Los Angeles Marathon training due to my covering the press day for “Bleed for This,” which had me occupying the same room with Miles Teller, Aaron Eckhart, Katey Sagal and director Ben Younger, I arrived back at Griffith Park in Burbank to join up with my fellow Team to End AIDS runners for an 8-mile run. There was a big running event going on in the Hollywood area this morning, but I managed to avoid the road closures placed in everyone’s path and got to Griffith Park right on schedule.

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Having been away for a week, it kind of feels like I have been away for a month. On one hand, I got to meet up with my friend Marta who has returned to train with T2EA. On the other, I found myself meeting a new bunch of runners whose names I hope to memorize by next week. Being in the 15-minute pace group, we were expected to run at a 3:1 pace. Some of the other runners, however, were a bit iffy about as they weren’t sure they would do well at this pace. In retrospect, I wonder if I might need to adjust my pace as I was struggling the last few miles.

This run took us outside of Griffith Park and into familiar areas of Burbank. We went as far as Magnolia Street where we reached the turnaround point, and then we headed back to our starting point and prayed we would reach it in one piece. The zipper on one of my pouches broke before I boarded the LA Metro train for the AIDS Walk a couple of weeks ago, so I was left with just with this little camera bag to hold all my energy goodies. I prided myself on how I didn’t need to consume any energy blocks or gels on this run, but I would have benefited from taking at least one of them.

I was determined to watch my speed this time around, and I did take it easy at the start even though my fellow pace group members were not in sync when it came to starting our watches and phone apps at the same time. Having said that, I used it as an excuse to reach my walking break sooner than my watch would allow me.

When I am running, it is ever so easy for me to get lost in my own thoughts. This form of exercise has always been great for me in terms of relieving myself of endless anxiety and depression, but it also keeps me from staying in the moment when I need to. I’m always trying to remain conscious of my form as I always feel I am slouching forward too much. This shit always catches me by surprise, and I keep kicking myself as a result.

On my way to Griffith Park, I tried to get into the mood by playing music off of my soundtrack/movie score iPod which had on shuffle. I guess I was trying to find a piece of music which really got my mojo going, and I kept pressing the next track button in an effort to get to it. The best I could come up with on my route was “Insensatez” by Antônio Carlos Jobim which is featured on the soundtrack to David Lynch’s “Lost Highway.” The word insensatez means “how insensitive” in English, but in Portuguese it means “absurdity” or “folly.” Being that this is my seventh year in a row where I have trained for the Los Angeles Marathon, I can’t help but wonder if my decision to do it yet again is an absurdity or a folly of sorts. Well, one thing’s for sure, I’m being very insensitive to my knees which have long since given up trying to argue with me.

For some odd reason, the theme song to “George of the Jungle” kept playing in my head as I ran through the streets of Burbank. Maybe the rhythm of the song is what kept me energized as my energy began to run low. Either that or it was someone’s way of reminding me of how easy it can be to get into an accident when you don’t pay attention to immovable objects around you. George was certainly a muscular dude who knew the jungle and the animals which inhabited it very well, but his confidence typically got the best of him when it came to swinging on those vines. There’s nothing wrong with having an ego, but never let your ego get overinflated. You’ll end up running into something hard which will remind you of something you should damn well know already: you’re not indestructible.

Once back at Griffith Park, we were all witness to a terrifying sight: JC eating dill pickle soup. Now anybody who knows JC knows the man despises pickles with a passion, but he offered to consume it for the sake of raising money for APLA. Like him, we will do anything to complete our fundraising goals, and this was his ultimate sacrifice to appease all the donors out there. With all due respect to the Bolivers, who made the soup, it really did look like puke. I had to turn away from JC after he took his first taste and his face got all scrunched up. I’ve already vomited enough this year, and 2016 has been the year to vomit all over.

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Looking back, I did a good job on this 8-mile run, but now I need to step up my game in terms of training. In addition to my two maintenance runs, I need to get in some cardio workouts whether it’s at the gym or by using Wii Fit. Laugh all you want; those Nintendo games really give me a heart-racing workout.

This marks the last run before Daylight Savings Time ends, a time of year I never look forward to, and that’s regardless of the fact it gives us an extra hour of sleep. When it gets darker early in the evening, it makes me feel like the day has already ended and that I am up way past my bedtime. I hate that. It’s also the last run before this clusterfuck of a Presidential election FINALLY concludes. We could be looking at a very different America depending on who gets elected to the Oval Office. Let’s hope justice wins out in the end.

FUNDRAISING UPDATE: To date, I have raised $237.50 for AIDS Project Los Angeles, and I invite you kindly to help me reach my goal before the end of 2016. Just click here to make a donation. No donation is too small or too big, and it will go directly towards helping those who need it. Thank you for reading.

Running the AIDS Walk

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The second week of 2017 Los Angeles Marathon training had us doing something a little different. Instead of meeting up at Griffith Park on Saturday, we instead met on Sunday, October 23rd, in Downtown LA for the annual AIDS Walk. But while the word WALK is prominently displayed in the event signs, we were there instead to run it, and it proved to be a good preview of what we can expect in March 2017.

Now the AIDS Walk is typically held in West Hollywood, but this time it took place in Downtown LA and for the very first time. Another runner told me this was because the Governor wanted to spread out the LGBT related events throughout the city so the acceptance of them could be wider and wouldn’t necessarily be confined to one part of it. This change did throw some people off as they used to be able to just walk down to the event which was a block away from the apartment, and when something like this is held downtown, you can sure bet traffic will be a nightmare for everyone foolish enough to be driving.

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For me, the AIDS Walk being in Downtown LA got me to do something I haven’t done since living out here: use the Metro Rail. The coaches begged us to use public transportation as the odds of us finding parking were going to be remote at best, and getting in and out of town was going to be an endurance test of another kind (and one which is not at all healthy).

I went to the Jefferson/La Cienega station, one which I have passed by many times back when I commuted to Marina Del Rey on a regular basis. That they did not charge a fee for parking there was both a surprise and a delight as parking is such a racket in Los Angeles, one which sucks too much money out of our wallets. The cost of going one way into Downtown LA? $1.75. Looking at the price, I immediately wondered why I never bothered using this service before. There’s no denying how cost effective it is.

Of course, being this was my first time riding on the Metro (thank you, Berlin

), I was afraid I was going to screw up and get on the wrong train. I also had to make a transfer at 7th Street Station and get on either the Red or Purple Line to get to Civic Center which was our meet up point. A lot of times when I’m afraid of going in the wrong direction, I usually do. Fortunately, thanks to the dozens of people wearing AIDS Walk t-shirts at 7th Street Station, I was fairly confident I was heading in the right direction.

It was fun traveling on the Metro Express as it brought back memories of when I took the BART train into San Francisco. At the same time, it reminded me of all the dead and passionless faces I saw seated near me as people looked like they had the life sucked out of them long ago. That scared me to death because I thought I would end up looking like them before I knew it. I still get scared of that even to this very day.

When I finally arrived at the Civic Center/Grand Park Station, I made my way down 1st Street where the T2EA runners were meeting up. The major plus of this event is that our group was always the one to start off, and we would always start just before everyone else did because AIDS Walk primarily benefits AIDS Project Los Angeles (APLA) which we run in support of. While everyone else has to wait behind barricades like cattle, we sat at the very front and were more than ready to conquer the asphalt and concrete roads of Downtown LA.

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Coach James and Coach Kerry said we may find ourselves wanting to treat the AIDS Walk as a race, but we needed to resist the urge. In retrospect, I ran way too fast. I’m in the 15-minute pace group, and my average pace for this event was 12:57. I spent a lot of time trying to focus on my form as I’m always afraid I am slouching or leaning forward too much. It didn’t occur to me right away that I was running too fast. I wanted to keep up with my fellow T2EA runners, but as usual the majority of them left me in the dust. As training continues, I want to work harder at being lighter on my feet.

The volunteers proved to be as supportive as those at the LA Marathon, coming out to give us high fives as well as water, chips, bottles of Gatorade and Muscle Milk, and they even had ice cream and popsicles. I was close to getting a popsicle, but I already had a bottle of Muscle Milk in my hands and decided not to overdo it. Plus, I’m on a diet, or so I keep telling myself.

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The major upside was the weather wasn’t too hot or too cold. It was overcast with a nice breeze; a big contrast with last year’s AIDS Walk which had us suffering through temperatures in the triple digits. This time we were lucky and not frying like eggs on the sidewalk. It would have been nice, however, to have had a celebratory lunch in a restaurant with air conditioning.

Coming into this, we were told the whole thing would be 6 miles long. But as I was approaching the 5-mile stretch, one of my fellow T2EA runners who was standing to the side and told me, “Just kidding! It’s only 4.87 miles long!” In other words, PSYCHE! I don’t think the coaches realized it was shorter than everyone expected, but it was just as well as I crossed the finish line because the last hill, which proved to be steeper than any we run up during the LA Marathon, pretty much did me in.

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Volunteers gave us paper certificates confirming we completed the 2016 AIDS Walk, and they also handed us reusable Walgreen bags which we filled up with bottles of Gatorade and Propel as well as bags of French Onion Sun Chips, Cheetos, Veggie Ranch Sun Chips, Kettle Cooked chips, and I imagine there was some Doritos chips out there somewhere. I kept putting a whole bunch of things in my bag, figuring a volunteer would at some point order me to stop hogging all the goodies. Still, it looked like the volunteers were desperate to give everything away in an effort to justify all the boxes of goods purchased.

Looking back, I think I had a good run. I just need to watch my speed in the future weeks and keep up with the maintenance runs. Also, it would be great to get some more cardio exercises in.

But the real benefit of this AIDS Walk was discovering the Metro Rail as I plan to make more use of it in the near future. No more of this paying $10 to $15 dollars for parking. Like Clint Eastwood kept saying in the movie “In the Line of Fire,” I love public transportation.

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UPDATE: I am once again raising money for AIDS Project Los Angeles and am trying to reach my goal of $1,100 before the year’s end. All donations are tax-deductible and go to a great organization. Please click here to make an online donation, or you can download a form to instead pay by check. No donation is too small or too big. Thanks for reading.

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Seven Marathons For One Benjamin

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It’s that time of year again! The time where I get up at an ungodly hour on Saturday morning, put on my running shoes, venture out to Griffith Park in Burbank and not get into any car accidents (none of which would ever be my fault) along the way, and arrive to join up with veteran and newbie runners for another season of training for the Los Angeles Marathon. And as always, I will be training with the great people of Team to End AIDS, a training program and fundraising group which benefits AIDS Project Los Angeles.

And in addition to putting on my running shoes, I will be wearing clothes as well.

For those new to my Los Angeles Marathon exploits, this marks the seventh year in a row of me training for it with T2EA. Yes, you read it right, SEVEN YEARS. After running the last one, I began to wonder if it was time to take a break as the last one was more of a struggle than ever before. Despite it being a tiny bit cooler than 2015 and with a nice breeze to aid us, the 2016 LA Marathon had me wondering why I allowed myself to listen to the coaches and not take any Tylenol during it. As I made my way up and down San Vicente Boulevard, I had to stop and get into a crouching position because my legs could not take much more abuse. As for my knees, they gave up arguing with me during year three.

Each year I have trained for the LA Marathon, I found myself doing it for different reasons be it emotional, physical or weight related. Among my goals for LA 2017 is to continue with my weight loss as I joined Weight Watchers a few months back, and I would like to be rid of my spare tire which is my belly once and for all. Also, I want to improve on my time from my last marathon which, in retrospect, was pitiful. I don’t want to say the 2016 LA Marathon was a disappointment, but it was in a sense because it felt like I dragged my ass to the finish line instead of crossing it triumphantly. I did finish the marathon, but I came out of it feeling like things could have gone much better.

But the main reason which finally got me to sign up for another season of marathon training is this is T2EA’s last marathon training season ever. With their fundraising focus now shifting to other areas, they have decided to discontinue this program following the 2017 LA Marathon. As a result, missing out on this particular season would be, as Arnold Schwarzenegger would say, a “BIG MISTAKE.” Unsurprisingly, this first day of training proved to be bittersweet, but it will be quite the adventure all the same.

And once again, I will be raising $1,100 for APLA, and I encourage you, my fellow readers, to donate a few bucks to help me reach my fundraising goal. Please click here to find out how you can make a TAX-DEDUCTIBLE donation.

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While JC is back and still hating pickles, he has stepped down as the marathon coach and has passed the baton to a new coach, James Hawthorn. He is a 17-time marathon runner, and he has finished the Boston Marathon in under three hours. Learning of this makes him seem rather intimidating, but he assured us he wasn’t expecting anyone to run LA as fast as he ran Boston.

Kerry, T2EA’s Director of Endurance Events, told us they were changing things up this season as he found everyone was getting a little lazy with training these past few years to where we developed bad habits like arriving at Griffith Park late. I myself got to Griffith Park this morning at a quarter to 7 a.m. which is when we start. Have I ever arrived late in the past? I don’t have to answer that.

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Coach James started us off with a crouching stretch which served to loosen everyone up, and he told us to make sure we lead with our butts and not our knees as we pretended to sit down in an imaginary chair. I did lead with my butt, by my knees wanted in as they wanted some kind of feeling for themselves. The way my knees see it, why should my butt have all the fun?

Today’s run gave us two options: we could run 5 miles or 3. When it comes to these choices, my gut usually tells me to run the longer distance. C’mon, I have run the Los Angeles Marathon six years in a row. I’ve got this training thing down. 5 miles is a piece of cake to me! So yes, I only ran 3.

The truth is I haven’t kept up with the running since the 2016 LA Marathon, so once again I feel like I’m starting over because, well, I am. As I ran from Griffith Park to the Gene Autry Museum, which is 1.5 miles, my legs felt like concrete bricks which I dragged over the asphalt. I used to run like I was light on my feet, but I haven’t been svelte in such a long time. But the good news is I did use Runkeeper to keep track of my time, and I finished the 3 miles in forty minutes.

In past years I have run in the 13-minute pace group, but today I ended up in the 15-minute group. It feels like I’ve been downgraded, but then again I haven’t run on a regular basis in some time. Still, as my fellow veteran marathoners pointed out, it gives me something to work for. As the training season progresses, I can always move up to a faster pace group if I put in the effort. This is only the beginning, and I have nowhere to go but up.

Coach James concluded our first day by conducting a stretching clinic. It involved stretches I am not altogether familiar with, so I hope I did them correctly. If I didn’t do them correctly, I still hope some part of my body got stretched out (and not just my knees).

Despite whatever problems arose, this training season has gotten off to a strong start. The weather was perfect in that it was not too hot and not too cold, and we have yet to feel the full force of the fall and winter seasons (assuming they will ever arrive in Southern California). And when all is said and done, Scott Boliver’s tree continues to grow beautifully in Griffith Park.

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HELP A BROTHER OUT: Like I said, I am doing this marathon to raise money for AIDS Project Los Angeles, a renowned non-profit group which has spent many years helping those who have been afflicted by this terrible disease we will one day conquer. I invite you all to make a tax-deductible donation to this group so that they can continue to help those who can no longer help themselves. Just click here to find out how you can help. By the way, check out the video below.