A Pablove Run in the Midst of Devastating California Wildfires

California wildfire

It has been a terrible week for Southern California. Last Wednesday, a lone gunman carried out a mass shooting at a bar in Thousand Oaks, a city I lived in for five years, which left 12 people dead. But as the city mourns a terrible tragedy, it is now being endangered along with a number of surrounding areas by a horrific wildfire which has now left acres upon acres in ashes. The fire has hit close to us as well as Griffith Park is being threatened by the same wildfires to where parts of it have been down, and animals from the LA Zoo had to be evacuated. As a result, us Pablove runners saw our Saturday run cancelled, but we were encouraged to do the run on our own.

This week’s run was five miles for full-marathoners, and two miles for those doing a half marathon. I am still committed to running the full marathon, so five miles it was. After sleeping in for a change, I did my run in my neighborhood which is in the mid-Wilshire area right near Museum Row. I usually do my maintenance runs on 6th Street all the way to San Vicente Boulevard and then turn back, but with this run I decided to take things in a different direction.

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As I stepped outside my apartment, I found it was a warm sunny day in November. Just when I thought the warm weather would finally depart Southern California, I was reminded of how climate change is not a hoax. The sun was bearing down on me as if I were an extra in “Lawrence of Arabia,” and this combined with the inevitability of me running on concrete instead of asphalt made it clear this run would be tougher on my joints than usual. I had my interval timer watch on my wrist, and I was all set to go and determined to be a self-starter. Nothing would stop me… except for the fact I forgot to put on my water belt. I should have known better. There is no excuse for me to go out for a run without bottles filled with grape-flavored generic Pedialyte and water containing electrolytes. Why I initially left my apartment without these necessary tools is something scientists are currently looking into.

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I decided to head down Cochran Avenue towards Washington Boulevard as it would provide me with an uneven course which had hills to run up and down. That’s right, I gave myself hills to run over! In past training seasons, none of my fellow runners ever looked forward to running up any hill put in their path, but hills are part of the Los Angeles Marathon, so we have no business avoiding them.

One thing I was reminded of as I ran the streets of Los Angeles was how we are often greeted with inescapable distractions while running through Griffith Park, Burbank, Glendale and other parts of North Hollywood. There are all those fast food restaurants like Carl’s Jr. which had posters on its windows of the most luscious double cheeseburgers, and they made their fast food meals something you couldn’t wait to sink your teeth into. Of course, once we enter any fast food establishment, we are greeted with a reality we did no ask for as the meals are never as appealing as we imagined. We end up feeling like Michael Douglas in “Falling Down” when he gets his burger and says, “Can anybody tell me what’s wrong with this picture?”

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Instead, I was greeted with such distractions like yard sales where I could buy things for an unbelievably low price, or by signs for “A Bronx Tale” musical which was based on the play by Chaz Palminteri which was in turn adapted into the fabulous motion picture directed by Robert De Niro. None of these things made me hungry, but they informed me of opportunities I just might be missing out on.

Last week, I ran at a pace of 3:1, but this time I ran at a pace of 2:2 after having done so in a maintenance run during the week. Since I came out of that run in one piece, I was confident I would do the same here despite the hot and dry weather. Surprisingly, I did quite well. I owe some thanks to the female voice on the Runkeeper app. When I did my maintenance run, the word she said which stood out most was “steady.” She never said “run,” “light speed” or even “ludicrous speed,” just “steady.” By staying “steady,” I got through this run without ever feeling winded. This training season is clearly getting off to a good start.

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One thing I was reminded of from previous training seasons is how excited dogs would get whenever we ran pass them in residential neighborhoods. It’s as if they were saying, “Hey! Wait up! We wanna run too!” In the neighborhood I live in, there are also plenty of dogs being walked around town or staring at passing humans behind gates or fences, but these ones are a little more territorial. Some were interested in running, but others were far more intent on protecting their owners’ homes. One big dog growled at me to where the “Beware of Dog” sign really wasn’t necessary. Another one came out of nowhere, and I jumped as it barked loudly at me as if to say, “GET OUT OF HERE! THIS IS MY OWNER’S HOUSE! YOU DON’T PAY RENT HERE!” I started to feel like Chevy Chase in “Fletch” when he was chased by that Doberman Pincher, but I did stay steady and didn’t go into warp speed.

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When I got to Washington Boulevard, the sun was bearing down hard but I was determined not to be turned into a human shish kabob. I even dared myself to run on the side of the street which had no shade. When I turned around and ran on the other side, I asked myself why I didn’t appreciate shade enough to run in it. What was I thinking?

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There wasn’t an alert on my phone to tell me I had reached the halfway point, so it occurred to me to take a look at it as I got closer and closer to Fairfax Avenue. When I did, it showed I had already run 2.55 miles. It would have been nice to be informed of this sooner, but anyway. I ran back the same way I came, and this time I kept my distance from the dogs. Regardless, they remembered exactly who I was and didn’t hesitate to bark at me from a distance. Excuse me for existing!

And then there were those yard sales which I did slow down by, thinking there might be a CD or a DVD worth purchasing. But knowing the weather was going to get hotter and the air quality wasn’t getting any better, I just went on by. When I arrived back at my apartment, Runkeeper made it official that I had ran 5.07 miles, and I did it all by my lonesome… Well, last season I did most of the runs by my lonesome, so this isn’t anything new.

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After all these years of marathon training, the one rule I have never forgotten is, when running, to land on the balls of my feet. You never land on the heel as the odds of getting injured will be far greater. This is one of the many reasons why I still get to train for the Los Angeles Marathon, and for the ninth year in a row.

Ben after a run

FUNDRAISING ALERT: Now this may not be the best time to ask for donations as we are all eager to help those suffering from the wildfires wreaking havoc all over California, but if you have any extra change, please consider making a donation to The Pablove Foundation. While millions of dollars are given to cancer research every year, only a very tiny portion goes towards a cure for pediatric cancer. Please click here to learn how you can help.

 

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Here Comes the Rain Again (and Finally!)

2015 Halloween Run

WRITER’S NOTE: This was originally written back in 2014.

The rain came down hard on Los Angeles Halloween night. The following morning still had heavy clouds hovering in the sky, leaves and branches were strewn all over the street, and my car finally got the wash it had been begging for. Yes, fall has finally arrived in Southern California, and it took the beginning of November for it to finally make its long overdue appearance. Of course, even with all the rain, it still won’t be enough to cure California of its current drought.

Although another Halloween has come and gone, the spirit of this wonderfully wicked holiday remained strong with Team to End AIDS. Then again, every day in Los Angeles is Halloween. Still, October 31st is one of the few days out of the year where we can embrace craziness with an infinite joy.

It was a small gathering at Griffith Park on this particular morning, but it wasn’t because of the weather. Many T2EA runners were out of state preparing for the New York Marathon which will be far stormier and have its participants dealing with headwinds which will undoubtedly slow them down in an incredibly frustrating way. Still, more power to them as this particular marathon, so I am told, is one of the best and most entertaining to run.

2015 LA Marathon cheeseburger costume

This was the annual costume run day which typically proves to be a good one to get people to donate to your efforts. One woman was dressed up as a delicious double cheeseburger, the kind we all see in those Carl’s Jr. and Burger King commercials. Of course, when you get to one of those fast food joints, the burgers never look as tasty as you expect. Still, looking at this costume made me very hungry, and my cholesterol level went up a few points as a result.

2015 LA Marathon hot dog costume

Then there was a guy who was dressed up as a hot dog. Moreover, it had mustard on it. I don’t know why there was no ketchup on it, or maybe I wasn’t looking at the costume closely enough. At one point, I couldn’t help but ask the guy, “Do you relish wearing this costume? Is it ‘chili’ wearing it in this weather?” This comment was greeted with a couple of laughs and numerous audible groans, but I had to ask. My brother couldn’t stop telling me puns when we were younger, so I get it from him.

As for myself, I didn’t bother wearing a costume this time out. After seeing one of my forms of my employment come to a shockingly abrupt halt, I was too bummed to shop for a new costume. I considered putting on my Jason “Friday the 13th” Voorhees costume, but I was tired of wearing it again. So instead, I just put on my usual running gear and a black rain jacket. If I had put on a black poncho and put the hood over my head, I could have said I was Bruce Willis’ character from “Unbreakable,” one of the few decent M. Night Shyamalan movies.

Today’s run had the newbies running four miles while the alumni ran five. Since most of the people in the pace group were new (or so I thought) to marathon training, I figured they would only want to run four, but I was surprised to see the majority were willing to run the extra mile. Was I cool with this? Absolutely! As much as we should be taking it easy, I was getting increasingly eager to rid myself of this spare tire which has formed over my stomach.

We went outside of Griffith Park again, down Victory Boulevard and towards Pickwick Gardens and Disney Animation Studios. We had to keep our eyes out for puddles, but what really made this run especially treacherous were all those broken branches and wet leaves we could easily have slipped on. And just when you thought it had stopped raining for good, it came pouring down once again. Memories of the 2011 LA Marathon went through the minds of its survivors as a result, but we pressed on regardless.

I again kept the group on pace as I remembered to bring both my watches, one of which has interval time and a broken strap. I did, however, screw up at the beginning as I forgot when our first walk break occurred. We ended up running for seven minutes straight as a result, and this forced me to carry my interval timing watch in my right hand to make certain this did not happen again.

I also have to give special thanks to Winston for helping me let the runners know when to run and walk. I did my best to keep my fellow pace group runners on pace, but if they couldn’t hear me, they could certainly hear Winston. It’s always nice to have someone back you up in anything and everything you do.

This 5-mile run ended up making for a nice post-Halloween day. As the run came to an end, the sun started climbing out of the clouds and shone down brightly on us. At the same time, it was still raining softly and the sight of it against the sun was beautiful to take in. It reminded me of when Ron Shelton, in his commentary track for “Bull Durham,” talked about how he used machines to make it rain for certain scenes even though the sun was out and how embarrassed he was by that. Stopped being embarrassed Mr. Shelton, assuming he’s reading this, because it does happen, and it looks as beautiful as it did in your classic movie.

Someone left us some utterly delectable chocolate fudge treats which proved to be completely addictive once you tasted them. I had a couple but eventually had to force myself to lay off them as others had yet to have them, and there is the issue with that spare tire I was talking about previously.

So, it feels like we’re all off to a good start as we survived running five miles in the rain without slipping and breaking a bone in our bodies. Part of me misses the people who I have trained with in the past like Jessica, Annette, Marta and Tom among others, but I know I’m in good company with the ones who have decided to train this time around.

FUNDRAISING UPDATE: It’s now 2018 and I am training for the latest Los Angeles Marathon, and I am running it in support of The Pablove Foundation. My fundraising goal is $1,500, and to date I have raised $890 (this includes donations from my most recent Facebook fundraiser). Please help me in my efforts to lay waste to pediatric cancer. Too many lives are being cut short at far too early an age.

CLICK HERE TO MAKE A TAX-DEDUCTIBLE DONATION.