So, it has been a few weeks since I last wrote about my training for the 2019 Los Angeles Marathon. The last time I did, it was in regards to my 20-mile run which had me suffering an emotional breakdown. In addition, my knees have been hurting more than ever before. I am not in excruciating pain mind you, it’s just that after running the LA Marathon eight years in a row, my body is really feeling the mileage.
After giving much thought to it, I have decided to run the half marathon on March 24, 2019 instead of the full. After suffering several setbacks, it seemed like the smart thing to do. Still, I feel a bit depressed about making this change as it marks the first time in years I will not be running the full LA Marathon. As a result, my enthusiasm for this yearly event, the kind which brings Los Angeles together in a beautiful way, has been dimmed significantly.
But maybe the diming of my enthusiasm is the result of realizing where I am in life. In short, I’m not a young guy anymore. As much as I try to convince myself I am still demographically desirable, I have to face some inescapable facts: I am not as fast as I used to be, my body is failing me more than I care to admit, I am trailing behind everyone to where I cannot catch up with even their vapor trails, and those pounds I aim to shed off my body refuse to be shed. As much as I refuse to act my age (and who does anyway?), my body is changing, or devolving to put it midly.
I remember watching “City Slickers” on the silver screen back in 1991, and this piece of dialogue from Billy Crystal has always stayed with me:
“Have you ever had that feeling that this is the best I’m ever gonna do, this is the best I’m ever gonna feel… and it ain’t that great?”
I was still a teenager when “City Slickers” was released, and I kept thinking to myself, thank god I won’t have to worry about that for a long time. Well, a couple of decades have passed by, and there are things I need to accept as reality: lines are slowly showing up on my face, I’m getting hair where there shouldn’t be hair, and my knees are started to feel like they will collapse without much notice. I was told when I turned 18 how it was all downhill from there, but now I feel like I am going downhill faster than before, and the brakes to slow me down are a lot wobblier than they should be.
For the record, I am still keeping up with marathon training and have been attending each Saturday run the Pablove runners are expected to be at. It has been the rainiest and coldest winter Southern California in years, but neither rain nor the treacherous road that is Forest Lawn Drive can keep us from getting ready for the big day. We even broke our routine up one week and trained at the Rose Bowl in Pasadena, and running a couple of loops outside of it was refreshing.
The major upside of the last few runs was, for once, I got to run with others instead of just by myself. It’s nice to have the company as it sure helps motivate me in a way I cannot do on my own. I particularly want to thank Esther and Glendale, both whom are also running the half-marathon, for allowing me to keep up with them. And yes, it allowed me and Glendale to have a discussion about “I Spit on Your Grave” and its upcoming sequel, “I Spit on Your Grave: Déjà Vu.” The two of us are tickled to death over a direct sequel being made to this controversial cult classic all these years later, especially when you consider just how awful the first film was. Esther hasn’t seen or even heard of it, and she should consider herself lucky.
Running with these two reminded me of what kept bringing me back to LA Marathon training for several years now: the people. It’s fun running with people and talking about what the past week was like. Usually I end up running by myself to where my motivation to run more than walk is not as strong as it should be. It’s like I am Charlie Brown and lost in my own thoughts to where I inadvertently trick myself into believing I am going to win the decathlon, and we all remember how “You’re the Greatest, Charlie Brown” ended.
And again, there’s the issue with my knees. How much cartilage do they have left to work with? They ache more than usual, and I am not sure what to do about that. I keep thinking they will buckle on me when I least expect it, and I am trying to remain conscious of my running form from start to finish. George Harrison once sang about his guitar gently weeping, but my knees are not exactly weeping gently.
Also, I have been getting fatigued a lot. I spend a lot of mornings sleeping in even when I know I need to work. Maybe I was a bear in a previous life. A least they have an excuse to sleep for a long time; they hibernate. It makes me long for all the testosterone which starting leaving my body at 40. Testosterone, testosterone, my kingdom for some testosterone! Maybe I should get a bottle of Nugenix and see if it makes a difference. Frank Thomas did say “she’ll like the difference too,” so shouldn’t that be considered a solid endorsement?
Despite the setbacks, I still soldier on. Why? Well, these Saturday morning runs help give me a schedule which self-employment does not always invite (but probably should). It’s a great way for me to keep in shape even as the boundless energy I once had as a youth continues to disappear. And yes, I am doing this for a noble non-profit, The Pablove Foundation, which continues its fight against the insidious disease called pediatric cancer. No one should ever die young. No one.
We need to put more of a face on this disease. The Pablove Foundation has certainly done this, but we as runners don’t always know who we are doing this for on a personal level. Well, at least I don’t. It would serve as a strong reminder of the importance of what we do.
I hope my former marathon coach, JC Fernandez, doesn’t mind, but I wanted to share something he sent me recently:
“I neglected another important thing that I hope you have already taken to heart: YOU ARE A HERO. It can be difficult to consider when you’re focused solely on surviving the next mile of a course, but you have inspired people. People saw you run and thought, ‘Maybe I can do that.’ Furthermore, the people you’ve supported all these years are not grateful to you because of your pace. I’ve said often enough through the years that what we do is not abstract. And somewhere there is a person who at the very least struggles a bit less because of you but at the most remains alive because of you. Do not ever forget that, even if you decide to hang your cape up forever.”
JC certainly has a great point, and he and I learned from the best: Scott Boliver.
FUNDRAISING UPDATE: To date, I have raised $1,062 for The Pablove Foundation. I want to thank all of you who have supported me so far on this voyage to another LA Marathon. My fundraising goal is still $1,500, and there is still plenty of time to make a donation.
So, the last few weeks of Los Angeles Marathon training have proven to be frustrating for me. During our 18-mile run, I lost my cell phone which I mistakenly believed was safe and secure in my arm band, and I was forced to retrace my steps to where I had to abandon the run to find it. Thankfully, the police found my phone and took it to their station in Downtown Los Angeles where I recovered it. As for our 8-mile recovery run which took place the following week, those of us who bothered to show up (three or four people aside from the coaches) decided to cancel it as the rain and cold wind proved to be an unwelcome combination. Those of us who ran, or rather swam, the 2011 LA Marathon can attest to how rain and wind serves to make running a miserable experience as hypothermia becomes more of a problem than heat stroke.
The weather proved to be just as unforgiving this past weekend as rain blanketed much of Los Angeles on the morning of our longest run yet, 20 miles. As much as we would have liked to postpone it due to bad weather, we all knew we had to grin and bear it and go with the US Postal Service motto of how “neither rain nor snow” could keep us from doing our duty.
When my alarm went off at 4:30 a.m., it sounded so peaceful outside my window as I dragged myself out of bed and got my running gear on. But as I began applying anti-chafe cream over my body, I started to hear what sounded like water going through a pipe in my building which I assumed was the result of someone taking a shower next door. But no, the rain was coming down again, and it was coming down hard. I sighed as I put on an extra layer of clothing to combat the cold weather I knew I would be dealing with, and I showed no hesitation in putting on a poncho as well. Lord knows I was going to need it.
Once again, I was the first person to show up at the Pablove meeting site in Griffith Park, but I stayed in my car as the rain was still pouring down hard. The coaches and other runners showed up soon after, but even they were not in a hurry to exit their vehicles. Once Coach Joaquin got out of his, the rest of us followed suit, but I brought my umbrella with me to keep from getting doused before I started pounding the pavement. One of the runners asked if I was planning on taking my umbrella with me on this run, and I replied no. Granted, I think he meant what he said as a joke.
Just as we were about to start, I went back to my car and put my umbrella away. Once I did so, I noticed all the other Pablove runners had taken off without me. I was hoping they would wait, but considering we were starting this run an hour early due to its double-digit length, time was not about to wait for any Pablove runner. As I got underway, another runner arrived at Griffith Park a bit late and ran alongside me. However, it didn’t take long for him to leave me in the dust to where I started singing Eric Carmen’s “All by Myself” to myself.
Our route took us to the treacherous street known as Forest Lawn Drive which has a number of blind spots where cars race by at 45 miles an hour, and it also goes right by a cemetery which always feels like a bad omen. While we always run against traffic, it was decided we should run with it as the other side of the street was flooded to where we would be doused by cars looking to splash unsuspecting pedestrians even as they ran the risk of hydroplaning.
But the beauty of it all was that, as we made our way to Forest Lawn Drive, the rain suddenly stopped. Not only that, the sun began to break through the clouds. I would like to think the weather gods saw us running, recognized me and said, “Hey, you ran the 2011 LA Marathon. Okay, I’ll go easy on you. This weather must bring back bad memories.” As much as we need the rain in California, it was nice to have a break.
Once I made it to Barham Boulevard, I ran up a hill which, like any other, wiped me out very quickly to where my walk breaks lasted longer than they should have. From there, I made a left on Lake Hollywood and ran up to the reservoir, a place I have not run through or around before during marathon training. I was excited at the opportunity to run an unfamiliar place. My enthusiasm, however, was tempered a bit by a sign at the fence in front of me.
The “Keep Me Wild” sign piqued my interest, especially with the mountain lion pictured on it. I know I am not as fast as I used to be, so the chances of escaping an animal who sees me as little more than lunch are not very good to say the least. I kept thinking of the scene from “The Edge,” a terrific character drama starring Anthony Hopkins and Alec Baldwin, in which a character talks about how to avoid being attacked by a bear: put your hands up in the air, look it right in the eye and back away slowly. Of course, it was a bear he was talking about. I’m not sure the same applies to a mountain lion.
I decided to run at a pace of 3:1 as my plan was to finish this run without feeling completely fatigued. Aside from the coaches, there weren’t many familiar faces to pass by on this route. I thought about bringing one of my iPods with me so I could listen to music, but since this day started off with a lot of rain, I figured it was best to leave it behind.
Upon arriving back at Griffith Park, I ran into Coach Kerry who informed me I was running at a pace slower than 15 minutes a mile to where everyone else was now two miles ahead of me. As a result, he advised me to turn around as soon as I reached the other runners or at least when I passed the LA Zoo. I wanted to complete all 20 miles, but Coach Kerry said he didn’t have the resources to ensure my safety at this point, so I obliged him and promised to turn around sooner rather than later.
It was at this point my mood descended to a place of utter frustration. This was also complicated by me dwelling on traumatic events from the past which were suddenly reawakened in my conscious mind. I’m not going into the exact details, but they were driving me insane even as I went about the days acting like nothing was wrong. Furthermore, my knees were hurting more than usual. Granted, I should have expected many parts of my body to get sore on a long run like this, but it worsened my already pathetic mood. Once I passed the LA Zoo, I just gave up and started dragging myself back to the starting spot.
I couldn’t even get myself to run anymore as I wondered if I was really taking marathon training seriously anymore. Just because I am a veteran, does this mean I can wing it as if my body will always remember what is involved in this endurance event? How could I have fallen so far behind everyone else? This is not supposed to be a lonely time for me, is it? Soon after, I found myself crying. I was miserable and felt like I was letting everyone down.
Eventually, Coach Joaquin caught up to me, and as much as I tried to put on a happy face, I just couldn’t do it. I broke down in tears in front of him, and he encouraged me to let it all out. He also told me to “be a man,” but he didn’t mean that in the way most men do. It wasn’t about putting on a strong face and not crying. It was about acknowledging how I felt to where I could deal with my depressed feelings. Clearly I was having a bad day, let alone a bad week, and pretending like nothing was wrong would have been harmful more than anything else. Joaquin told me tomorrow was another day which I come into with a better mood, and that things will be better before I knew it.
Still, as I stood by my lonesome at Griffith Park, I couldn’t hide my sadness as it felt like my body was failing me in a way which was irreversible. Coach Kerry also took notice of my mood and reminded me of all the hard work I have done over these past nine years, and he even said he just started running again for the first time in two years and ended up injuring himself in the process. Also, he said I could always do the half-marathon instead of the full LA Marathon this March as he has yet to register everyone and encouraged me to take the day to think about it. He reminded me of how people have good and bad marathon seasons, and that there was no shame if I decided to do the half instead. I could still run on marathon day.
While I rewarded myself with Sausage McMuffin with Egg meal at my local McDonald’s, my mood had only brightened so much as I still felt kind of separate from the rest of the Pablove runners. It even made me wonder if all the marathons I had done previously meant much in the eyes of my fellow teammates and coaches. I know it helps to be humble, but I want my accomplishments to have more meaning than they already do.
Coach Kerry told me to take a day and think about if I wanted to run the half marathon instead of the full LA Marathon this March. As I tried to have a debate with myself on this, I realized I had already made up my mind. I got in touch with Kerry and told him I will be running the half marathon instead since I was falling behind constantly, and also because me knees were feeling the strain more than ever before (I spent most of Saturday with ice packs on them).
So, this will be the first time in years I won’t be running the full Los Angeles Marathon. While this feels a bit frustrating and disappointing, it is all for the best. I will still be there on March 24th pounding the pavement, and I will still be raising money for The Pablove Foundation as their fight against pediatric cancer rages on. To date, I have raised $652 dollars towards my fundraising goal of $1,500. Please only donate what you can.
And yes, there is no shame in a man crying. Trust me, I have been proving this to be the case for decades.
After a week where rainstorms pounded Los Angeles to where new potholes formed next to the ones which still need to be filled, the sun finally came out again to our collective delight. Yes, sunny weather is the usual norm in Southern California, but we have not seen the sun for the last few days, and a few days here can feel like a whole month. What a pleasure it was to play “Here Comes the Sun” by The Beatles when it thankfully broke through the clouds after a long hiatus.
Following last week’s 16-mile run, the Pablove group was set to do a recovery run of eight miles. I kept myself from doing any maintenance runs during the week as my right foot was still hurting a bit, and after finding myself limping into a nearby McDonald’s for that favorite breakfast of mine, I put ice on it at any given opportunity. Instead of running, I did a couple of rounds of boxing on Wii Sports. Laugh all you want, but I always get one hell of a cardio workout from it.
I arrived at Griffith Park ten minutes before 7:00 a.m., and I would like to add how I was the first Pablove runner to show up there. And yes, I was also the last Pablove runner to finish their run, something which I have no doubt comes as no surprise.
This eight-mile run took us outside of Griffith Park and into Burbank where we ran up and down the familiar streets which surround the local parks and Disney Studios. For once, I found myself really keeping up with my fellow runners to where I was convinced I would be finishing alongside them for a change. Woo-hoo! Well, that’s what I thought anyway.
For most of this training season, I have not bothered running at any specific pace. Everyone else seems determined to run for several minutes straight and walk for what I am guessing is thirty seconds. As a result, I felt obligated to keep up with them as best as I could. But as the run went on, the runners ahead of me became less and less visible, and I was once again all by myself. Glendale (the man, not the city), was behind me, but I believe he is doing the half-marathon this year as he typically cuts his runs short.
My right foot no longer hurts I am happy to report. As much as I would have liked to have done my maintenance runs, it was in my best interest to stay off my feet throughout the week. It was also in my best interest to be conscious of how I was standing throughout the day. This nasty habit of standing on the side of my right foot did me no favors, and this is a habit which needs to die hard.
When I reached the turn around point, Coach Joaquin told me to run the next block or two at 80%, and then to walk the block after that. With us getting closer and closer to the day of the LA Marathon, we needed to step up our game. It was nice to know I could still run very fast even after pounding the pavement or asphalt for four miles.
Still, I found myself taking more walk breaks than I thought I would. I got off to a really good start on this run, and I found myself getting a bit winded a mile five. It was worth walking to enjoy the beautiful and sunny morning as, again, we have seen one like this in the last few days. Eventually, I had to remind myself of how the finish line wasn’t as close as I thought it was.
When I crossed the finish line a number of minutes later, I was pleased to see some of my fellow runners such as Jasmine waiting for me. The coaches were also pleased to see me and applauded as I wrapped up my eight miles, and not just because it meant they could finally get in their cars and drive home.
I felt like I really earned the Sausage McMuffin with Egg meal I got at McDonald’s afterwards. On any other day, I would have gone to the nearest Denny’s to indulge in the forbidden meal which is the Moons Over My Hammy sandwich, but I didn’t feel like going to an establishment where I had to wait an extended period of time to eat.
Next week we run 18 miles, and I will be ready for it. Those maintenance runs will be taken care of, and cardio exercises will be made a priority. We’re moving on up to the west side, and it is not meant to be an easy conquest.
It was raining surprisingly hard in Los Angeles the night before our latest Pablove run. Getting a decent night’s sleep was rather difficult as the rain was LOUD and quickly brought back memories of when I ran the 2011 LA Marathon. That was the first full marathon I ever ran, and those who survived it will always refer to it always as “the monsoon marathon.” The joke was we didn’t run it, we swam it as the rain poured down on us with no sympathy whatsoever, and a harsh wind blew at us from the side which made things even worse. Instead of heat stroke, we had to worry about hypothermia.
These memories rushed through my head as I got ready to drive out to Griffith Park in Burbank. We were going to run 16 miles, so the effort to keep dry was of the upmost necessity. Granted, we need whatever rainstorms we can get in California, and this is regardless of whether or not we are dealing with a drought. Sometimes I look at those heavy clouds in the sky to where I want to yell at them, “Hey, pretend this is Seattle!”
For the record, I arrived at Griffith Park 20 minutes before the clock struck 7:00 am, and Coach Joaquin said I could go ahead if I wanted to. Instead, I wanted to wait up for my fellow runners so I could start with them. Things however were complicated by my sudden need to go to the bathroom. That Promax chocolate chip cookie dough energy bar went right through me, and I didn’t want to start running while carrying an extra load if you know what I mean. I drove to the nearest portable toilet which was several yards away to, you know, drop the kids in the pool. When I returned, more of my fellow Pablove runners had shown up and were ready to go.
I did have my red poncho on, but there was big rip in it in the chest area, and I was concerned it would not keep me dry as a result. Fortunately, Coach Joaquin had brought several supplies including some emergency ponchos. As I took off my red poncho to put on a new one, my fellow Pablove runner Jasmine said, “Don’t take that off! It’s freezing!” It may not be negative 40 degrees in Burbank, but yeah, it was especially frigid this Saturday morning. But by the time I put the poncho on, and finding the right opening for the head was a little challenging, my fellow Pablove runners had already taken off. I was bummed I didn’t get to start with them as it meant I would be running all by myself once again.
Now this 16-mile run was originally supposed to take us outside of Griffith Park and onto the streets of Burbank, and this included Forest Lawn Drive which is always one of the most dangerous streets to run on. The fact it goes by a cemetery makes it all the more dangerous, let alone ominous. But with the streets being especially wet, Coach Joaquin changed the route to something he described as being far more “boring.” Fearing we would get splashed by oncoming cars which would revel in driving through water puddles against their better judgment, he kept our route inside the confines of Griffith Park. The upside? No hills.
Going into this run, I did have a pain of sorts in my right foot. For some bizarre reason, I fell into the unneeded habit of walking on the side of my foot to where I struggled in my maintenance runs during the week. I wasn’t in agony or anything, but I was feeling hobbled by this inescapable irritation I felt as I ran in my neighborhood while listening to the latest episode of “The Ralph Report.”
As I ran through Griffith Park and avoided the wet leaves on the ground which are ever so easy to slip on, the irritation in my right foot was there in a way I could not consciously ignore. I began to wonder if I should cut this run short as the risk of injuring myself was higher than usual. At the same time, this is the longest run we have gone on to date, and I am not a fan of cutting any run short, and that’s even if doing so is for my own benefit.
While running, I came across the much younger runners of the group Students Run LA. Seeing their thin and healthy bodies proved to be a cruel reminder of how my body is nowhere as svelte as it used to be. I just hate, once we get past the age of (expletive deleted) years old, that our metabolism is not at all what it used to be. The world can be far too cruel to us as we get older.
Coach Lourdes was also on hand at the turn around to give us treats like oranges, bananas and peanut butter and jelly sandwiches. Any and all treats she had on hand were a welcome delight as I consumed them and headed on back in the direction I came.
Because of the sudden change in our route, we were made to run the same way twice. But when I went around again, the irritation in my right foot became especially irritating, and I began to wonder if I should call it a day. This led to me getting stuck in my own head as I debated whether or not to continue. A part of me felt it necessary to soldier on as the LA Marathon will be here before we know it. But the other part was intent on convincing me it was best to call it a day before things got worse. This debate raged in my head as I ran by lonesome across the soaked streets of Griffith Park, and there was no one nearby to help me decide.
In the end, I decided to turn around and head back to the starting line. As much as I would have loved to run all 16 miles, it made more sense to cut this run short as my right foot was giving me more grief than my knees do on a regular occasion. All the same, I was still kicking myself for not running all 16 miles. I cannot help but feel like I am failing myself and the Pablove team by not running the distance we all were expected to traverse. I guess I just love beating the shit out of myself for no good reason.
I explained to Coach Joaquin why I ended my run sooner than expected, and he was very understanding. When all is said and done, I did run 11 miles which is especially impressive considering my situation, and I got to finish alongside many of my fellow Pablove runners in a way I wouldn’t have otherwise.
In retrospect, it’s a good thing I stopped when I did as the rain began pouring down again with a vengeance even before I started driving back to my apartment. Imagine if I was still pounding the pavement when this happened; that new poncho I wore would have come in very handy!
I didn’t even bother using an umbrella as I walked into a nearby McDonald’s restaurant to purchase two Sausage McMuffin with Egg Sandwiches (one was not going to be enough) as I was too lazy and exhausted to worry about getting pneumonia.
The rest of my day was spent resting and putting ice on my right foot in an effort to ease the pain or irritation or whatever you want to call it. We have a recovery run next week of eight miles, and I hope and pray I will be in one piece when it comes. I have trained for this same marathon for several years now, and I fear my body may be taking more of a beating than usual.
The wretched year that was 2018 has now vanished into the annals of history, and 2019 is here with the promise of hope and better things. This is a wave I am eager to ride for as long as humanly possible. It also brought the Pablove runners back to Griffith Park in Burbank for our first run of the new year. We were all out of town for the holidays, and now we are back to burn off all those calories we willingly put on. I could say I was forced to do so, but this would be a flagrant lie.
The first run of the year also serves as a memorial to one of the greatest marathon coaches you could ever hope to have, Scott Boliver. Scott coached us during our Team to End AIDS (T2EA) days while he fought a brave battle against cancer, and he called this battle “slay the dragon.” For the record, he did beat cancer to a bloody pulp, but his body still gave out and we lost him six years ago. I was devastated to learn of his loss as was everybody else, and it felt so unfair. Heaven may be lacking in angels, but it can’t be lacking that many.
This memorial run always brings out past runners who may not be training this season, but they are still infinitely eager to pay their respects to Scott. Among them was JC Fernandez, another marathon coach from my T2EA days who proved to me he still reads my articles on The Ultimate Rabbit when he told me, “Hey, you’re here on time!” Yes, I arrived at Griffith Park 15 minutes before 7:00 a.m. in the past instead of showing up after announcements by Coach Joaquin have been made or when all the runners have taken off before my, I’m assuming, eager arrival.
Also showing up for this important occasion were Stephen, Virginia, Cristie and Jody, and it is always nice to see friends from the past. Another person I was thrilled to see arrive was Gene who has the kind of infinite enthusiasm we all want to bottle up for a profit. I also would like to add he arrived in a Tesla. This is the kind of car powered by electricity, but knowing Gene, he could power it up with his infinite enthusiasm. Heck, he could power it for years!
But the most important guests in attendance were Scott’s parents and his wife Dolly. We went over to the tree planted in Scott’s honor where Dolly thanked us for showing up, and she did say this while bursting into tears to where Scott’s parents lent their support to her as she fought her way through sadness to talk to us. Those who knew Scott loved and found him to be one of the most inspirational human beings who ever walked the face of the earth, and the fact he was taken from us at far too young an age still feels deeply unfair.
Speaking of the tree, it has grown so much since the last training season. It doesn’t need much to keep it standing straight anymore. Just look at it.
As a result of the memorial, our run started a half hour late, and no one could blame me for that (LOL). This was a six-mile run for both the half and full marathoners, and it took us outside of Griffith Park and onto the asphalt streets and sidewalks in Burbank. For the most part it was a flat run, but then there was Fairview Avenue, the most deceptive of all hills.
Here’s the thing about Fairview Avenue; from a distance it does not look like a hill as the street appears quite level. But once you run up it, your legs quickly realize you are going uphill and get really mad as a result. My legs were telling me, “You lied! This is a hill! You insane bastard!” As for my knees, they gave up arguing with me a long time ago.
Once I managed to haul my ass up to the top, and it always takes much longer than it ever should, I caught up with Coach Joaquin who was all smiles, and he pointed out where the turn around point was which only a few yards away. Joaquin then assured me it was all downhill from there, and that phrase always sounds so sweet.
As usual, I was the last one to cross the finish line. But for the record, I did three maintenance runs this past week instead of the two we are asked to do, and this was while I was on vacation in the Bay Area. Even before I made it back to Los Angeles, I was working hard to burn off all those calories from the delicious food I feasted on. My dad loves to cook!
Next week will has us Pablove runners running 16 miles. Now we are getting serious! If I don’t get any form of exercise from now until next Saturday, I am a full-blown masochist.
FUNDRAISING UPDATE: As you all know, I am running this particular Los Angeles Marathon in support of The Pablove Foundation, a non-profit determined to find a cure for pediatric cancer. To date, I have raised $531 towards my fundraising goal of $1,500. It’s a new year, so don’t hesitate to make a tax-deductible donation before the end of it. Click here to find out how you can donate.
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.
The end of the year is rapidly approaching, and I encourage you to make one of your last tax-deductible donations to The Pablove Foundation which is dedicated to finding a cure for pediatric cancer. It’s an amazing organization I encourage you all to support, and I still have a way to go with my fundraising. Click here to learn more.
I made it back to Los Angeles the day before, but I still had to make some money as bills will never pay themselves like they should, so I didn’t get as much sleep as I should have for this Saturday’s run. Nevertheless, I managed to wake up before 6 a.m. before the alarm on my cellphone went off. However, I did get a bit distracted by the late Jonathan Demme’s “Married to the Mob” which was playing on television, and it remains one of my favorite movies of his. Michelle Pfeiffer was sheer perfection, Dean Stockwell played one of the few likable mob bosses in cinematic history, and Mercedes Ruehl stole every scene she was in.
Anyway, I arrived at Griffith Park in Burbank just as my fellow Pablove runners were beginning their warm-up exercises. These exercises seem simple in design, but they usually serve as a reminder of how my core muscles need to be strengthened more than I bother to realize. It’s all about the cores people, trust me.
This run had us full marathoners going 8 miles, and it took us up and down the backside of Griffith Park. This of course meant we had to run up that never ending hill which never ceases to punish those who ascend it. It doesn’t matter how good of a runner you are. Going up the backside always sucks the wind out of you. We were encouraged to shuffle up it, but even shuffling had me winded to where my walk breaks lasted longer than my time running.
When I came up to the one-mile sign, I wanted to curse it. This sign never comes soon enough on a run, and when I finally reach it, it looks like it is there just to laugh and sneer at me. There are runs where I feel like I have just completed 3 miles, and the one-mile sign shows up as if to say, “psych!” Damn you, one-mile sign! DAMN YOU!!!
But then, upon closer observation, I realized the sign didn’t have the number one on it, but instead an up arrow. The arrow served as a reminder of the direction we needed to run in, as if it were not already obvious. Naturally, I felt like a schmuck for not noticing this at first glance. We all make mistakes and we are never perfect, and it could have been worse; I could have gone in the wrong direction. All the same, DAMN YOU ONE-MILE SIGN!!!
After finally reaching the top, I kept my speed in check as I descended down the other side. For a moment, I wondered if I was running in the wrong direction as Griffith Park became a little too silent for my taste. The drums of Robin Russell really would have been welcome at this point, but I guess he had a gig elsewhere.
Thankfully, Coach Lourdes was there to assure me I was going the right way. And yes, I did pass my fellow runners as they made their way back to where we started. As I made my way back, Lourdes became a bit concerned as I was coughing quite a bit. She asked if I was sick, and I replied I was not but that my allergies were having their way with me to where I wonder why I keep forgetting to invest in the Kleenex company. Maybe the air was dry or dusty. Lord knows the air quality in Los Angeles is never great, and those devastating wildfires have certainly made it even worse.
I have been thinking a lot about getting one of those Navage nose irrigation devices as I feel it will flush out all of my allergies to where my trash cans won’t be filled to the brim with used facial tissues. The only problem is the device costs $90 dollars, and this is a tiny bit more than I want to spend. Any suggestions? Would this be worth increasing my credit card debt for?
I made it back to where we started in one piece, and I was thrilled to see some of my fellow runners were still hanging around when I arrived. Typically, they are pretty quick to get in their cars and speed off, but I guess including the Hall & Oates song “Wait for Me” in one of my previous articles was enough to guilt trip a few Pablove runners into seeing me cross the finish line.
Regardless of my occasional cough, I came out of this run feeling good to where I felt the need to reward myself with a Sausage McMuffin with Egg sandwich at McDonald’s. As much as I should be avoiding fast food restaurants at my age, the breakfast meals at McDonald’s remain infinitely delicious after all these years. Even my dad loves their breakfast sandwiches, and he hates McDonald’s.
To be honest, this training season for the LA Marathon is going better than I expected. Hopefully I am not getting overconfident here, but I came into this season thinking I was not entirely ready to start training. I was hoping to start training more extensively before the Pablove runners met up for their first run, but balancing out running with making a living is always challenging as the latter wins out more often than not. But this time I want to burn the fat off my belly more than ever before. Here’s hoping I will once again look as svelte as I did back in high school. Anything is possible. Anything.
Once again, I implore you to make a tax-deductible donation to The Pablove Foundation which I am running this LA Marathon in support of. They are dedicated to finding a cure for pediatric cancer, and while millions of dollars are spent by our government each year on cancer research, only a tiny portion of it goes towards pediatric cancer research. This disease will not cure itself, so please lend a helping hand.
The air has cleared up to a certain extent, in Southern California anyway, so we Pablove runners were reunited on a misty Saturday morning for our latest run. Full marathoners were tasked with running six miles while those running a half-marathon only had to pound the pavement for three. After a week which saw Californians all over battling out of control fires which laid waste to far too many homes, doing any kind of exercise was a great way to deal with the anxiety brought on by catastrophes of all kinds which have become far too common in the United States of America.
It’s only marathon training which cab get me up out of bed so ridiculously early on a Saturday morning. Usually it takes me forever to haul my ass out of bed, but I woke up a good half hour before my six o’clock alarm was set to go off. I had a cookies and cream Promax bar which tasted a little weird when compared to the usual chocolate chip cookie dough bar I buy from the supermarket. I covered the important parts of my body with petroleum jelly as I had run out of anti-chafe cream, and I sprayed more Neutrogena sunblock over my body than I needed to as the sun was obscured by fog among other things.
As I drove to Griffith Park, I played the new 40th anniversary edition of The Beatles’ “White Album” which features a new sound mix by Giles Martin, son of the late George Martin. Playing this new mix on my car stereo is aural perfection as Giles makes it sound like I am right in the middle of the studio with John, Paul, George and Ringo as they play their hearts out from one song to the next. I put on the second disc which features one of my all-time favorite Beatles songs, “Birthday.” I first heard this song when it was performed by The Rock-a-Fire-Explosion Band back at Showbiz Pizza Place in Marietta, Georgia years ago, and it took a long time for me to realize it was originally a Beatles song.
In retrospect, I should have played the first disc of the “White Album” as songs like “Back in the U.S.S.R.” and “Ob-La-Di, Ob-La-Da” would have pumped me up a bit more. Actually, I should have played John Carpenter’s score to “The Fog.” Every time I see fog or heavy mist surrounding the towns I happen to be in, the main theme from that movie immediately starts playing in my head.
Coach Joaquin’s main message to us this morning was to remain consistent in our training. Each week, we need to run a number of miles to increase our endurance for the big day. It gets to where two maintenance runs of 30 to 45 minutes each may not be enough, and Joaquin encouraged us to keep in shape and workout in any way we can. One of my fellow runners admitted she was unable to get any maintenance runs in this past week as she was tremendously busy with work. That’s the problem, life keeps getting in the way of everything we want and need to do.
This run was confined to Griffith Park, and I decided to run at a 2:2 pace as I had the previous Saturday. My goal was to keep my fellow runners in my sights, and I actually managed to do this for a time. The start of this run had us running up the backside of Griffith Park, and this hill is one which constantly knocks the wind out of even the most experienced of runners. Coach Joaquin encouraged us to shuffle up the hill as running up it would be counterproductive among other things. As I attempted to ascend this hill, I kept thinking of the song “Harlem Shuffle” which was used to great effect in Edgar Wright’s movie “Baby Driver,” and it kept me from over exerting myself.
When I reached the one-mile sign, I could not help but feel astonished. I had only run just one? It felt like I just ran two, and now I had to turn around and run several more. Regardless, I watched my speed as I ran downhill. If I were on a bike, I would revel in my ability to decrease the altitude I was at, but as a runner I have long since known that increasing my velocity would also increase the odds of me injuring myself. Yes, there is a brain in this very large head of mine.
As the Pablove runners began heading in the other direction, the two in front of me decided to cut their run short, and once again I was all by myself. I managed to keep up with the 2:2 pace for the most part, determined not to keep my coaches waiting too long for me to return. As I approached the turn around point, I met up with the other Pablove runners who kept encouraging me to keep it up, and I was convinced I would switch directions in no time.
Now this is an especially tricky situation in regards to running, the thought it will soon be over. When this happens, time suddenly becomes much slower to where you wonder if someone moved the turn around sign or if your friends will prank you by moving the finish line away as you rapidly approach it. A certain panic runs over me as I begin to think I have run too far, and situations like these have me almost flagellating myself. Stupid, stupid, stupid!
Fortunately, I did run into Coach Joaquin at one point who ran with me to the turn around point which was marked by an old Team to End AIDS sign. We ran together for a bit, and then he went on ahead to pick up any signs left over. Once again, I was the last runner to finish, but hopefully I can speed things up before the big day in March.
Why do I keep coming back to train for this marathon? Well, I guess there’s always the chance of improving my performance, the need to lose this spare tire I keep carrying around on my stomach, and when those endorphins kick in, I feel a lot better about myself than I usually do. Still, life gets in the way and there’s only so much exercise I can get in during the week. This time, I need to exercise more regularly. I have long missed the days when I was a svelte individual. Here’s hoping I can experience them again very soon.
“Number 9, number 9, number 9, number 9, number 9, number 9, number 9, number 9, number 9, number 9, number 9, number 9, number 9, number 9, number 9…”
-from “Revolution 9” by The Beatles
This is what should have been playing on my alarm clock this morning.
It’s that time of year again. Another Halloween has come and gone, and you know what that means. The weather in Southern California finally begins to get colder and summer has finally overstayed its welcome. Granted, as I write this, it’s now mid-afternoon and a balmy 80 degrees outside, but I still prefer to wear jeans instead of shorts regardles. And yes, daylight savings time is about to end, but while I look forward to the extra hour of sleep, seeing the evenings look like midnight when it is only 5 or 6 pm has never sat well with me. I’m sick of the day feeling over before it actually is over.
But most importantly, it is now time to start training again for the Los Angeles Marathon. Just when I thought the time had come to take a break, the pull of running 26.2 miles through the streets of an ethnically diverse city where complete strangers cheer you on remains very strong even as my knees doth protest. Once again, I will wake up at an ungodly hour on Saturday mornings to run through Griffith Park, Burbank and other parts of North Hollywood for the next several weeks to increase my endurance for a run many of my friends have convinced themselves they could never do. If I had a nickel for every time someone I knew told me, “I can’t even run a mile,” I’d own a Volkswagen Passat… Wait a minute, I do own a Volkswagen Passat…
And once again, I will be raising money for The Pablove Foundation which continues its mission to find a cure for pediatric cancer.
As usual, I waited until the last second to sign up. To be honest, today is the first day I have been running since the 2018 LA Marathon, and seven or eight months ago. I meant to start training several weeks beforehand, but I got waylaid by the common cold which made it harder than usual for me to get out of bed, and it is usually very hard to haul my ass out of bed on a regular basis. It proved to be especially frustrating because I never get sick, ever. Seriously, ask anybody. Damn post nasal drip!
Anyway, I jumped out of bed, got all my running gear together, spread an obscene amount of anti-chafe cream all over my body, put on lots of sunscreen (Neutrogena sunscreen is the best), consumed a Promax chocolate cookie dough protein bar, drank the last of the grape flavored generic Pedialyte beverage I left in the fridge, and I opened up a can of Celsius to give me a boost of energy. From there, I exited my apartment building with an enthusiasm I usually lack on a daily basis and jumped into my car and drove out to Griffith Park to start another year of marathon training, and the second in support of The Pablove Foundation which continues its brave fight against pediatric cancer.
While I made my way into Burbank, I listened to the soundtrack for the new “Halloween” movie composed by John Carpenter, Cody Carpenter and Daniel Davies. Now listening to the film score to a movie about a psychotic killer coming back to a small town to kill unsuspecting residents while going off to start training for a marathon may seem a little strange, but hey, whatever works…
It was a relatively cold morning in Griffith Park when I arrived, and Coach Kerry was already on the scene addressing the troops. Like last year, the turnout of runners proved to be small yet intimate, and it was great to see familiar faces like Esther and Glendale who were all smiles. I also got to say hi to Jasmine who I ran the 2018 LA Marathon with and who managed to complete it despite suffering from the flu. In a Facebook post, I told everyone I was coming back, but that my first run would probably be terrible as I haven’t been running much recently. Jasmine replied, “I’m with you Ben, I’m going to be slower than tectonic plate shifts.” Of course, out here in California, tectonic plate shifts could be even slower than they already are.
Coaching us this season is Joaquin, a Team to End AIDS veteran who may speak softly, but he is dedicated to get us across the finish line next March and feeling happy about it. After doing a few warm up exercises, us Pablove runners started off and headed towards the Gene Autry Museum. Those running a half marathon only had to run two miles, but us full marathoners ran four instead. Maybe I should be doing just the half at this point in my life, but I am always overly ambitious when it comes to running.
Truth be told, I did much better than I thought I would. I started off at an easy pace and kept myself at 3:1 (running three minutes, and then walking for one minute). I managed to keep my fellow Pablove runners in my sights for the most part, and it gave me the illusion I was better prepared than I expected.
I got to the turn around point, and yes, that darn Bonnie Tyler song started playing in my head. I managed to shut its depressing melody down in my mind as I made my way back to the starting point. As I made my way back, I started to get a bit winded to where my walking breaks could not come soon enough. Still, despite my weight making me slower than usual, I still hauled my ass all the way over to the finish line. Even better, many of my fellow Pablove runners were still around to cheer my return. Last season, they were all gone by the time I made it back, and the only ones left were the coaches who must have been wondering if I would ever show up.
I came into this run thinking it is just four miles, and this time it really was just four miles. Short runs can be deceiving for a marathon veteran as what seems like a piece of cake can be anything but. Now the first run is done, and I have to make a commitment to train even harder than ever before. It’s not just going to come down to two 30 to 45-minute maintenance runs a week. It also has to include cardio exercises each day whether its at the local gym or working out with my Nintendo Wii Fit or Wii Sports boxing. Hey, don’t laugh at the latter. I know a guy who lost 60 pounds working out to Wii Sports boxing on a regular basis.
So, here’s to another season of marathon training come rain or come shine, and here’s to me taking on the LA Marathon for the ninth year in a row. Lou Bega has “Mambo No. 5,” and I have marathon number 9, number 9, number 9, number 9, number 9, number 9…
It was almost hard to believe, but the time had finally come to run 26.2 miles through the vast city of Los Angeles. The day of the 2018 Los Angeles Marathon had finally arrived. Was I prepared? I couldn’t say for sure. This is the eighth year in a row I have ran this event, a brutal test of endurance, and while I am a true marathon veteran, I still approached this particular one with much nervousness. Was I really ready? Had I done all the training I needed to do? The only way I would know for sure is when I crossed the finish line, and I was determined to cross it regardless of any concerns I had.
We had a wonderful and delicious celebration dinner at Maggiano’s Little Italy Restaurant located in The Grove the Friday night before the big day, and from there we were encouraged to get as much rest as possible. Since there was a full bar nearby, Coach Kerry said we could have all the alcohol we wanted, but he made it clear we were not to touch a drop of it on Saturday. As for myself, I abstained from drinking any alcohol throughout the week as running this event completely dehydrated was not much of an option.
I did have to work for a few hours Saturday night, and getting to sleep was challenging as always. While I had a very restful sleep Friday thanks to Temazepam, I found myself understandably restless as I knew what I would experience following the marathon, soreness which would feel never ending. Plus, a new episode of “Saturday Night Live” was on, and it was being hosted by Bill Hader with musical guest Arcade Fire, an unbeatable combination. Somehow, I managed to turn my television off before I could see him reprise his endlessly hilarious character, Stefon, on Weekend Update. Still, my mind would not rest until I made a payment of any kind on my past due credit card bill. Afterwards, I read several chapters of Amy Poehler’s memoir, “Yes Please,” before I found myself sliding into the realm of sleep. Considering I couldn’t get myself to put the book down for a long time, this was surprising.
The alarm on my Android phone and my interval timing watch went off simultaneously at 3:15 a.m., and for once it didn’t take long for me to haul my ass out of bed like it does any other day of the week. I had set up everything the night before, so I was all set to go. I even took out the trash as walking anywhere following the marathon was out of the question. My running shoes, which I bought only a couple of weeks ago from A Runner’s Circle (I was in and out of there in less than 5 minutes), were right next to the gym bag I packed with a change of clothes, deodorant, another pair of shoes and whatever else I needed following this amazing event which inspires in even those who do not run it. Unlike the night before when I was panicking about all the things I was afraid I would forget, I was quick and efficient in getting out the door at a reasonable time.
One thing I was especially thankful for this time around was how much cooler the weather was. The last few years have seen the Los Angeles Marathon deluged by high temperatures which meant we had a better chance at getting sunburned than in setting a new personal record. So, considering how the forecast was predicting this Sunday to be an especially cold one made me very happy as, for the first time in years, we would not be feeling like shish kabobs on the grill as we passed through Century City on our way to Santa Monica.
The line to get on a bus which would take us from Santa Monica to Dodger Stadium moved a lot faster than in previous years, and I arrived at Dodger Stadium in what felt like record time. However, I do have to say the bus I was on bounced around a lot to where I wondered if the shock absorbers on it needed to be replaced a long time ago.
Unlike previous years when I ran with Team to End AIDS where we had a suite inside Dodger Stadium, us Pablove Foundation runners had to wait outside in the freezing cold right next to the UPS vans which served as the gear check stations. The fact I was able to find any fellow Pablove runners in the midst of the thousands of others was amazing as I expected to see them. But sure enough, I ran into a couple of them as they tried to figure out where the hell everyone else was. Eventually, those Pablove runners who were not stuck in traffic met up with one another in front of the Los Angeles Road Runners gear check van. It says a lot about that this group got their own UPS van unlike all the others.
While I was glad the weather cooled down a lot this marathon year (as much as it can in the realm of global warming anyway), it proved to be a very chilly morning in Santa Monica to where my teeth were chattering uncontrollably. I had a couple of non-cotton shirts on as wearing the Pablove singlet by itself was a little too horrifying as it is already clear to the world I have yet to reach my ideal weight. I also was wearing a UCLA cotton jacket which I picked up from the local Goodwill Store the day before, but even then, I was moving my legs around in an effort to keep warm.
All the Pablove runners had the foundation’s logo proudly displayed on their outfits whether it was on their singlets or their socks. The socks were pink by the way, a color which doesn’t always look great on me, but on this day, it didn’t matter. They were given to me a while back, and they have proven to be a great and much-needed pair when it seemed like all my other pairs have gone past their prime.
Coach Kerry was supposed to meet up with us before the marathon began, but he ended up getting stuck in traffic as there was an accident on the freeway. Still, it was all good because the support system was definitely in place as we always look out for one another.
At around a quarter till 7 a.m., we went to our individual corrals which were designated by the pace we were running per mile. I had been running a 15-minute mile pace this season, but I ended up waiting in the 13-minute corral instead as Walter, a fellow marathon veteran, was there and it felt good to start off with a fellow T2EA/Pablove runner before we lost sight of one another.
The Elite Runners were the first to start, and when Randy Newman’s “I Love L.A.” began playing on the speakers, we knew it was our time to start. However, just as it felt like we were proceeding to the starting line, everyone was starting and stopping at a rather alarming pace to where it felt like we were on the 405 freeway during rush hour. Seriously, if you ever want to know what the life of a snail is like, drive on the 405 when the work day is over. It doesn’t take long for it to resemble a used car lot. At one point, I yelled out Al Pacino’s famous line from “Carlito’s Way” of “here come the pain!” Walter laughed and replied, “Well, not yet!”
By the way, I always wonder why the organizers of the L.A. Marathon never bother to play “Walking in L.A.” by Missing Persons as we head to the starting line. Even they must be getting sick of “I Love L.A.” by now.
Anyway, I managed to get across the starting line while stepping over all the sweaters, jackets and mylar blankets which other runners tossed away once they began running. We do what we can to keep ourselves warm, but when we start running, people don’t hesitate to shed the extra layers of clothing they don’t need. The trick is not to trip over anything as there is always something on the road for us to trip over or slip on to where the marathon can end as quickly as it began.
As I made my way out of Dodger Stadium, my teeth were still chattering as the temperature was still at around 50 degrees, and I soon became impatient for the weather to warm up, if only a little. Obviously, I didn’t want to experience another hot summer day while running this event, but I also don’t want frost forming on my clothes like it did several years ago. Believe me, there was a time when it did snow in Burbank.
While there is always some joker at the start of the race holding up a sign which says “the end is near,” I found it both very reassuring how one guy proudly held up a sign which said, “The End is Very Far.” For once, someone spoke the truth at Dodger Stadium.
And as you can expect, the Bible thumpers were all over the place, holding up signs which said “Jesus Saves” among other things or trying to get our attention through the use of megaphones and yelling out, “Give your life to Jesus!” Now I don’t know any of these people personally, but they strike me as a group who has taken the word of the Bible ever so literally to where they won’t allow themselves, or anyone else, to question it. Most of the runners I saw were annoyed by their presence, and one put his hand behind his head to make it look like he had horns. The Bible thumper with the megaphone saw him said, “Yeah, I see you. This guy likes to worship Satan.” Everyone in the vicinity laughed out loud in response.
As we made our way from Silverlake into Chinatown, I once again was in awe at the sight of thousands of runners making their way through the city. It remains quite the image every time I run this marathon as it feels like the whole city has joined in to either run it, volunteer for it, or to simply be a spectator. I wanted to take a picture of this, but my damn Android phone kept shutting down on me even though it had 90% power. Seriously, when did this device turn into an iPhone?
From there, we made our way into the unmistakably urban streets of Downtown Los Angeles, and it was at this point the temperature rose into the high 60’s. Once I took my UCLA jacket off (I went to UCI by the way), I wrapped it around my waist as I figured it would still be needed with the weather being so cold. When I ran this marathon for the second time, I held onto the second-hand jacket I bought for the whole thing as the winds kept howling like crazy to where I kept waiting for all the palm trees in Santa Monica to get blown over. But it soon became clear that, while there was still a nice breeze in effect, the temperature was not about to drop down to where it once was, so I ended up ditching the jacket at around Hope Street. It either fell into the hands of a second-hand shop employee and may end up being sold yet again at the Goodwill store I bought it from, or it made some homeless person very happy.
Incidentally, this country really needs to get back to fighting wars on poverty and not poor people.
In Downtown LA, I went up the first of several hills this marathon had to offer, and it never fails to test my limits as I force myself to run up the street where all the courthouses are at. One thing which really helps on this hill is the presence of all those Taiko Drummers who gleefully pound away at a furious pace to where I think they are playing the “Tsunami” theme which was featured in “Rising Sun.” I have the soundtrack, and as a teenager I often found myself boogying out to this music as it forced you to shed your inhibitions in a way other music could not.
At around mile five, I heard someone from behind me calling my name. It turned out to be Jasmine, one of my fellow Pablove runners who was quickly catching up with me. At the Pablove celebration dinner, Jasmine told me she had been really sick this past week to where she wasn’t sure she would be able to run the marathon. But she did indeed show up and in a hazmat suit as well. When I first saw her in the suit, I couldn’t help but tell her, “I loved you on ‘Breaking Bad!’”
Jasmine was still under the weather as she caught up with me, but I wouldn’t have known how sick she was if she hadn’t told me. I really admired her for persevering despite dealing with the flu, and she called me a lifesaver as I continued at 3:1 pace. While part of me wanted to see if I could set a new personal record and finish in less than six hours, it felt more appropriate to stick with Jasmine as she confessed to me that I was saving her life. You know what? Jasmine explained it best in her Facebook post several hours later:
“Now that the dust has settled at bit, I wanted to say a few things. As many of you know, I had a pretty nasty flu a week up to the marathon. It settled into my chest and by marathon morning I was still sick, hadn’t eaten much for the week prior and I was coughing up a lung. So, when I started, it sucked and kept sucking.
At mile five, I ran into Ben Kenber. Ben stayed with me for the next 14 miles, talking to me, encouraging me and basically keeping me in the game. When it became obvious to me that I couldn’t keep up with him anymore, Ben still didn’t want to leave me. What a guy!
Ben finally went on, at much insistence, to run his race but, I just want to thank you Ben, I don’t think I would have finished without you.”
Indeed, we kept with one another for over a dozen miles, and Jasmine remarked how this was one of the best-catered marathons she had ever ran. In addition to all those volunteers who were handing out paper cups of water and lemon-flavored Gatorade, others were handing out orange slices, peanut butter and jelly sandwiches, bananas (which contain potassium that feels so heavenly on any long run), Red Vines, Jolly Ranchers, and fun size Snickers. While I may have been hesitant to consume these things in the past, it suddenly became in my best interest to do so as I take whatever runner’s fuel which presented itself to me. After lagging behind all the other Pablove runners this past training season to where I was astonished Coaches Kerry and James were still waiting for me in Griffith Park at the finish line. I kept imagining they were rolling their eyes as they were eager to get home and enjoy the rest of their weekend, but they were still there to cheer me on as when I made it to the end.
Jasmine’s flu made her belch quite a bit, something I used to think only men could do, but I have long since been corrected to where I am annoyed when other men consider themselves superior to women. Let’s face it men, we never were in the place. Every time Jasmine burped, I made sure to tell her “bless you.” I know you only say this to someone when they sneeze, but it felt appropriate considering the distance we were trying to travel. She kept up with my pace of 3:1, but every time I heard her watch beep, I thought it was mine. It became a routine for Jasmine to tell me it was her watch going off. Still, it was a force of habit to check my watch whenever any beep went off.
At mile 11, we finally ran into Coach Kerry who was waiting for us right near where The Pablove Foundation office was. He was there with Kat and several others who were cheering us on, and he gave Jasmine a big hug as he was worried about her. As to why he didn’t give me a hug, well, scientists are still looking into that.
When it came to mile 19, Jasmine decided she wanted to walk the rest of the way. As she indicated in her Facebook post, she encouraged me to go on, but I wanted to make absolutely certain she was okay with that. She made it clear I should go on, and I congratulated her for making it this far despite having to deal with a disease which cruelly greeted her a week before she was set to run this marathon. Please believe me when I say I was not quick to leave her behind as I very much admire her for getting as far as she did. It’s been a long time since I had the flu, but I remember just how debilitating it was to have it. The flu robs you of your ability to do much of anything, but it didn’t rob Jasmine of her ability to run the LA Marathon. Furthermore, I got to meet her mother and some friends of her who were kind and patient enough to wait for her on Hollywood Boulevard.
One of the more unfriendly parts of this marathon is running through Century City as the roads lacked of shade from the occasionally brutal sunlight. Then again, I did get to pass by Robin Russell whose energetic drumming always lifts me up whenever I find myself slowing down more than I would like. I remember first seeing him pounding away at his drum set during the 2009 LA Marathon and totally digging the rhythm he was drumming. It’s always great to see him out there, supporting us runners with his playing.
When I started my way downhill through San Vincente Boulevard, a street which always feels never ending, it was then that the soreness began overtaking me. I was actually feeling really good for most of the marathon, and I even took an Extra Strength Tylenol capsule to ease whatever pain my body was experiencing. However, my legs were starting to feel the pain. I wasn’t in agony, but it was an especially irritating pain which just annoyed the hell out of me. I have never broken any bones in my body before and I am in no hurry to experience that level of pain and torture, but this kind of pain really irked me. It was like I was telling my legs to give me a break as there were only a few more miles to go, but just like Edward Norton in “Fight Club,” my legs were calling out to me in vengeance, “I am Ben’s inflamed legs!”
As I continued down San Vicente, I did run into Coach James who was all smiles once he saw me. As always, he was enthusiastic and proud of us runners as it was clear even to us just how much our training had paid off these past few months. James had a whole bag of treats for us, and he kindly gave me a bottle of Cool Blue flavored Gatorade. Along with the ice-cold bottle of water some from UCLA gave me, this proved to be a most welcome gift. James, if you are reading this, thanks for everything.
I did bring my soundtrack iPod with me and put on some tunes to take my mind off the soreness. “Sliver” may have been a terrible movie, but the soundtrack which came out of it was awesome, and songs like “Slid” by Absurd, “The Most Wonderful Girl” by Lords of Acid and “Unfinished Symphony” by Massive Attack helped to move my spirits when they appeared down for the count. Also, Aftershock’s “Slave to the Vibe” remains one of the lost hits of the 1990’s.
Following this, I listened to the “Tangiers” track from John Powell’s score to “The Bourne Ultimatum.” It is one of my all-time favorite pieces of film music as we watch Jason Bourne race over rooftops in an effort to save his friend from an assassin. Listening to it makes me feel like I am running to either stop something bad happen, or instead running from an adversary who looks to seal my doom.
When I finally turned on Ocean Avenue and headed towards the finish line, I was determined to listen to Peter Gabriel’s “The Heat” from his soundtrack to “Birdy.” This track really got me to run fast when I needed a boost, and it certainly came in handy as my body was starting to give up on me. The soreness continued to escalate to where I was acting like some spoiled rotten cheerleader who kept complaining about how there was a run in her nylons. I was basically telling my legs, “Ow! Stop it!” as I could finally see the end just ahead of me. My soundtrack iPod only had a little bit of power left, so I prayed I could listen to “The Heat” as the finish line got closer and closer. Keep in mind, this music by Gabriel has been used on numerous movie trailers, and it never fails in getting my adrenaline running.
I held eight fingers up in the air as I crossed the finish line, signaling to everyone this was the eighth year in a row I ran and completed this marathon. From there, I kept walking as to stop moving at all was not a good idea. We still needed to cool down from what we had just endured, and to suddenly come to a full stop is not at all healthy. I got my medal from one of the marathon volunteers, had a cinnamon raisin bagel and just kept walking. The volunteers were still on hand to give us food and drinks (of the non-alcoholic kind of course) as we now had to put a lot of calories back into our bodies.
On my way past the Santa Monica Pier, I came across another one of those Bible thumpers who was also equipped with a megaphone and saying, “If you are an adulterer, you are a sinner! If envy another person, you are a sinner! If you are a thief, you are a sinner!” This became very monotonous to where I began to wonder, who isn’t a sinner? Heck, I wanted to go up to the guy and ask him this. Of course, he would have responded by saying he was not, so what would be the point? Surely everyone has sinned at one time or another, but does this really mean we will never make it to heaven?
In the past, Team to End AIDS had a booth set up for runners to stop by and sit for a bit as we reveled in what we had accomplished and indulge in some much-needed refreshments. The Pablove Foundation, however, did not have anything set up as we were, once again, a small group, so I just kept walking and walking until I got back to my car and drove home. I avoided the 10 freeway which I knew was going to be backed up and I drove through the back way of Santa Monica and thru Marina Del Rey and headed straight down Washington Boulevard. Geez, I sound like an episode of “The Californians.”
Before I made it back, I did drop by my local Ralphs Supermarket to pick up a few things, among which was a 10-pound bag of ice. For once, I was going to subject myself to an ice bath, something I actually hadn’t done in quite some time. But considering how infinitely sore I was, an ice bath felt absolutely necessary as it always succeeds in reducing the swelling in the legs. I still had my marathon medal on and going through the supermarket was a lot like running those 26.2 miles as complete strangers saw it and congratulated me on my grand accomplishment. One supermarket employee asked to hold it, and she was stunned at how heavy it was.
These congratulations continued as I made my way back to my apartment. One guy even passed by me and said, “And you’re still standing!” I was also ever so thankful to find a parking spot on the side of the street which would not be subjected to street cleaning on a Monday, and this meant I could sleep in.
Having an ice bath was a different story, however, as the water in my bath tub kept draining almost as quickly as the water went into it. I should have known something was up when a dozen minutes had passed and the tub wasn’t even half full. Keeping the faucet on also made it impossible for me to listen to the Fresh Air interview Terry Gross did with Danny Trejo about going from being a San Quentin inmate to becoming an in-demand actor. I did finally put the ice in once the water got to a certain level, but this ice bath was unfortunately not as effective as it could have been. Following this, I crashed in bed and had a nice, long nap. Again, I didn’t get much sleep the night before, so you can sure bet I caught up on it.
Now it’s a few days later, and my legs are still recovering from the soreness. Walking normally has gotten easier, but I still find myself wanting to cry whenever I see a flight of stairs in front of me. Even though I know I will fully recover, looking at stairs after running a marathon always makes me wonder if I will ever go up them again with the same enthusiastic energy I once had. The answer, of course, is yes, but it always feels like I never will. I also find myself in a constant state of tiredness, but this may have to do more with depression than running the marathon.
Recently, JC Fernandez, one of my former coaches from T2EA, posted the following on my Facebook page:
“Hey Ben! At the start of the year, I mentioned how I felt Coach Scott’s presence in your weekly Ultimate Rabbit posts. Your determination and will to push through your struggles is the embodiment of his mantra ‘keep going.” Reading Jasmine’s account of the race this weekend and how you stuck by to support and encourage her, sacrificing your race for her well-being… and I feel him again.
Thank you for carrying on his spirit. And congrats on another 26.2!!”
Indeed, Scott Boliver’s spirit has never left us as he always told us to just keep going, and it felt great to hear I embodied this spirit from JC. For us T2EA and Pablove runners, it isn’t always about setting a new personal record or winning the whole thing. It’s all about crossing the finish line. If you set a new personal record for yourself that’s great, but what really matters is finishing the whole thing come rain or shine. Even when we have hit the runner’s wall where are brain is telling us to just give up already, we keep going. Maybe we will run a bit slower or just walk the rest of the way, but we keep on going even when everything tells us to call it quits. In the end, that’s all we can do, just keep going.
In life I try to be humble about a lot of things as having an oversized ego has led me into painfully embarrassing situations more often than not, but few things in life have earned me more bragging rights than running a marathon. While I may be shy about some things, there is no reason for me to be shy about the medal I earned.
My thanks to Coaches James and Kerry and to everyone at The Pablove Foundation for helping me get through this season. I also want to send out congratulations to my fellow Pablove runners for participating and completing the 2018 Los Angeles Marathon. Special congratulations to Jasmine who ran despite being sick and finished about 20 minutes behind me.
Will I be back next year? I’m not sure. The last few years have had me wondering if it is time to take a break from all this running, but when the start of the training season is near, the excitement overcomes all the rational thoughts I have, and I find myself happily back at Griffith Park on Saturday mornings. But with my advancing age, something I prefer not draw too much attention to, maybe I owe it to myself to give my body an extended rest. Then again, Harrison Ford said it best in “Raiders of the Lost Ark:”
“It’s not the years, honey, it’s the mileage.”
The 2018 Los Angeles Marathon was truly one of the best years for this event. The weather was perfect, the nutrition was endless, and the support from complete strangers is always welcome. And, as one spectator pointed out on a sign he held up, we were running much better than the U.S. Government.
FUNDRAISING UPDATE: I have now raised $1,389 for The Pablove Foundation. As a group, us Pablove runners succeeded in raising around $60,000 in the fight against pediatric cancer. It is important to note that while the U.S. Government does give a lot of money to cancer research, only 4% of it goes towards childhood cancer. My personal page is still open, so if you would like to make a tax-deductible donation, please do not let me stop you (as if I would ever want to).