Six Miles for Scott Boliver

Scott Boliver in New York

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.

See also:

Scott Boliver, Gone But Never Forgotten

Conquering the 2018 Los Angeles Marathon

LA Marathon 2018 Pablove team photo

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.

LA Marathon 2018

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.

LA Marathon 2018 Pablove socks

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.

LA Marathon 2018 the start

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.

LA Marathon 2018 Jasmine in hazmat suit

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.”

LA Marathon 2018 Kerry and Jasmine and Ben and Kat

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.

LA Marathon 2018 Kerry and Kat

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.

LA Marathon 2018 Kerry Jasmine and Ben

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.

JC Fernandez at the Boliver tree

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.

Scott Boliver photo

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).

CLICK HERE TO MAKE A DONATION TO THE PABLOVE FOUNDATION.

See also:

What’s Pablove Got to Do with It?

No Pablove Runner Walks in L.A!

Running in the Aftermath of Thanksgiving for Pablove

A Tough Pablove Run for Me

One Last Pablove Run for 2017

A Pablove Run in Memory of Scott Boliver

A Longer Than Expected Pablove Run

An Especially Frigid 18 Mile Pablove Run

There’s Nothing Like a Hot Summer Day in February

23 Miles in the Frigid Los Angeles Wilderness

One Last Pablove Run, and One Last Hill

LA Marathon 2018 the runners

Scott Boliver tree 2014

Scott Boliver, Gone But Never Forgotten

Scott Boliver in New York

WRITER’S NOTE: This article was originally written and published in 2013.

Scott Boliver was a great person on top of being a superb marathon coach. During the 2012 Los Angeles Marathon, he made sure we had what we needed to cross the finish line, and he always greeted us with a big smile and a warm demeanor. The past year or two had him dealing with two different types of cancer which threatened to get the best of him physically and financially, thanks in large part to our still deeply flawed American health care system, but he fought against this indiscriminate disease long and hard and eventually beat it. We all got wristbands which had Scott’s nickname for his cancer fight written on them: “Slay The Dragon.” As a result, he became one of the most inspirational people we had ever hoped to meet in our lifetime.

Slay The Dragon armband

So, it was an enormous shock when we got the news Scott died on January 3, 2013. I had last seen him only a few days earlier while training for the 2013 Los Angeles Marathon, and he appeared to be in good spirits and still had that great smile of his for all to see. While had been to the hospital a few days earlier due to some swelling in one of his legs, a runner in my pace group had been in contact with him and said he was feeling fine. Even as we ran 12 miles in the rain and freezing wind, Scott was with us and keeping an eye on what we needed work on. At the end of the run, he made sure we didn’t stay outdoors long because we were all soaking wet and didn’t have much of an excuse to deal with hypothermia or pneumonia.

The word of Scott’s death spread like a wildfire on Facebook, and I remember staring at the screen in sheer disbelief and saying, “No, no, no, no, no!” Two other people who played a big part in my life, Jim Kirkwood and Grant Martin, had also died from cancer, but their deaths were not a surprise. They had fought their own fights against this indiscriminate disease, but it eventually took a huge toll on their bodies to where the damage was irreversible. When the end came for them, it was very sad but also kind of a relief. Although we missed them, we took comfort in the fact they were at peace and no longer suffering.

While I wanted to weep for Jim and Grant, I never shed tears when learning of their passing. I wanted to, but the tears never came for some odd reason. But the news of Scott’s death reduced me to a total wreck, and I was crying like never before. How could this man who had inspired so many with his constant slaying of the dragon that was cancer leave us so suddenly? Scott seemed to be in such great shape even after all he had been through, and yet fate proved to be unforgivably cruel in taking him away from us. Leonard Cohen said it best: “Hey, That’s No Way to Say Goodbye.”

I cannot even begin to imagine what Scott’s family is going through right now, and they have my deepest sympathies. He leaves behind a loving wife, wonderful children and his parents who have just endured one of the worst things any parent can ever experience, outliving their child.

Scott Boliver Coach

Those who have trained with Team to End AIDS have had the opportunity to meet Scott’s family, and his parents have been especially wonderful to hang out with these past few months. They have spent so much time preparing snacks for us to consume during our training and always have plenty of water and Gatorade for us to refill our water bottles with. Remember, these are the same people who introduced us to the delicious peanut butter and pickle covered Ritz crackers, and we all live for those now.

I read a blog by Sara Catania entitled “Week 34: The Scott Boliver Experience,” and she shared some things about Scott I didn’t know about until now. He worked as a prison psychologist and lived in the city of Brea out in Orange County. The marathon training for Team to End AIDS takes place at Griffith Park in Burbank which means he has to make a round trip of 80 miles by car. Regardless of the distance, he still made it out to Griffith Park and typically got there before anyone else did, and we started running at 6 a.m. on certain mornings. I used to make a 70-mile round trip to and from Disneyland when I worked there, but I got nothing on this guy!

I also remember him putting together games and contests for the longer runs which had us guessing what songs came from which musicals, or what foreign country a certain kind of chocolate came from. This made our training all the more entertaining, and this was especially the case if you had those people in your pace group who could actually answer those questions without a doubt (I’m at a loss when it comes to musicals and chocolate). The winner of these games got a breakfast or some other special meal courtesy of Scott who paid for these wonderful prizes out of his own pocket.

Looking at this kind of dedication makes me admire Scott all the more because it seemed like he spent all his free time outside of his day job doing things for other people. Nothing seemed to bring him down even as the cancer diagnosis caused him a number of headaches which would have driven anyone else to insanity. Catania said it best:

“Coach Scott exudes empathy. When runners would ask him about every little pinch and blister, he’d take it all as seriously as the questioner required. He never talked about his own aches and woes. When the wildfires last fall came within a few feet of his home, he didn’t mention it to the group and didn’t miss a training.”

One of my favorite memories of Coach Scott came during the 2012 Los Angeles Marathon as I ran up San Vicente Boulevard. Now those familiar with this marathon will know San Vicente is the part of the run which lasts far longer than it has any right to. You are running up a nice street filled with beautiful houses you can’t possibly afford, and it feels like you will never reach the end of it. Just when you think you’ve reached the corner which leads you towards the finish line, you haven’t. That darn boulevard goes on forever, and it feels like it is designed to torture you psychologically more than anything else.

But eventually I did see Coach Scott on the side of the road, and seeing him was a huge relief as I was seriously on the verge of going completely mental. He was waiting for us all with that wide smile of his, and he picked the perfect place to meet up with us. It didn’t matter how many hours it took for us to finish the marathon because he was always there to make sure we had everything we needed. Seeing him there to greet me and give me a hug was exactly what I needed to cross that seemingly elusive finish line.

Now he’s gone and I just don’t get it. Perhaps his body was irreparably weakened from all the surgeries and chemotherapy treatments he was forced to undergo. His death feels so unfair, so unwarranted, and if there is a God I want to verify with him, or her, if they got the right person because I feel he, or she, made a serious mistake.

In his passing, however, we have come to see how far the love for Scott goes, and it goes an infinitely long way. His friend Larry Jacobson set up a memorial fund on Go Fund Me to help out Scott’s family who has suffered financially in the wake of his cancer fight and various medical bills which are far more than any family should ever have to pay off. Before Scott’s death, his family had to move out of their house and into an apartment, and now his wife and children find themselves with little money for food and rent.

The goal for the memorial fund was $20,000, and this amount was raised within the first 24 hours after it was set up on the internet. In the next couple of days $30,000 was raised. 11 days later, over $66,000 was raised. If this doesn’t show you how deep the love and respect for Scott goes, nothing will.

Here’s to Coach Scott Boliver. We all hear about these inspirational people in the news and we get a little cynical about them because we’ve become conditioned to believe no one can ever be that good a person. Scott, however, was the real deal, and the way he lived his life will continue to inspire every single person who ever knew him. No one who worked with him will ever forget the effect he had on their lives. There’s no doubt in my mind everyone loved him.

The Boliver family

CLICK HERE TO LEARN MORE ABOUT THE SCOTT BOLIVER MEMORIAL FUND AND TO MAKE A DONATION.

Here’s another article written about Scott Boliver:

“Goodbye, My Friend” by Michelle Gottlieb

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Hardwired… To Run 12 Miles

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

In the name of desperation

In the name of wretched pain

In the name of all creation

Gone insane

We’re so fucked

Shit outta luck

Hardwired to self-destruct”

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Happy Thanksgiving everybody!

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

Ben Of The Marathon

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Running the AIDS Walk

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Seven Marathons For One Benjamin

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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