Ilene Squires Photography

Wednesday, April 27, 2011

The City of Angels 2011 Marathon

Last year I made a great - BIG - wish to run the Honda LA Marathon to celebrate my 30th Birthday. Why not? The city I grew up in? My family and long time friends there to cheer me on? Sunny skies and the Pacific Ocean? It seemed like the perfect pairing; somewhat romantic, ambitious if you will. It was August. I was on vacation. It was still warm. I swiped my card and I was committed. Let's not forget that I also had something to prove  which was "I'm turning thirty and I can still drop it like it's hot!"

OK, so I had NO idea what it meant to train through an East Coast winter (trying, to say the least); or to compromise my entire social life for 6 months (2-3 hour runs every weekend + 4 days of evening runs during the week, no drinking, and a runner's diet... BLEH!). All of this was an adventure, probably the most challenging physical experience of my life. (Well, besides the time my family "hiked" the Grand Canyon, without food or water, in the middle of July!)

All the glamour doesn't stop there, either. Right after the New Year I fell ill twice and  January just happened to be one of the snowiest months in NYC history. Why did I want to do this, you ask? Funny. I asked myself that a million and one times. Frankly, every time I had to lace up my sneaks and hit the pavement with my 10 pounds of gear on. What I learned from this, however, was an age - old adage I've known all along which is, life is about the journey, not the destination. With the dark and lonely hours spent running Central Park and The Westside Highway, I was left only with my thoughts. And boy did they wander into the past, the present and the future. I felt inspired with the little changes I observed in my speed and endurance and the wonderful friendships that ensued all because of this small feat, I had chosen to meet with tenacity and diligence.
On Friday March 18th, Jorge and I boarded our preferred local airline, JetBlue, for our JFK --- Burbank flight (woot - woot!). Moisture wicking apparel and chaffing cream in tow,  I was a bundle of nerves and hardly slept the two nights prior to the race on Sunday March, 20th. With little sleep, I arrived at Dodger Stadium on race day with my poncho and runner's beans in hand. The sea of 26,000 runners was an emotional hurricane combined with the thousands of spectators that lined the Stadium - to - Sea route. Even in the torrential downpour that ensued, LA held it down! As I ran past some of the many places I frequented in my youth, I felt a deepened sense of pride and accomplishment in the woman I have "grown up" to be. 

I was totally humbled when I reached mile 10 at the historic Pantages Theater. My father, a 40 year veteran of the USPS, once asked a co-worker who worked nights as an usher at Les Miserables for some comped tickets so that I could be exposed to what "Broadway" was like. The seats were horrible but the experience left an indelible impression on me as I grew to know the value of working hard for the "finer" things in life. It was then that I knew I wanted it all. And as I pressed on through Hollywood, I was reminded of all my teenage escapades at Florentine Gardens (albeit, when I was only 15) and joining the Hoobastank groupies at Whiskey A Go Go, right before I moved away for college. The stretch between miles 18 - 21 was the toughest in all the ways marathoners lament. My aunt and mentor, who has since passed since my life in NYC started 8 (ahem) years ago, lived in both Westwood and Century City, both LA neighborhoods I *dreamed* to live in as a kid. Though the buildings weren't as tall as I remembered or the people as snooty, in the moment I was reminded of where the drive to even do something so outrageous, like running a marathon, came from. This propelled me through miles 22 - 26 and ultimately, the finish line. My youth, you see, was very colorful and taking this physical and emotional journey through time was exactly how I wanted to mark the last 30 years but more importantly, how I will embark on the next 30 years. That is, with the resolve of a 40 year USPS veteran and the playfulness of a teenager with a fake ID.

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