The LA Marathon: An Experience to Cherish

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The LA Marathon was truly an awesome and enjoyable experience. After months of training and praying, I crossed the finish line and finished quicker than expected. There was one point when I thought I wouldn’t make it (more on that later), so it was truly a miracle and marvelous experience. I am SO grateful for the people that cheered me along. I sincerely heard your encouragement before and during the run and the prayers were much needed. I thank you from the bottom of my heart.  I am also so thankful that God was watching through everything.

 

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Close to 56,000 steps and 30 miles for the day…burned more than 4,000 calories!
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This is the course map and landmarks printed in the 2017 Official Race Program
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I trained for a 10.5 to 11 mile pace…so I was pretty close and consistent, except at mile 23 (explained later).

 

I had tears streaming down my face at the finish line. I would’ve bawled if there weren’t so many people and cameras staring at me. Tears of joy, gratitude, relief, and amazement. Amazed that I even made the finish line in time. Amazed with the whole experience. It was something that I hadn’t experienced and what a feeling! I had conquered my doubts and fears. And I guess I can check this one off my bucket list now!

To start, the weather was perfect, I had just gotten over my cold, and my legs were well rested from the taper week. No injuries going into the marathon. So I couldn’t have asked for a more perfect day.

The top reasons why I found the LA Marathon memorable:

  1. The landmarks! I’ve lived in CA most of my life and have never have seen some of these famous landmarks until the race. It was so scenic I had to remind myself to stop taking pictures and focus on running.
  2. The support and the volunteers! There was gatorade, water at almost every mile, CLIF energy gels at miles 12 and 20, and medical tents scattered throughout. Plus volunteers were handing out their own bottled waters, popsicles, bananas, oranges, homemade cookies, even beer! I really appreciated all the signs from the volunteers…some were funny…one said “Thanks for running so I don’t have to” and some were very informative “Halfway mark” and many residents were cheering us on. A few of them even shouted “Welcome to Silverlake!” or “Welcome to Echo Park!”
  3. The energy! Wow…of course with 24,000 runners, you feed off the adrenaline of others, but it was an international event, with runners from all over the world, even celebrities, elite runners, invited runners. I felt like I was really taking part in something big!  And of course there’s the diversity and people in costumes (see photo below of Elvis, the pink swan). There was also a guy dressed as Mario Kart but I didn’t have my camera out at the time. I was also proud to see a firefighter, several policemen, wheelchair marathoner, people running with their country flags, all joining us.
  4. Going from the Dodger ‘stadium to the sea’…only in CA! It made me proud to live here.
  5. The finisher’s medal! It’s huge, 2 sided, detailed, and just about Disney quality. I was admiring the Disney medals at the runner’s expo and it’s definitely comparable.
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top left: pink swan running in the crowd, top right: Elvis, Bottom left: firefighter, bottom right: wheelchair marathoner

I will let the photos tell much of the story for the first 22 miles, but my running buddies and I ran until the mile 23 marker continuously. I was enjoying all the sights and sounds, and taking tons of photos of the historical/famous landmarks. We were making good pace, even as we were dodging people and stopping for gatorade and water. Also, I had some photos of Little Tokyo and other landmarks, but they were a bit too blurry to post.  There was too much to take in while running so photos are just representative of my journey for the first 23 miles.

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Waiting to cross the start line with the 24,000 fellow runners at 7AM…standing room only, so we walked our way to the line and past it until the crowd thinned out a bit
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Chinatown Dragon Gate (Mile 2)
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Chinatown
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Dragon dancers at Broadway
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Heading toward Los Angeles City Hall (mile 4)
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Running up the hill to the beat of the drums
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Walt Disney Concert Hall at the top of the hill
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Echo Park Lake (Mile 8)
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Pantages Theater (Mile 10)
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Note the stars lining the street below the Pantages theater.
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Grauman’s Chinese Theater (Mile 13)
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Near Mile 18

In retrospect, I realize I did not have my camera out to take photos at Rodeo Drive/Mile 20…saw some very nice high end shops.:)  I also missed seeing Chateau Marmont altogether. And I saw the Veteran’s Building in Westwood, and some very nice homes but didn’t take photos. I probably was busy looking for gatorade and water stands at that point. 🙂

However, at mile 23, I told my running buddies to go on ahead as I wanted to slow down a bit. Something didn’t feel quite right and I thought I might need to stop by the medical tent. Soon after, my legs decided to give out and I had full on, painful leg cramps (both legs), starting from the quads, then moving to the hamstrings, and calves, and then left my toes inside my shoes flexed upwards. I was paralyzed with pain. To be honest, I wasn’t sure what to do. I wasn’t sure if I could even walk it to the finish line (At mile 20, we passed by a lady who had similar leg cramps and was flat on the floor…medics ran to help her). So I decided to just hobble slowly through the pain and head for anything with electrolytes. Volunteers saw me and started giving me all sorts of stuff…3 popsicles, coconut water, 7 gatorade cups, 5 water cups, CLIF energy gel, and 2 bottles of water. I had my hands full of edibles, so I seriously had to walk slow just to enjoy all the goodies. Plus it took my mind off the pain. What I learned was that the more I walked (slowly of course), the more the cramps would start dissipating…on the other hand, if I stopped abruptly or attempted to stretch, I was paralyzed by forceful and debilitating cramps. So I just strolled and ate popsicles/goodies and really enjoyed my time. I even wondered at one point if I was really still in a marathon or just taking a nice stroll in a beautiful neighborhood. I had lots to look at! I admired some succulents planted in the sidewalk. I took photos of the mansions on the side of the road. And I promised myself I would enjoy my run so I did.

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Being distracted by food, succulents, and beautiful homes while I was dealing with my leg cramps…tried to enjoy the scenery as much as I could and regain some electrolytes and fluids

It wasn’t until I had fully walked two miles (mile 23 and 24), that I realized the electrolytes must have gotten into my system because I could all of a sudden run again. Slowly at first, then on pace. So I ran the last two miles into the finish line in amazement. So going from ‘how am I ever going to make it to the finish line?’ to ‘OMG! I just crossed the line with time to spare!’ was such a turn of events, I just lost it! What an epic experience for sure!

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I turned the corner and the ocean was on the right…wasn’t long before the finish line!
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What a welcome sight! I was so grateful to see this and couldn’t believe I made it! 🙂

After I crossed the finish line, I was awarded my medal, given an insulation wrap (it was cold by the ocean), and I took in lots of muscle milk and water. My running buddies and friends were waiting for me, and with the tracking system they knew exactly when I crossed and I knew when they did. Even though I walked a mile or two, I was really only behind by about 20 minutes. We took pictures like crazy. Like the rest of the finishers, I think I was in a complete daze until I got to the car. Maybe I was still in disbelief, but what a relief to be done! 🙂

In retrospect, at mile 23, I think I was completely depleted of electrolytes. I was being stingy on drinking fluids and electrolytes, as there were lines at every port-a-potty, plus I hate using one of those (I have some OCD issues). And having started the day early (at 2:45 am), I had been on my feet and was so busy, it was just off my radar. I was very lucky I was able to walk through those cramps and recover too. I actually was fully prepared to not finish if the medics told me to, but luckily things turned out ok after all. In the future, I will be prepared to have more electrolytes for sure! Here was our crazy little schedule day of:

  • 2:45AM Wake up (eat something simple, dress, triple check I brought everything)
  • 3:45AM Carpool with running buddies to Santa Monica parking (4 blocks from finish line)
  • 4:30AM Arrive at Santa Monica, got in HUGE line for shuttles going to Dodger’s stadium (start point)…ate breakfast in line and used port-a-potty in the dark (not a fun experience)
  • 5:30 AM Board the shuttle and take ride into Dodger’s stadium
  • 615 AM Arrive at Dodger’s stadium. Use bathroom one last time and find way into corral among sea of people
  • 650 AM Lined up in corral
  • 7AM Even though race officially started, we had to walk to the start point and it was standing room only, so we couldn’t run until a little later.
  • 12:22 PM Crossed the finish line 🙂
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It was a long morning and getting to Dodger’s Stadium was already an adventure. 🙂 We watched the sunrise near the starting line (top left: waiting in an hour long line at Santa Monica for our shuttles to take us to Dodger’s Stadium, top right: Dodger’s Stadium before sunrise, bottom left: watching the sun rise with our fellow 24,000 runners at Dodger’s Stadium, bottom right: getting ready to rumble…it was 6:50am.

So as a first time marathon runner, there are four things I never knew about marathons:

  1. There are SO many people everywhere. Lines getting to the start (driving, shuttling, everything) are long, lines for the bathrooms were long (and sometimes impossible if you needed to go last minute), and most surprisingly, dodging people during the run was no joke. I’m not running for speed, but one has to add extra time to account for the crowd of people at the start (can’t run until crowds thin out a bit), and extra time to dodge runners who decide to walk suddenly right in front of you. I actually bumped into a few or had to change direction so quickly I could’ve easily twisted an ankle.
  2. It’s very important to watch where you step. Around the gatorade and water stations, tons of cups were kicked around from one runner to another, and I was so scared of slipping. People also offered oranges and bananas and the peels ended up on the floor. I hope no one slipped and fell on any of those!
  3. It’s not really just 26.2 miles. Add a mile or two at the beginning AND end. There’s security checkpoints on both ends, and corrals to walk through at the beginning, and at the end a huge area for just the runners to recover, and family to reunite, and then walking to the car.
  4. Don’t expect to be able to squat for awhile. Using the port-a-potty after the race, I almost fell in! Luckily I held onto a nearby hanging fixture and saved myself from an embarrassing situation! Also getting in and out of the car was near impossible! :0

So the LA Marathon was definitely a memorable and worthwhile experience…and now one off my bucket list! Would I do another marathon? Perhaps in the far future, but since my legs are jello today, I will say definitely a HALF marathon sometime soon! :0

Thanks for reading! 🙂

I will be linking to  TOTR

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18 thoughts on “The LA Marathon: An Experience to Cherish

  1. Congratulations on your awesome run! Looks like you had tons of fun and really enjoyed yourself. It’s surely an awesome feeling to accomplish what so few can ever attempt. The memories you have from this experience will last you for the rest of your life.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thanks Lang! And a big thank you for all your encouragement too! This was something I didn’t know if possible to accomplish so it’s truly a miracle and life experience…not to mention one off the bucket list! I’m so happy I was given this adventure and can share it. 🙂 Thanks for reading and for encouraging me!

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    1. Thanks Miriam! A special thanks for all your prayers! I don’t know how I could’ve gotten through the day otherwise..there were so many factors and everything went smoothly. Thanks for thinking of me and encouraging me! 🙂 Karen

      Liked by 1 person

    1. Thanks Gabe! I really appreciated your encouragement and insight.:) I felt more ready as the time approached, and then the energy/adrenaline just helped me along. Still, I wasn’t completely sure I’d make it until I was at the finish line and then I was in a bit of disbelief. 🙂 A great feeling for sure! Thanks again!

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  2. Great! You did it!! Congratulations.
    And about the cramps… in the future – do not drink water, just these energy drinks with a plenty of electrolytes. Maybe it does not taste too good, but it is a real help in such occasions. Trust me…. I survived similar story 🙂
    BTW… will you go for another marathon? 😉

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thanks so much! 🙂 In retrospect, I should’ve had more gatorade and even prepared electrolytes at the start. I got extremely thirsty around mile 19. It was interesting because there were other fellow runners who kept asking for water and passing up the gatorade stands. I tried to keep a 1 to 1 ratio of gatorade and water but the thirst was intense. The gatorade left a salty taste in my mouth and the gels were so thick, I couldn’t help it. But I agree it definitely will make a big difference in the future for sure. And yes, I think I will go for another marathon in the future 🙂 but maybe I’ll do half marathons in the near future before I decide on another full one. It’s so incredible I think I am already planning my next run…even as my legs are recovering 🙂

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    1. Thanks so much. At first I kept thinking ‘I wonder if these photos will be blurry or even turn out’..and now I’m happy I took so many. I actually took over 200 photos during my run…I couldn’t post that many, but I can relive almost every step of the way 🙂

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