Monday, March 05, 2007

LA Marathon: A Los Angeles Experience

As I sit here in the wake of the 22nd City of Los Angeles Marathon stretching out my very sore muscles, I am dominated by a feeling that overwhelmed me the most during the marathon itself: it's all worth it.

In addition to the euphoria of accomplishment - and aside from the sheer havoc reeked on the human body - by finishing a 26.2 mile race, I learned that the City of Los Angeles Marathon is a true Los Angeles experience.

As a car-less Angelino and frequent Metro rider, I find myself experiencing Los Angeles all the time. Whether by bus or subway/light rail that leads to my wanderings on foot, Metro has taken me through much of LA's diverse landscape. In fact, it even took me to the marathon, which started off of the Universal City Red Line Station.

But for all my ExperienceLA adventures, I learned the other day that there's nothing quite like experiencing LA through the City of Los Angeles marathon.

I was fortunate enough to run in the event's first point-to-point route - fortunate because this meant the race stretched its terrain into more areas of LA, creating a fuller understanding of the city's mixture of history, culture, and people.

While I'm used to wandering through specific and nearby LA destinations, I don't believe I've ever seen so much of Los Angeles in one fell-26.2-mile-swoop: from the start at Universal City uphill and down towards Hollywood's Vine and Highland streets to the homes that border Beverly Hills at Rossmore onto Olympic and toward Koreatown then into the Leimart Park/Crenshaw area to USC and toward Downtown where the route runs through the Fashion District, Historic Core, Jewelry District, Little Tokyo, and the Financial District. All along the way there are shifts in historical architecture, changing landscapes from residential to metropolitan, and different languages on passing storefronts.

But the marathon is more than just these destinations and the changing sights of Los Angeles' bevy of art and culture. What keeps the runners going and the walkers walking is the true spirit of LA: the people - the people you run with, the volunteers handing out water and Gatorade, the friends and families and strangers that cheer on the participants, the performance artists performing their hearts out, the oranges, bananas, and extra water from volunteers on their own volition. And it's the people that you come home to when crossing that finish line (or hobbling toward it as my own memory recollects).

And in this, my first Los Angeles Marathon experience, I found that the world unexpectedly came full circle for me: the volunteer who cut my timing chip from my shoe was an old friend who I hadn't seen in over 7 years.

According to my chip, it took me 7 hours, 7 minutes, and 45 seconds to cross the finish line. According to my current physical state, it has - and will - take more than that for me to recover. But in the end, it is an experience that will last me a lifetime.

-Charity Tran, ExperienceLA Web Coordinator

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