Wow. Where do I even begin to start. The amazing sunshine? Not even a figure of my imagination. The cool, gentle breeze replaced by GUSTY 25MPH+ winds? Yeah, that took me and 20,000 other runners breath away. The 26.2 miles of fun we had? Absolutely! Short version: The race was a monsoon. I lived to tell (and write about it).
Now, a little fact. Southern California is sunny about 99% of the year. In fact, at the race expo (which is held OUTDOORS!) it was sunny and beautiful. I even got a little color! However, a "winter storm" was predicted for marathon day. Say it ain't so. All the weather reports were saying that heavy rain would start in the afternoon. Okay, we can deal with that.
My wake up time was 4:15am Sunday morning. After my usual breakfast of Steel Cut Oats, I was off to the Stadium! No rain yet, but it was a little chilly for Los Angeles. No biggie, a trash bag always keeps me warm.
I attended the Runners Chapel, went to the potty (NO LINES!) and then had a group huddle prayer with Team World Vision. Next was to get in corral and ready to run! It was a little chaotic trying to get into the corrals, but after being pushed & shoved finally got to where I needed to go.
The race start was delayed, so we all stood around and made new friends. As per LA traffic, the story's abound. One girl came huffing and puffing & landed right by me. Asked her if she was okay, "yep, just had to jump out of the car and run here". Talk about a warm-up!
This lady happened to be right next to me. Yolanda Holder. She race-walked 106 marathons in 2010. Yeah.
To show you how windy it was just look at these flags!
Yes, I amused myself with taking photos. And a good thing I did, because the next few hours wouldn't be as lucky for me!
After the National Anthem, we were off. Stadium to Sea, get ready!
This would be the last photo I would take. Relish it!
About 90 seconds after we started, it started to rain. I quickly took the above photo then stashed my camera in a Heavy Double Duty ZipLoc bag. And prayed it would hold up to its end of the bargain (it did).
Now, normally I love to run in the rain. Really I do. But today would be a whole new take on running in the rain. Not only did the rain POUR, but the winds were vicious. It made for a very cold day.
Each mile I passed I kept telling myself I was closer to the finish line. Student Run LA had over 2000 kids running the marathon. They were all wearing bright green shirts and easy to spot. I would run along aside the kids and chat with them, give them a thumbs up if they had headphones in or a pat on the back. Seeing them out there made me almost cry. I can't imagine running a marathon when I was 13. Or 16. These are AMAZING kids!
As the miles rolled on, so the did the rain. And, oh my gosh the wind. Every runner was soaked to the core fiber of our being. I was really glad I wore what I did (knee-high compression socks, capri's, sleeveless shirt, arm warmers, gloves, baseball cap). The rain absolutely pounded us. When we ran between the buildings the rain & the wind collided and made conditions even worse.
Some parts of the course we ankle and shin deep in water. In all my years of running and racing, I have never seen anything like it!
Despite the weather, the volunteers had a smile (albeit soggy) on their face. From kids to adults they were keeping us going. Not many spectators were on the course, but those who were made sure to give us high-fives, orange slices and donuts and whatever else they think we crazy runners must like. I always find it rather amusing.
One of the highlights of the race was a HUGE line of guys (off duty firefighters?) screaming, cheering and giving high-fives as we were running up a hill. They were a little out of the course direction, but there was NO way I would miss high-fiving some hotties. I ran over to the "guy line" and they screamed even louder. It got me up the hill.
Another highlight was with a SRLA kid I ran with about 3 miles. I asked him how old he was and he replied "13". I asked him what his secret was [for running] and he said "no secret ma'am. I just run". I could not have said it better.
The rain kept beating down on us and I was getting tired. I kept thinking "finish line, finish line, finish line". I saw mile 23 and saw my friends Lori & Penny. Just a 5k left. I can do this. Then I spotted my friend Chris. He jumped in. I told him I was struggling. After chatting a bit, we let the rain take over. With about 2 miles to go, he asked me if I wanted to push it or stay the same. I said push it. And with that we picked the pace (to about a 7:40pace). As the rain beat harder and the wind blew stronger off the ocean, I let Chris guide me in. IT WAS AWESOME. I was spent and it was the boost I so needed.
He left me just shy of the finish line and gave me a strong pat on the back. THAT WAS AWESOME. And with that I gave the finish line my all. 4:03:20. Not the time I wanted, but afterall it was just a training run. And honestly, given the weather, I am happy with my time. It was a good day.
After I crossed the finish line. I immediately started to freeze. The wind was whipping us and the Mylar "blanks"et around. After I got my medal (yay!) I tried to keep from freezing. Not so easy. A bunch of us from Team World Vision huddled in a cafe. First time out of the rain in hours. It was bliss. But then I had to go get my gear check bag. More rain. More wind.
To say it was a race I will never forget was an understatement. About 2.5 inches fell in downtown LA and up to 7 inches of rain fell in the surrounding areas. LA Marathon 2011 was recorded as the worst weather in the history of the race. And I was there and lived to tell about it!
Later that evening I did a search on Twitter for #LAmarathon and the Tweets were hilarious. From needing swim fins to people feeling sorry for all the runners to others complaining about the traffic to one runner calling it quits at mile 19, each post was a small representation of a very epic day.
However, despite the brutal weather (and as I write this, I feel like I am still drying/thawing out) I will say that I will take this weather over sun and heat any day! Why? My 100 miler I ran was in 95 degree furnace. Trust me, you can't escape the sun.
All in all, no matter how bad the weather was I am thankful I had the opportunity to run and encourage some kids along the way. They inspired me to the finish line. I am proud to be a part of an epic day- that made for a really sweet (but dry) race recap too ;)
Sarah Stanley likes to run, cycle and practice yoga but doesn't like ice cream. For more inspiration, sign up for FREE and FABULOUS monthly e-digital magazine.