2020 Los Angeles Marathon

Overall Time: 2:55:43
Pace: 6:42
Overall Place: 120 of 21,889
Age Group Place: 20 of 1744

Strava details here.

What an interesting race…

This is a bit of a different race report. Not gonna talk about the race.

Who knew what 2020 had in store? Who knew races, especially big city races, would completely disappear off the face of the calendar?

Sometime …maybe in the fall?… of 2019 I signed up for this race because a couple friends agreed to do it with me. By the time March 2020 rolled around most of them had pulled out, and I had little motivation to show up at the start line. But two weeks before a funny thing happened: the Tokyo Marathon was canceled (for non-elites). COVID-19 was becoming real, and I started entertaining doubts that Boston would happen in just 6 weeks.

I had always planned in using my 2020 Boston as my Boston Qualifying (BQ) race for 2021. But… if there was no 2020 Boston then there would be no BQ for 2021. I decided LA would serve as my chance to secure that BQ.

36 hours before the race, I hopped in my little red Miata and hopped on I-5 for the 7-hour drive Southern California. I decided to stay with my dad in Orange. It added another 45 minutes to an already long drive — and lemme tell ya, in a loud convertible that screams at 4500 rpms on the highway that’s no small feat — but his health had been deteriorating so I was looking for any excuse to see him, even if it made for a very long weekend of driving even longer.

I hadn’t tapered and training had only been “alright” so mentally I wasn’t ready to push for a PR (2:53), but I thought sub-3 was well within my abilities and that would get me a BQ for 2021.

Cutting to the chase, I ran a 2:55 in pretty big negative splits (mostly due to a pee break in the first half, and the downhill assist in the second half). The course was great, and going through Chinatown, J-Town, Hollywood, West Hollywood, Beverly Hills, Westwood, Brentwood, and Santa Monica reminded me of some of my misspent youth (and early adulthood).

It also ended up being one and only big race for the year. Boston? Canceled. Dipsea? Canceled. Broken Arrow Sky Race? New York City Marathon? Lookout Mountain 50-Miler? Canceled. Canceled. Canceled.

I look back and I think, “Man, I didn’t even want to run this race but I’m so glad I did.” The time was pretty good for me, and the course was so beautiful on the day — it’s a good lesson that we (I) don’t always appreciate what’s in front of us (me) until all the other options are removed from the table.

I also look back and think it was the right thing to do because my dad could track me online for one more race. After crossing the finish and having brunch in Santa Monica I drove to his house, and by the time I walked through the door he could already recite my splits and give me my own personal race recap. When I started running big marathons in 2011, he became adept at finding race websites and tracking me along the course. He saw the ups and downs (mostly ups) of my races, and took a lot of pride when I had good runs.

Sometimes when he’d introduce me to his friends — lots of tough guys from the Orange Police Department and the like — he’d always throw in, “Oh and Steve’s a runner. Marathons. Sub-three. Also he runs across deserts and does ultra marathons. Do you know what an ultra is…?” Right around then I’d have to stop him out of embarrassment, but he was a proud dad and that’s what they do; and he was my proud dad. As much as I don’t like people talking about me, I always liked making him proud of my accomplishments. It never got old, and never will.

In fact, the biggest reason I kept this blog going all these years was so that my dad could follow what went through my head as I ran through mountains, across deserts, and in big city marathons. It was my way of communicating with him despite living thousands of miles away.

Dad died in his sleep on July 18th. LA 2020 was the last time he would get to track me mile by mile; the last time to see me walk through the door and give me a big smile that I had another good race; the last time he could tells his Monday lunch crew about what I had done during the weekend.

But it won’t be the last time I’ll stop making him proud. 2020 may have canceled races, but it hasn’t canceled my desire to continue running and performing. I don’t know what 2021 is going to look like, but if the 2020 Los Angeles Marathon taught me anything, it’s not to pass up opportunities — and that sometimes you have to make your own.

Dad, thanks for tracking me one last time. Thanks for tracking me all the uncountable other times. And here’s to making the most of what comes my way.

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