Three Marathons: Part Two
The Los Angeles Marathon in April 1989 was a learning experience. I learned that you can beat your previous time if you (a) run the whole way instead of walk and (b) break through the inevitable wall and finish the race.
The marathon starts at the Coliseum and takes you through LA neighborhoods: China Town, Korea Town, Japan Town, Hollywood, and back to the Coliseum. There were so many people on Figueroa that it took me 10 minutes just to cross the start line. And with so many people it's easy to start out too slow and then set a pace that is way too fast.
But the thing that surprised me most was the wall that I hit at mile 21. I felt it coming and didn't want to finish. My hips were aching, my feet were dying, but I wanted to finish the race at the Coliseum. My brother Pat recorded the marathon from one of the local stations. The story on the news was how one of the top seeded runners from Kenya also hit the wall at mile 21. The commentator said he could see the look in the runner's face and knew he wouldn't finish. And he didn't. He stopped. He collapsed. He didn't make it back to the Coliseum.
I ran LA in four and a half hours, taking off thirty minutes off my time in Honolulu. I didn't set any records, but I finished the race. Sometimes just finishing is a great accomplishment.