I can't really remember how we got the idea, but I'm sure a few beers were involved. I believe it was a trip last year when my parents and I camped on the coast for a few days. By the time we were driving back to Los Angeles, my dad and I had decided to run the LA marathon. It would be my first and his 52nd, at 72 years old.
He started running marathons in 1977, beginning with running New York fast enough to qualify for Boston and starting a ball rolling that 32 years has yet to fully settle. Throughout the 80s it was a few a year, including the Pikes Peak Marathon, a 50 miler in the south and the 1984 Ironman Triathlon in Hawaii.
I on the other hand never got around to it. Two years ago I followed a training schedule for a marathon but after a 24 mile run on a 100 degree day went bad, I lost interest. I'd been to a bunch of races growing up, but as for exercise I always preferred bicycles to running. This time around I decided to skip the schedule and only run far, often.
For the day of the race, my sister had some t-shirts printed for us. On the front they said "George. I'm the father" and "Steven. I'm the son" and on the back of his was the brag-worthy "This is my 52nd marathon" while I got the not so impressive "this is my 1st marathon." The shirts turned out to be a huge hit as countless people congratulated, cheered or just gasped in astonishment about his 52 marathons as we passed.
The marathon itself is totally amazing in ways I would have never known if I didn't run it. The new course was one that I've always wanted to walk. Starting at Dodger stadium, going through downtown, back to Sunset, through Hollywood and finally zig zagging all the way to the beach. Along the course is a bizarre party, like a parade in reverse. Where the spectators move and the circus stands still. In fact, at the six mile mark (Sunset and Alvarado) there was a circus, giving out stilted and unicycled high fives.
My other course favorite were the bands. Either awesome or awesomely bad, they were all there. Ghost in the Machine, by the Disney hall, played a spot on cover of "Every Little Thing She Does is Magic" as we ran by. Further on some kids we're rocking a nice cover of "Where it's At" (which made me realize I like Beck songs a lot more when played by some kids on the street). Though my favorite had to be the band in West Hollywood that was tearing through Led Zeppelin's "The Immigrant Song" - sung by the keyboardist - and complete with a ripping solo by a dude playing a flying V. In fact, I heard a lot of guitar solos while running.
The other glaring observation was that religious people are attracted to running like ants to honey. I don't know why, but everywhere you looked was Jesus this, God that. In front of Guitar Center on Sunset, I heard a guy tearing through a thuggish Jesus rap, and further down was a Gospel church set-up replete with columns (?) and heavy cheesy backing tracks. Running the course is like a who's who of Los Angeles churches.
My favorite church moment was crossing the corner of Sunset and Crescent Heights, there was a woman on the mic talking in between songs. When she saw the shirtless, shoeless guy with tiny shorts run by, her comment was along the lines of "honey... don't make us lose our religion here.. put some clothes on." She cracked both herself, and me, up.
As for my father and I, we just kept it moving. I guess after 51 marathons you learn a thing or two about concentration and continuation. Where I wanted to put every mile mark in perspective to time left, my dad just chose to keep truckin'. By the 23rd mile he put his head down and we ran it in. I'd love to talk about struggles and difficulties and overcoming them against great odds, but there was none of that. Just a dad and son enjoying six hours together and seeing Los Angeles at it's best. If someone had offered us to run it again backwards, I might have had to think about it for a second before deciding I'd rather just go have a beer with my dad.