Sunday March 20, 2011 seems like a lifetime ago now, but it will be one of the defining moments in my life as it's the day I ran my first ever marathon. Not only was it a 26.2 mile course through sprawling Los Angeles, but it was also through a storm-tossed tempest.
Jason in Hollywood running the
26th Annual LA Marathon 2011
Who could have guessed that the weather conditions could be so severe in the traditionally sunny City of Angels. Finally though I have my official race photos and these are going to provide some wonderful memories for many years to come. I love these photos as they show my joy, pain and determination.
Running past Echo Park Lake
After previous half marathons where there's always been someone in my way or I'm not looking at the camera, my strategy for this race was to wave and run towards any photographers so that my first marathon would be well documented. I wanted proof that I'd run in those adverse monsoon conditions.
Caught on a walk break
Luckily it didn't rain in our starting corrals at Dodger Stadium, so we weren't wet and miserable from the start, but I remember running through Hollywood, past the likes of Pantages Theater, Capitol Records Tower and Grauman's Chinese Theater, and just laughing at the ridiculousness of the deluge we were running through.
Running down Rodeo Drive in Beverly Hills
Luckily for the first 21 or so miles I had a great partner-in-crime, Rob, who helped me keep pace and experienced the insanity with me.
Still smiling at Rodeo Drive
We may have been soaking wet, but our spirits were high with all the cheering support of the race spectators and at the absurdity of our situation. Around mile 17 we ran down Rodeo Drive in Beverly Hills, sadly with no time to shop, then past the Beverly Wilshire Hotel, made famous in Pretty Woman.
Joining Wilshire Boulevard in the rain
As you can see the downpour was almost continuous and at times my running shoes felt like soggy weights.
Veterans' Administration hill
Around mile 21 we encountered the Veteran's Administration hill that my fellow runners had warned me about, just when you thought all the inclines were over. Fortunately all that training paid off and no amount of hills or ice-cold water running down them was going to get in my way.
Veterans' Administration in Westwood
It was after this point that I looked at my watch and realised that if I didn't go for it and pick up my pace, my dreams of crossing the Finish Line under four hours would be shattered. I left my fellow T2: Team To End AIDS runner, Rob, and raced my heart out.
Sprinting through Brentwood
Rather than abating, the weather continued to get worse the closer to the ocean we ran. I didn't mind the cold rain so much, as I was hot from running and my legs burning from fatigue, it was the strong winds that really chilled to the bone.
Victoriously crossing the Finish Line in Santa Monica
With about four minutes to go I reached Ocean Drive in Santa Monica and sprinted for the Finish Line, which I couldn't even see in all the rain. In fact I'm not sure how much I saw of much of the course as i had my head down for the majority of it.
Official race time 3:58:13
Time was ticking away and I didn't think I was going to make it, but the cheers of the crowds calling my name (it was on my race bib) and the psychological boost of passing fellow runners in that last mad dash gave me that extra strength to power across with almost two minutes to spare.
Freezing cold conditions after the Finish Line
I felt invincible crossing that finish line and a huge sense of accomplishment.
Unfortunately this soon turned to utter misery and I've never felt wetter or colder in my life. I could hardly breathe at first, my legs were seizing up and the winds were blowing and I couldn't wrap my foil blanket around myself.
Official breakdown of my first marathon
There were people trying to take our photos, friends and family congratulating the runners around us and all I wanted to do was get somewhere warm.
A well deserved L.A. Marathon medal
It wasn't long before I did and was reunited with Charlie and Cooper. I managed to bump into a few of my Team To End AIDS friends, but no one wanted to wait around in those conditions when you're soaking wet and freezing cold. That's one of the things I regretted, not being able to cheer home my teammates as they crossed that Finish Line.
Luckily I have these fantastic photos to remind me of my wet and wild achievement, just like the 19,743 other finishers.
Next up is Bay to Breakers in San Francisco in May, a mere 7.4 miles, and then the Disneyland Half Marathon in September.
And now I've run a marathon, that doesn't feel that far at all...