My Race Course Is Cooler Than Yours

Students Run LA (SRLA) provides a six-month long-distance running program to prepare middle and high school students to enter and complete the Los Angeles Marathon.  Students run with their leaders three to four times a week and attend community races that bring all the SRLA groups together.  Team leaders also prepare in their role as an SRLA leader by attending a Leaders Training Conference.  Over the six month period, students participate in a 5K, 10K, 15K, two half marathons, and an 18-mile run, culminating with the Los Angeles Marathon.  The program provides students with a safe, supervised program of exercise, mentoring and goal setting, a healthy and constructive alternative to involvement in gangs, use of illegal substances, and sitting in front of the television.  The students learn that hard work and persistence leads to success.

I’m fortunate that I am able to crash their runs, especially their 15K at Universal Studios Backlot.

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Marathon, A Gateway Sport

I have completed 10 marathons. And half-marathons in between. But it’s not what you think. I am not a super athlete by any means. In school, I was picked second-to-last; I sucked at sports but my salvation was that I was not completely uncool and I was fun. In middle school, I participated in track and field. My events were the 4×100 meter relay and the discus. At one meet, we were one runner short for the 1600 meter; Ms. Anderson asked if I wanted to try it. I did. I did not know you were suppose to pace yourself. When everyone finished, I still had at least one-half lap to go.

Fast-forward 10+ years.

I was dating someone and then we broke up. There was a time for sorrow and reflection– and then you just have to move on; not necessarily get over it, but move on.  Since my ex and I had a routine of talking and hanging out after a workday, I wanted–needed– to create a new habit. I did not want to get into the habit of moping and crying and self-pity.  I decided to just go for long walks and get some fresh air until I could figure out what new habit I might focus on.

After three days into my new fill-in activity, I got bored.  Walking took too long so I started running. I was not a runner. I was not in shape and had not participated in sports since middle school track.  Maybe because it was ingrained in my head as an ethnic studies student and as someone who had worked in nonprofit, but I remembered that in tackling lofty goals, agenda, or plans, the best approach was incremental change.  With incremental change, I could build upon small victories that could eventually amount to a systems change.  Small– but still measurable– outcomes was the way to go.  I decided that I would walk a block, run a block, maybe walk two blocks, run two, and so on.  My long-term goal was to sign up for a 5K run/walk.

A month or so later, I built up my stride and strength and was able to run longer. I started running 3 miles on a regular basis and then found myself running 5 miles. One day, my BFF jokingly said that I should just run a marathon. I was running so much I figured, why not? Exactly a year after the break up, I ran and finished the L.A. Marathon.

And I was hooked.  Marathon running was my gateway sport. Despite my ability, or lack thereof, I was addicted.  I stayed in Friday nights (and I was in my mid-20s) so I could get up and run my long distances at 6:30 a.m. on Saturdays.  I needed to do at least one half and one full marathon a year.  To date, I have completed at least 10 of each and a slew of 5K and 10Ks. In between training for long distance running, I also dabbled in other sports, including snowboarding and golf.  Earlier this year, I signed up and completed a sprint triathlon, only learning how to swim a few weeks before the event. Nothing like signing up, paying the hefty registration fee, and announcing on Facebook to hold myself accountable.

In the past few years, I have really learned that the best way to live life is that when it gives you lemons, don’t just stop at making lemonade.  See if you can also make lemon meringue pie, lemon cookies, lemon cake, and maybe even franchise. Life is really what you make of it.