Monday, March 03, 2008

Marathon Man

Yesterday, I completed the Los Angeles Marathon.

It was a grueling exercise in fitness, focus and fortitude. Although it was my second marathon (I completed the 2006 Marathon), this one was particularly challenging as I did not train as vociferously as I had in the past and I had a lot on my mind.

I began the morning at around 4:30am. Sharon J. dropped me off at the Crenshaw/Imperial Green Line Station. MTA offered free transportation to the runners of the marathon. It was dark and cold, but I was ready. The train took about 20 minutes before it arrived at the station, and I was the only one at the platform - save for the homeless/crazy guy who wandered up there... The solitude and the view of the area from that elevated platform gave me pause to begin forming my concentration for the task at hand.

The train finally arrived and I boarded. I saw other runners on the train. The group of Suburbanite-looking folk... The young latino guy with his wife/girlfriend... we were on that Green Line heading towards the mega-event. As I observed the suburbanites, it was a culture clash to see them on the Green Line especially in the areas where we were and even more so as they transferred with the rest of us at Imperial/Wilmington station in Watts. The mixture of suburbanites, gangstas, hoodrats and brothas was profound. I wonder if these folk regarded us as curiously as we regarded them.

I struck up a conversation with a brotha who was on his way to work. He spoke in wonder about the prospect of running 26.2 miles...

Heading Towards Downtown Los Angeles

The Blue Line arrived and we jumped on - heading toward downtown... I estimate it to be a thirty minute ride from Watts to Downtown Los Angeles. I watched the sun rise as we rolled through the diverse communities of LA - 103rd Street, Firestone, Slauson, Vernon, Grand Avenue, Pico, and on into 7th Street/Metro Center. There, we joined the flow of hundreds of thousands of runners and their supporters packing the Red Line heading north to Universal Studios... It was a surreal experience at the 7th Street Metro station.. all those runners, plus massive security.. LA County Sheriffs with dogs and all kinds of officers.

My Ipod was bumpin' as my eclectic mix of gospel, r&B, classic jazz, neo-soul and hip-hop blazed into my eardome. Like a professional boxer or football player, I was getting myself psyched for the experience. We finally arrived at Universal Studios station and the doors of the train opened to let us off. "Time to Get it On!" I yelled out and moved with the throng to the starting line.

I had my backpack ready to run with it on my back, although I had preferred not to, and if I had to, all I was carrying was my jacket and an extra t-shirt. But the Marathon folks had that figured out too as UPS collected your stuff. You gave them your bib number and they filed your gear accordingly. You would be able to claim your stuff at the end of the marathon...

At Cahuenga and Lankershim, there were what looked like millions packing the streets to participate in the Marathon. I was getting more and more hype as the start time approached. And, wow, what a sight to behold!! There was a guy who painted himself green all over. There was a brotha with a blue afro. There was a guy who dressed up like some sort of superhero with Mickey Mouse hands. There was a guy who ran the marathon dressed in his native indian(american indian) attire. Elvis ran the marathon as did a squad of guys dressed up like Slash of Guns N Roses complete with top hats, long curly hair and fake cigarettes. It was a festive yet crazy scene.

The opening ceremonies got a little long-winded to me, I just wanted to get it on... You know, the National Anthem, the happy talk congratulating and acknowledging the VIP's and special elements of the Marathon. I loved to hear that the LAPD was running a torch relay in honor and memory of Randy Simmons, the first SWAT officer ever killed in the line of duty. After all that stuff it was finally ready to get started and we were off...

From Universal, over the hill through Hollywood, Hancock Park, The Wilshire area, Koreatown, South Los Angeles, Exposition Park, through the east side, all the way east to Eat LA/Boyle Heights... Coming out of Boyle Heights brought me to one of the most awesome sights I have ever witnessed. The panorama of the skyline of Los Angeles was magical even at 20 miles... It was here that I realized that I was about to complete this sojourn...

Within these miles, my mind, body and spirit were brought to submission. I found myself asking for the strength of my creator and I was convinced that He is the source of my strength. I re-evaluated my life. My situation in life, my career, my marriage, my spiritual walk.. everything. I prayed, I cried, I laughed, I danced. The experience was beyond cleansing. It was impactful and created yet another level of consciousness within me. There's physical strength and ability. Then there's will power and determination. And then there's the universal life force that I know is the Creator.. Almighty God himself.

I am so grateful for the experience of running the Los Angeles Marathon. We ran 26.2 miles. Through the diverse communities of Los Angeles. I did it on my own. All by myself. I hit it and hit it hard. What a ride...

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