Week eight: the ugly, the bad and the good

The ugly: Smoke and fire everywhere. By Saturday morning the Sayre fire was already so bad that the 5 Freeway was shut down and Steve, our pace group leader, was stuck at home on the other side. As the rest of us headed from Griffith Park into Burbank over the Riverside Drive bridge for our weekly group run, our delight at spotting a flock of egrets bathing in the LA River was soon eclipsed by alarm at the growing grey-black gob on the horizon. By the time we returned to the park mid-morning – about two hours later -- the air was heavy with heat and smoke.

Our coach, Scott Boliver, who schleps from Brea every week, returned home on Saturday (after 2 ˝ hours of detours and delays) to find the houses across the street being evacuated. By Sunday his own home was full of ash. It was still standing, though, so he wasn’t complaining.

In my 19 years as a Californian, I’ve witnessed many horrible fires, from the massive Oakland Fire of 1991, which took 25 lives and wiped out more than a 2,000 homes, to the many Malibu fires, to the Griffith Park Fire, to this. As with all disasters, fires bring out the perverse nature of reporting. The bigger the fire and the accompanying devastation, the bigger the story. Hence the bigger the opportunity for a hungry journalist. These days, thankfully, I’m not out there sucking smoke for a shot at page one. As a marathoner wanna-be, I can worry about my friends and family and fret about the air quality like everyone else. It would be hard to imagine worse running weather.

The bad: Absorbing the news that the marathon will, indeed, be held on Memorial Day-- more than three months later than previously scheduled. Linda Francisco, a fund raising coodinator for AIDS Project Los Angeles, told the runners gathered at Griffith Park on Saturday that at a meeting the day before, the marathon folks were apologetic. “It’s easier to ask forgiveness than permission,” she told us, and encouraged us to use to delay to raise more money for the cause. Linda also said that contrary to reports, APLA was not in on the date change and learned about it like everybody else, from the press release.

For those of us committed to training with APLA, the new date means not only three-plus additional months of training, but those same three-plus months of Saturdays given over to running and taken away from our families and/or non-running lives. My husband and kids are making a big sacrifice for me to do the training. No mom on Saturdays. They’ve been incredibly supportive, but I know as the months add up it’s going to get old.

On Saturday there was a fair amount of grumbling from the group, especially from those who already have other plans for Memorial Day weekend. What’s the point of all that training if you miss the payoff? Dwayne, a documentary filmmaker, will be out of town for a film shoot, and Mae is scheduled to give her father a partial liver transplant.

Eun, who is an acupuncturist, was philosophical about the date change. The training is too long now, she said. She will probably quit at some point, though when, exactly, she isn’t sure. “I will run,” she said, “until I stop.”

For me, the new date obliterates my plan to run a marathon by the time I’m 40. By May I’ll be 41, which doesn’t have quite the same ring to it. My friend Sara also turns a year older in March. “By May I’ll be in a whole new demographic,” she moaned.

For the APLA fundraising organization, it’s a potential disaster. Participation among runners in AIDS fundraising in the recent races in Honolulu and Amsterdam was disappointing, organizers told me. The coaches, the fundraising staff, the supplies and equipment all cost money, and fundraisers trimmed three weeks off the training schedule in LA (before the owners made the first date change, to February) as a cost-saving measure. Now the owners have gone and added in another three months, and the fundraisers have to find a way to make enough additional money to cover the added expenses.

One guy wondered: "Can we get the address of the marathon owner so we can send him a big pile of poop?"

The good: Not everyone is unhappy. A runner named Diane could not be more pleased. For her, the marathon training is part of a larger life change she’s been working on for a while and plans to continue, including diet and exercise. So a few extra months of training is gravy.

Coach Scott told us, in his typical understated way, that he’d actually been quite worried about our ability to be ready for a marathon come February 16 (the previously scheduled marathon date). (Him and me both!) Now, he says, he’s sure we’ll all be in fine form.

And for those of us who are still a bit poky on marathon day, my co-runner Andrea points out that by May, Daylight Savings will be in full swing, so, while it may be hot, none of us will be left to run in the dark.

10:55 AM Monday, November 17 2008 • Link •  
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