Dawn Vonderheide, 52

Residence: Fullerton Occupation: healthcare administrator Number of L.A. Marathons run: 11 Best race: It was the Boston Marathon in 2006. I was training to break 3:45. The weather was good, and this was my third time running it, so I knew what I was getting into. I was running, and all of a sudden I realized I was going to break my previous time. I had no plan; I was just going to run. There was no pressure; I was just going to enjoy it. I did a personal record that day of 3:44. Worst race: I ran the Grandma's Marathon in Duluth [Minn.] in 2005. It was bad because I put too much pressure on myself. It was supposed to be a good course, and I traveled across the country for it, but it was warmer than I expected, and I remember that I was really putting myself down. It took all the fun out of it. I had that moment where I said, "Get over yourself; don't be so damn proud." After I got through that period, I felt better. Strategy this year: I'm a pace leader, and my group is about a 9:30 pace. We'll probably run the first part about 9:20, 9:25, slightly faster, to take advantage of gravity. The second half will be a little slower, about 9:35, 9:45, because fatigue is starting to set in. Then we've got that little hill going up Olympic [Boulevard] then you're flying down the hill again. That's where everybody cramps up -- that hill has to be respected. So we're not going to run it fast. Then we'll go down Flower and enjoy the parade. And then we'll get that . . . medal. Advice for newbies: On my first few marathons, I was so excited by the crowds and I was high-fiving all the kids. It takes a lot of energy to high-five everyone. Enjoy the crowds, but run in the center of the road so you don't have that temptation to high-five. Pre-race ritual: I run with $26.20 in my fanny pack. Three or four years ago, I found $26 on the ground when I was running one day, and I couldn't find the owner. People said I should play the lottery, but I said no, I'm going to keep this -- a marathon is 26.2 miles, so I put the 20 cents in. That's when I started doing better races. Also, sometimes there's food for sale after a race and you need money. At one marathon I did, all the food [provided for the runners] had been eaten by the half-marathoners, so the only food available was from the vendors. I bought a round of food for people -- Cokes and potato chips.
Ringo H.W. Chiu / For The Times
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