More than 26,000 runners, walkers and wheelchair athletes will take to the streets Sunday as the Los Angeles Marathon kicks off its 23rd year with a 26.2-mile race through Hollywood, Koreatown, Boyle Heights, downtown and points in between. Many of those chugging along will be first-timers who have loaded up on carbs, checked the batteries in their iPods and prayed for cool weather and overcast skies.
Pete Banuelos, 52
Number of L.A. Marathons run: 5
Best race: I ran the first Orange County Marathon in 2004, and it was the first time I ran in under four hours. They told us it might rain, and I don't even know when it started pouring -- I think in the last couple of miles. I had hoped to make it under four hours, and here I am, I see the finish line, and I felt so much joy crossing it. You'd have thought I won the Olympics -- that's what it felt like. Also, I've always thrown up at the end of every single marathon, except for that one. I think I was more relaxed. I wasn't thinking about my pace.
Worst race: It was last year's L.A. Marathon. Right off the bat, there's the uphill and then the downhill, and for some reason it really killed me. I think I ran the race too fast in the beginning. Also, all of our training had been done in cool weather, and it was terribly hot on race day.
Strategy this year: This year I'm really going to keep the right pace, slow it down, and not go too fast. And I'm going to wait until I'm completely tired before I start walking -- if I have to. I'm hoping I won't.
Advice for newbies: You're either going to be so excited or worried that you're not going to sleep the night before the race. So get a good night's sleep Friday night. You'll be OK as long as you've had that good night of sleep. Even if you're restless Saturday night, that Friday night sleep will carry you on through.
Pre-race ritual: I read that having pancakes before a race is good, so I did that for the first time before I ran an 18-miler and I felt so much different from when I ate the tiny snacks I used to have. So now I've got to have three pancakes and some sort of fruit. When I do the L.A. Marathon, you have to be there so early that I have to go to a Denny's that's open 24 hours.
Alice Perlowski, 31
cardiology fellow at UCLA
Number of L.A. Marathons run: 3
Best race: Last year's L.A. Marathon was my fastest time, 3:22, and that was nice. It qualified me for New York. I was very relaxed the whole time and really ran well. It was probably a combination of things. Like any endurance sport, some days you feel great and could go another 20 miles and some days you can barely make it.