The heat was on during Sunday’s fourth annual Los Angeles Marathon.
For those among the 18,861 starters who ran, walked, rolled, limped, or collapsed across the finish line of the 26.2-mile journey, the unrelenting sun had been draining, but it made success even sweeter.
Art Boileau, 31, of Canada, winner of the 1987 Los Angeles Marathon, finished first again, with a time of 2 hours, 13 minutes and 1 second. The Soviet Union’s Zoya Ivanova was the women’s winner at 2:34.33, beating favored Rosa Mota of Portugal, the Olympic gold medalist in Seoul.
Race officials said it was the first time Soviet runners have participated.
Army of Volunteers
Temperatures in the low 70s accompanying the sun created grueling conditions for the runners, but about 14,000 volunteers tended to the participants’ physical needs by handing out water and fruit at stations strategically set up along the route, while an estimated 1.5 million onlookers provided moral support.
“I figure if these people are crazy enough to be out here running 26 miles, then I can at least show up to support them,” said Louvenia Austin, 36, of Inglewood, who cheered and held out chewing gum for runners as they passed by on Crenshaw Boulevard. “I am in awe of their stamina and determination.”
The marathon, second largest in the country after New York’s, took participants through several ethnically diverse neighborhoods--such as Chinatown, Little Toyko, Olvera Street, Hollywood and South-Central Los Angeles, causing massive traffic jams in those areas until late afternoon.
After two false starts, Mayor Tom Bradley got the race going on Figueroa Street near the Memorial Coliseum shortly after 9 a.m. while City Councilman and Bradley’s mayoral opponent Nate Holden started the wheelchair race about half an hour earlier.
Participants, wearing stretch-pants, skimpy shorts, sleeveless shirts or no shirts at all, gathered at the starting line hours before the race to stretch their muscles and psych themselves up.
“This type of race takes a lot of mental preparation, as well as physical,” said runner Alfonso Hernandez, 33, of Los Angeles. “You have to really convince yourself that nothing will stop you from finishing.”
One Runner’s Strategy
Modena MacFarlane, 65, of Riverside said her strategy for finishing the race was to keep her mind off running.
“I have to think about other things, because if I think about running, and being tired, and all the pain, I won’t finish,” she explained.
Race officials set up several diversions for the runners along the route, including mariachis near Olvera Street, fireworks in Chinatown and a gospel choir in South-Central Los Angeles, where participants encountered the final few miles of the race.
“The is the crisis point--where the runners start overheating and getting thirsty and tired,” said Steve Salazar, a volunteer who filled water cups for the participants at a refreshment station near Crenshaw and Pico boulevards. “This is where a lot of them will either quit the race or get a boost of energy. It’s real important for the crowd to cheer them on at this point.”
In turn, several of the race participants, who came to Los Angeles from all parts of the globe, entertained the spectators. One runner was dressed as the late actor-comedian W.C. Fields. A couple of fathers pushed their toddlers in specially designed carriages, while other harriers dribbled basketballs or juggled as they ran.
“It’s tough enough just to run 26 miles, but to do more is really admirable,” said Florence M. Bastian, 85, who sat in a folding lawn chair along the race route, wearing a Dodgers baseball cap.
Hundreds of runners, who represented 26 local charities, earned about $500,000 for their groups by soliciting pledges for every mile they completed. Some of the participating charities were Casa del Sol AIDS Hospice; the Children’s Cancer Research Fund, which organized a “Kids 4 Kids” carnival along the route, and the Los Angeles Homeless Healthcare Project, which hosted a pancake breakfast.
A team of runners from the Roman Catholic Archdiocese of Los Angeles hoped that their participation in the race would attract potential priests and nuns.
“We’re using the marathon to promote church vocation by helping to create a better image of priests and bishops as healthy, wholesome and alive people in the ministry,” said Sister Kathy Bryant, archdiocese director of sisters’ vocations.
George McGee of South-Central Los Angeles said his neighborhood always gets excited about the race.
“It’s something that everyone can get involved in--no matter what color you are, or how much money you have,” he said. “It’s one of the best events in Los Angeles--a real bright spot.”
Hundreds of police officers roamed the race route to provide security. Police officials said no serious incidents occurred during the event.
As runners began crossing the finish line in front of the Olympic statues at the Coliseum, Exposition Park resembled a battleground.
Easing the Pain
Runners limped away with the help of friends and relatives. The air smelled of mentholated ointment as friends rubbed the kinks and cramps out of participants’ legs.
“I am in extreme pain and will probably be this way for a few days,” said Sue Howard, 31, of Irvine as she limped away from the finish line. “I am an aerobics instructor, and I know I am going to have to take a few days off work.”
Daytime television soap opera star Brian Patrick Clark, who won the celebrity division for the third consecutive year, collapsed as he crossed the finish line.
“It was the worst race I have ever run,” the “General Hospital” cast member said. “It was so hot out there and I think I just outdid myself.”
Another participant gasped “I’ll never do it again” as she finished.
“Yeah, sure,” said a friend, picking the runner up off the pavement. “You say that every year.”
Additional pictures, stories in Sports.