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Thousands join in the fun for the 33rd L.A. Marathon

When Tammy Blanck saw her husband, Jim, running toward her at Hollywood Boulevard and Cherokee Avenue, between miles 11 and 12 of the Los Angeles Marathon, she started jumping up and down, squealing.

“There he is!” she chirped to her 5-year-old grandson, Emory, who grinned from under a crocheted stocking cap that looked like a lion.

Emory and his 3-year-old sister, Eryn, ran toward Jim, and Jim clutched his grandchildren’s hands as he ran toward his family in a bright yellow shirt just after 8:30 a.m. He was still feeling good.

Jim Blanck, 61, was a legacy runner participating in his 33rd L.A. Marathon, which drew more than 24,000 runners on Sunday. The marathon, which attracts professional athletes from around the world as well as casual enthusiasts, stretched 26.2 miles from Dodger Stadium in downtown Los Angeles to the Santa Monica Pier.

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“He just loves it,” Tammy said of the long-distance run. “He doesn’t do any other marathons. I tell everybody, but he has such humility he doesn’t tell everybody. But he wants to do this forever.”

“We’re so proud of him,” said his daughter, Jessica Blanck, clutching a heart-shaped sign that read “WE LOVE LEGACY RUNNERS.”

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Thousands of L.A. Marathon runners flood the streets of downtown early on Sunday.
(Carlos Lozano / Los Angeles Times )

The family, from Simi Valley, has come to watch him every year in about the same spot, near Nat “King” Cole’s star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame. From there, they said, they’ll pile into a car they parked nearby and rush to mile 22. They’ve got it down to a science, they joked.

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They follow an app so they can see where Jim is on the course and know when he’s coming. Tammy kept checking her watch.

“He’s coming soon!” she told her grandkids. “Say, ‘Go, Grandpa!’”

When Jim approached to hold his grandkids’ hands, Tammy ran out onto Hollywood Boulevard and gave him a kiss.

“Thanks for coming!” he told his wife, kids and grandkids with a grin. “But I’ve got to go!”

They cheered him off.

As hundreds of runners passed on the boulevard, others lined up along the route clanged cowbells and cheered them on. Clear skies and crisp weather - in the high 60s and low 70s early Sunday - made for a festive atmosphere.

Liz Guillen, 38, of Santa Ana giggled with anticipation as she scanned the crowd of thousands of runners for her friend Rina Padula.

Liz and her sister, Sam Guillen, 27, of Hollywood and their friend Myrna Ramirez, 39, of San Gabriel stood near Hollywood Boulevard and Argyle Avenue. They each consulted smartphone apps, trying to keep track of Padula so they wouldn’t miss her. All they knew was that she was in a red hat and she was getting close.

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“There are so many red hats!” Ramirez said, laughing. They cheered on everyone in a red cap, just in case.

“I hope she sees us!” Liz Guillen said. “I feel so nervous for her. I feel like I just ran the marathon.”

Liz hopped on a train at 6 a.m. in Orange County to be here for Padula’s first marathon. She and Ramirez were college roommates at USC, and Padula was a close friend and a “designated roommate.” They’ve all been friends for about 20 years.

Padula has been training hard, Ramirez said, and they planned to celebrate afterward with champagne.

Finally, at around 9:15 a.m., they spotted her: red cap, long braided hair, a white tank top. They chanted her name and held up a pink poster board that said: “#RinaRocks LA Marathon, <3 your fans.”

She saw them, flashed a big smile, waved and kept running.

Her friends were thrilled they spotted her. They’ve never done a marathon themselves.

“Maybe you and I next year, Myrn!” Liz said to Ramirez. “Then she’ll have to come watch us!”

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Across the street, someone held up a sign that read, “no time for Walken” with a photo of actor Christopher Walken. Runners dressed as Marilyn Monroe and Elvis got big cheers.

A man in an inflatable T. rex costume jogged by as a woman shouted, “Go, T. rex!”

“I can’t even imagine doing that for one mile,” she said, laughing.

Bert Champagne of Hollywood stood near Hollywood Boulevard and Whitley Avenue in a robe that made him look like a penguin, giving a droll congratulations to passing runners.

“Welcome to Hollywood,” he said. “If this is your Hollywood dream, you’re living it.”

Champagne was a volunteer with the Pablove Foundation, which raises money for childhood cancer research. Pablove had 35 runners trained by the group in the marathon; they had raised about $60,000 while training.

Champagne stood with volunteer Kat Ferson and Kerry Quakenbush, director of Team Pablove, which trains athletes.

Quakenbush is a runner himself who said he has done 60 marathons and cheered at many others. He said this year’s weather — clear, with just a slight chill in the air — was so much better than that of past L.A. Marathons, which were sometimes held in sweltering conditions.

“The weather’s perfect,” he said. “You can’t beat it.”

The three had energy gel, hugs and cheers to give their runners if they needed a boost. When the final Pablove runners, a man and woman, passed, they ran out and hugged them.

Champagne said he dresses silly every year. He’s dressed as the pope a few times, which he said always gets a laugh. He’s also been Santa Claus.

“Anything to make them smile,” he said. “It takes their mind off the race.”

hailey.branson@latimes.com


UPDATES:

11:10 a.m.: This article was updated with more comments from L.A. Marathon fans.

10:15 a.m.: This article was updated with more comments from those cheering on L.A. Marathon runners.

This article was originally posted at 9:30 a.m.


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