Commentary: Surviving the L.A. Marathon – in an SUV

Had a sobering experience the other day.

Fellow runners Jill and Tony put me in the back seat of their big Suburban and wore me out driving the Los Angeles Marathon course.

Tony drove, Jill's an excellent navigator, so I did nothing but sit on my posterior and peer out the window.

Starting with the downslope and two big hills out of Dodger Stadium, through the adjacent neighborhoods toward Echo Park, marathoners navigate about nine turns. That only gets us to Mile 5.

I worked so hard peering out the window at this labyrinth, it felt as if I'd run 10 miles.

When our car finally rolled by the first landmark, Chinatown's Dragon Gate, we'd only reached Mile 9. We inched by Olvera Street, Little Toyko and Disney Hall, continuing past Hollywood and Vine, the Walk of Fame and what used to be called Grauman's Chinese Theatre.

Half done? No, that's not even Mile 12.

And, by the way, I'm making this sound too easy, leaving out turns on Alpine, Spring and Main streets, Grand Avenue, Edgeware Street, Bellevue Avenue, etc, etc.

Why do I dislike turns? Every turn potentially slows a runner, especially on narrow crowded courses like L.A.'s neighborhoods.

By the time we picked our way through West Hollywood, Beverly Hills, Century City and arrived at Mile 21, where we did a loop through the Veteran's Administration, I figured we'd emptied the Suburban's gas tank and anyone who'd consider doing this on foot had an empty tank for a head.

Before us was the hit-the-wall final six miles: The point where runners have depleted their glycogen stores and burn into their bodily organs. Yet we drove forever down San Vicente Boulevard with no Santa Monica Pier finish line in sight. That's because we never glimpse the end until somewhere between Mile 25 and 26, when we turn left on Ocean Avenue.

Jill, who will run L.A. with me, was undaunted, pleased with her ability to direct her patient husband through the torturous route. OK, so she occasionally pointed left and said, "Turn right," prompting Tony to say, "Jill, hold the hand by me up, it forms an "L. That means left."

Jill's unshakable confidence came from an easy 19-mile workout Saturday around Turtle Rock. Besides, she's run L.A. before and come in strong down tree-lined, slightly downhill San Vicente.

To give Newport Beach residents perspective regarding distance we'll run on March 9, Newport to Long Beach is only 25 miles. Costa Mesa to La Mirada is 27 miles and Irvine to San Clemente is 25 miles. And of course, Catalina Island: 26 miles across the sea.

Ever think of running to Long Beach, La Mirada, San Clemente or Catalina? One sounds as impossible as the other.

That morning I was chauffeured in an air-conditioned SUV with soft seats by an expert driver and a competent navigator for 26.2 miles, the L.A. Marathon route. Exhausted by the effort of watching all that passing geography, I came home and took a nap.

Newport Beach resident CARRIE LUGER SLAYBACK is training to run the Los Angeles Marathon at age 70. Read more about her adventures at

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