Minutes before each Los Angeles Marathon, members of a select club gather for a group photo. They are the legacy runners — those who have reached the start and finish line of every race since the inaugural in 1986 — and their number is eroded each year by the effects of age, health and other issues.
Richard Ringwald, 72, had signed up as one of 157 charter contestants Sunday. Not even open-heart surgery could snap his streak last year. He thinks his recovery was accelerated by chasing the ambition of a 30th straight race, and he covered the course four months after the operation.
This one, he missed. Ringwald’s wife recently was diagnosed with a brain tumor. She returned home Thursday from the hospital, and Ringwald stayed at her side as she gears up for surgery.
“I made the right decision,” he said. The retired technical writer resisted a peek at the television coverage, though he did monitor the progress of a running pal on his cellphone.
I’d rather have my tongue waxed than run another marathon. If I ever suggest it, just gaff me, OK? Hoist me on my own petard. Shoot me in my knee, because even that would be less painful than what I just went through.
Marathon, a Greek word meaning, “Oy, my aching ankles.” No human being should run this far for free.
Heard over and over at the L.A. Marathon finish line Sunday: “This was the hardest thing I’ve ever done. Never doing this again.”
You do remember the very first marathon killed Pheidippides, right? And he didn’t even have to trudge up that nasty hill by the VA hospital. Somehow, the L.A. Marathon, despite ending at sea level, seems to have more uphill than down.
Through more than half of the Los Angeles Marathon, Julia Budniak was resigned to running for fourth place. Three competitors had pulled so far ahead that they were no longer in view, so she assumed an optimum finish would keep her one spot off the awards podium.
At the same time, Budniak’s expectations were modest. Her main event while growing up in Poland was the steeplechase, which is 1/14th the distance of the marathon, and this was just her third time stretching out.
Budniak, 34, did wield a home-course edge over most of the elite division. Twelve years ago, she enrolled at USC on a track scholarship. Since graduation, she has served as an assistant coach, now at Cal State Los Angeles, and once belonged to the Santa Monica Track Club in the city where finishers in Sunday’s race made their final strides.
Unshadowed, Budniak clocked in at two hours 44 minutes 44 seconds — a full 12 minutes behind the runner-up. The yawning gap mattered little to her. This was a personal best for someone whose coaching duties, plus internship as a clinical dietitian, cut into time available for training.
“I still didn’t believe it,” she said of her lowest time yet, “for 30 minutes after I finished.”
L.A. Marathon organizers reported this on Facebook: “Runners, we appreciate your patience at gear pickup. Eight UPS trucks did not show up at Dodger Stadium this morning. We are doing our best to find a quick solution. We appreciate your patience.” They also tweeted it (below):
Shawna Horvath waited at mile marker 10, looking for her husband Michael in the crowd of L.A. Marathon runners so she could give him a water bottle.
“Follow me,” Michael Horvath said, leading his wife to an arch of red, white and pink balloons at Hollywood Boulevard and Vine Street.