Run the L.A. Marathon? That’s crazy, but he’s ready to go -- again

In a marathon, it's the first 26.2 miles that really get you. Here, the columnist, Chris Erskine, is on Hollywood Boulevard. Expected arrival at finish line: Maybe Thursday.

In a marathon, it’s the first 26.2 miles that really get you. Here, the columnist, Chris Erskine, is on Hollywood Boulevard. Expected arrival at finish line: Maybe Thursday.

(Rick Oliver )

Marathons are easy. You just run till your toenails peel off, then you run a little more. Done. Ginomenos, as the Greeks would say.

If that’s not for you, you’re probably a very sensible person. Stick with very sensible sports: Skydiving. Car racing. Throwing harpoons at passing trucks. Just respect the marathon, because it’s the most difficult, most amazing sport around.

I’m running the Los Angeles Marathon again Sunday, and “I’m in it to win it,” as always. If that doesn’t come to pass, I’m not ruling out stopping for coffee and doughnuts along the way. We’ll see what the day brings.

As per tradition, I rigorously trained but not nearly enough. Never took a practice lap longer than 12 miles, less than half the entire distance. On Sunday, it’ll be hot enough to cheese-melt my shoes, so I might make it halfway and decide that a Bloody Mary brunch is a far better idea. If I make it all the way to the finish line, it’ll be somewhat of an upset.


But underdogs are all the rage these days: Bernie Sanders, the Denver Broncos, “Kung Fu Panda 3.” To live well and properly is to relish the unexpected. To love sports is to cherish the unforeseen conclusion.

I run for all the usual reasons. To battle the aimlessness that sets in after football season; I run as penance for the inappropriate thoughts over Goldie Hawn for the past 40 years; I run to tone up my almost nonexistent rear end. Adonises aren’t born, they’re made during marathons, one sweaty ounce at a time. Like wax off a candle.

I’ve completed only one marathon, three years ago, on this same L.A. grid. Got out of the gate quickly, established a nice bossa-nova rhythm down Sunset Boulevard. Then, at Mile 9, my water broke. I don’t even have water and it broke.

By Mile 11, you could scoop me up with a spoon. I pulled my schnitzel, the core muscle that runs from the toes to the nose. Two miles later, the top of my head felt like it might Frisbee right off. What causes that? Demonic possession. Head lice? Love?

Speaking of which, this year’s contest takes place on Valentine’s Day, a lovely irony, because nothing tests your ticker like 26.2 miles on baked pavement, where the only relief is tiny cups of tepid water and browning bananas.

To honor Cupid’s day, some 60 couples are planning to exchange vows along the way. I hope to officiate in at least one. Or give away the bride. I’d also give away the groom, if that’s what they needed — whatever it takes to make the moment extra special. Look for the wedding stage at Mile 10.

No word on if there will be any marathon bar mitzvahs.


By the way, if you’re tired of loutish athletes like Cam Newton or Johnny Manziel, let me introduce you to some of the participants in this year’s marathon. Shannon Farar-Griefer is a stone-cold stud who’s run the torturous Badwater race from Death Valley to Mt. Whitney, then — just for kicks — turned around and run back to the start.

When Farar-Griefer was diagnosed with multiple sclerosis nine years ago, she was determined that distance running would cure her. It hasn’t. But if her doctor OKs it, she’ll be running with me Sunday. If her doctor doesn’t, I’ll run in her honor, as well as for my late friend Don Rhymer, the best buddy a guy could ever have.

Another stud you should meet is Chuck Gold, 62, who suffered a heart attack at Mile 22 last year and is back to try again this year, tag-teaming the route with one of the first responders who saved his life.

Like them, I run like my life depends on it — because it might. I recognized in my 20s that I had more energy than was good for me, so to be able to sit still at weddings or senseless meetings, I needed to take something, and running has always been my drug of choice. I’ve been running ever since.


I participate in other sports too. I mock the mighty, tilt at windmills, indulge my children. But of all the activities that really soak my shirt, running is still my very favorite.

So, I’ll see you at the finish line in Santa Monica on Sunday — maybe.

Twitter: @erskinetimes