It had been about six weeks since the Nike Human Race, a midnight 10K that unleashed thousands of runners on the streets surrounding USC. My legs had just about forgotten the distant burn when a publicist I know mentioned the 13.1 Marathon, a half-marathon through Santa Monica, Venice and Culver City. At this point, entering the race was pretty much insane. Since the 10K, I’d regressed, settling for half-hour trudges on the LA Fitness treadmill. Still, I asked when the race would be. She said January 10. That would leave little more than a month to train for my longest run since the 2005 L.A. Marathon. Thankfully I had delusion to fall back on, the belief that I could somehow regain my form. The next day, I took an eight-mile run along Santa Monica’s oceanfront and clifftop paths and didn’t have to stop. Guess I have elephant-like muscle memory. Later that day, I committed to running the 13.1 Marathon.
I had good intentions, but the holidays hit and my training yo-yo’d. Finally, on New Year’s Day, I buckled down with a 10-mile run through the hills of Highland Park and Glassell Park. Two days before the race, my training culminated with a 7.3 mile run through the hills of San Pedro. Clearly, nobody’s going to hire me to write a training manual.
“Carbohydrate” might as well be a foreign word. I’m not exactly a label checker, opting to track flavor instead of calories and “carbs.” However, carbo-loading is a time-honored tradition on the night before a race where people consume mass quantities of starches and pastas in an effort to fuel up.
The night before the 13.1 Marathon, Border Grill hosted a group of fitness-oriented food bloggers for a complimentary carbo load, including Caroline on Crack, Diana Takes a Bite, Food Marathon, Active Foodie and What’s Gaby Cooking. [Border Grill really stepped up for the runners; Mary Sue Milliken and Susan Feniger also assigned the Border Grill truck to the finish line on race day, with employees dispensing plates of chilaquiles to every runner in exchange for a food ticket, but I digress.] For our dinner, we received family-style Platos Pequeños carrying green corn tamales with sweet corn, sour cream and salsa fresca; and Plantain Empanadas, roasted plantains filled with black beans, Poblano chile and cotija cheese. Our Ensalada was surprisingly good, combining watercress with crunchy julienned jicama, sweet orange segments and toasted coriander vinaigrette.
We had a choice of Platos Especiales, including grilled chicken chilaquiles, grilled skirt steak, cochinita pibil, sautéed shrimp or Border Vegetables. We had plenty of greenery to start, so I opted for the Sauteed Shrimp with sweet strips of ancho chile, slivered garlic, parsley, lime, sopping braised greens and two-toned rice.
For Postre, each side of the table received a sampler platter that included a serviceable flan, a slab of banana cream pie with Graham cracker crust, cinnamon tinged Aztec chocolate cake with ribbons of chocolate and a dense chocolate cake that had runners swooning.
As I scraped up the last scraps of dessert, we shared our respective goals for the 13.1 Marathon. It was the first time I’d thought about it. Earlier in the week, the answer was to cross the finish line upright, but now that the race was mere hours away, I estimated 2 hours 15 minutes…based on absolutely nothing.
The 13.1 Marathon kicked off along the beach of Santa Monica at 7:15 AM. We all raced down the empty boardwalk and hung a left on Venice Boulevard, racing all the way to Robertson Boulevard before slingshotting back to the Venice circle and the big finish just past Rose on Main Street. It’s amazing how much running in a pack can motivate performance. My end result was 1:51:35, which breaks down to 8 minute 30 second miles. I felt pretty damn good when I crossed the finish line and a volunteer draped the 13.1 medal around my neck.
After the race, Caroline on Crack, Diana Takes a Bite and I corresponded via Twitter, patting each other on the virtual back and encouraging each other to run the L.A. Marathon in May. I should probably follow through on my in-the-moment tweets. If I take my foot off the running accelerator for another five years, my body might not bounce back next time, so it’s on.
Note: 13.1 waived my registration fee.