By Hillel Aron
By Joseph Tsidulko
By Patrick Range McDonald
By David Futch
By Hillel Aron
By Dennis Romero
By Jill Stewart
By Dennis Romero
Me? It was my first-ever marathon, and though my pace felt brisk, 10 minutes per mile just wasn’t fast enough. I came in 3,723rd. There was no consolation prize for me or the race’s 22,000 other losers, only one hope: maybe next year . . .
Maybe next year for the middle-aged sad sack who ran with my training group on the Santa Monica waterfront every Saturday morning for the past six months. With his thick tortoiseshell glasses and boxy haircut, he looked like a chunkier version of D-FENS, the Michael Douglas character from Falling Down. At the start line on Sunday, the salty residue that takes most long-distance runners a dozen miles to accumulate had already begun to collect around the seat of his black spandex shorts. He taped a Breathe Right nasal strip across the bridge of his nose, wrapped black elastic bands above and below his kneecaps, and sheathed his lower legs with black elastic braces. His attempts at pressure relief were hypochondriac-worthy. Every precaution taken, every risk avoided, shin splints beware. The Falling Down comparison came to mind again as four LAPD ghetto birds did a last-minute flyby and the starting gun was fired.
Maybe next year for the girl with the garland of red tinfoil stars in her hair, who I fixated on as sad sack got ready. Note to singles: All correspondence can be sent to me care of the L.A. Weekly, 6715 Sunset â Blvd., Los Angeles, CA 90028. (Please include photograph and telephone number.) And maybe next year for the dozens of men who actually drank the Sparkletts, the official water of the L.A. Marathon, at the starting line. As the race rounded the first corner, everyone’s heads shifted to the left, our eyes drawn to the wall that spans the length of Temple Street and to the men leaving behind waist-level waterfalls.
Maybe next year for the three Elvis impersonators with the pushcart boom box. I lapped their ass around mile 18, on the hairpin turn from San Vicente Boulevard onto Wilshire. “Elvis is dead,” I whispered under my breath as I approached. “That doesn’t mean he should become the rubber chicken of the dead-rock-star world,” I said as I passed.
Maybe next year for the guy without shoes. With his 6-inch beard, his bald head and his sun-drenched, beneficent face, you couldn’t help but take him for a stereotypical Northern Californian. He had that circa-1970 yogic look. He would have been indistinguishable from the members of the Baha’i temple who cheered us up Robertson, were it not for the fact that he wore butt-hugging rainbow-swirl spandex instead of white robes and a turban.
We shadowed each other for about half the race, trading off the lead a dozen times between Crenshaw and Sixth Street, encountering each other a final time at mile 20, a.k.a. “The Wall.” He sidled up beside me. I chomped on a Dixie Cup of jellybeans a bystander had handed me.
“You can’t beat me,” he said, smirking. “I just passed you a minute ago.”
“It’s no fun running near you either,” I said. “I’m getting tired of people yelling ‘Go, shoeless guy!’ and ‘Hey, check out the crazy guy with no shoes!’ It’s like hearing people yell ‘Freebird’ at a rock concert.”
I think he said, “Doesn’t bother me,” but I’m not exactly sure what happened next, because at that point I was delirious, and I began to lower my expectations. No longer was I competing or running for time. Rather, I ran in search of the next water station I could raid for Sparkletts to cool my thighs — inadvertently washing off the official topical analgesic of the L.A. Marathon, which volunteers had doused my legs with at mile 19, a.k.a. the Salonpas Pain Relief Zone.
Finally, maybe next year for the wrinkled man seated on the steps of the Museum of Contemporary Art a good hour before the race began. An aide applied a thick coat of slick stuff to the twisted rope-thick veins bulging from his calves like worms beneath the skin. I saw the old man again at the finish line, semiconfident that he’d finished 3,724th at best.
Or maybe next year isn’t the point. To be honest, the marathon, like life, is a long, boring race you just hope you can finish. You run and you run and you run, and at the end they wrap you in a silver shroud, at which point they ignore you and wait for the next person to finish.
Actually, that’s not it. In real life, no one claps for you on the sidelines, and not everyone gets a medal.
Auto Erotica: Road Jerks
I’m at a red. It’s 1 in the morning and Melrose Avenue is nearly deserted. A lone Honda Civic driver pulls up to my left and I involuntarily cringe. The light changes and I casually let my Jeep Cherokee lag a bit behind. Then I gingerly crane my neck to cop a semi-aerial shot. Cool, his left hand is steering. But which stick is he clutching with his right?