Tens of thousands turn L.A. Marathon into festive event

For every one of the 24,000 runners participating in Sunday’s L.A. Marathon, more than 20 people were expected to show up to watch and cheer the runners on, according to previous crowd estimates.

With a serious athletic event that doubles as a festive L.A. celebration, the anticipated 500,000 spectators came to cavort in animal costumes, raise the flag for dozens of charities or use the spotlight to send the world a message.

On Hollywood Boulevard in Thai Town, 10-year-old Jaskaran Singh was one of dozens of volunteers from a Sikh temple in Buena Park spraying grateful runners with water.

They had left Irvine at 4:45 a.m. to beat the runners there, said his father, Nepal Singh. Members of the Gurdwara Singh Sabha temple come every year to show people who Sikhs are, Singh said.

"If we can educate people about us, they won't misunderstand," Singh said, alluding to past attacks on the Sikh community. "We can't tell everyone — but if one person knows, he can tell others."

As the runners flowed past, children in turbans swept up discarded cups.

A block farther east, the Randy Newman song "I Love L.A." blasted from a boombox as kids held up neon yellow signs saying "You run marathons, I watch 'em on Netflix" and "Smile if you peed a little."

Eula Fritz, director of the Santa Monica Police Activities League, said they were waiting to see nine youths who are involved in the program, which helps kids with homework and fosters physical fitness and leadership skills.

She credited the Students Run L.A.organization with paying entrance fees and providing shoes and uniforms for the kids. "It would have cost us about $30,000," she said.

Rafaela Luna, who lives not far from the course near Pico Boulevard and Normandie Avenue, was hitting a cowbell and searching the crowds for her husband, Santiago Durango, on Hollywood Boulevard.

Luna said she and Durango run to raise money for the Train 4 Autism foundation. They have a 19-year-old daughter, Yonotzinc, who has autism. Durango had raised more than $1,000 for this race, she said.

"We spend the time together. We relax. We enjoy it," said Luna, who was sitting out this race because of a recent knee surgery.

At Western Avenue, two women — one dressed as a banana, the other as a dinosaur — cheered and scanned the crowd for their coworker who was running.

"It's not easy" to run a marathon, said Kasia Pandyra, who said she had run in Chicago in the past. "Anything we can do to put a smile on their face is helpful.”

Besides, she added, gesturing to her banana costume, "who wouldn't find this a-peel-ing?"

Seconds later, Pandyra and coworker Maddi Whitworth began yelling and jumping up and down as they spotted their friend.

"Matt!" they yelled, waving and reaching out to him.When the race is over, Pandyra added, "we'll be welcoming them with lots of beer."

Farther on, Johanna Suarez and her sister Anely Jimenez waited on Hollywood Boulevard for Suarez' 13-year-old daughter, Brianna, who was running the marathon for the second time.

Jimenez toted a sign that declared "LOOKS LIKE A BEAUTY RUNS LIKE A BEAST," with pictures of Belle and the Beast from the Disney movie.

"She never thought she'd run her first marathon, let alone do it for a second year," Suarez said, a red air horn in hand. "Now she knows there's no stopping her." As soon as Brianna passed, Suarez said, they would hustle back to their car and drive west to meet her in another five miles.

Much farther west, somewhere around mile 20, L.A.’s cross-town college rivalry was woven into the competition. At Rivalry Row, runners faced a decision between a cheering station manned by adherents of USC on one side of the street and fans of UCLA on the other, said race publicist Rachel Brueno. At the end of the day, the numbers will be tallied and one campus declared the winner, Brueno said.

As the race wended through residential neighborhoods, some got to watch from the comfort of home.

Near the 24-mile mark, Nicole Chavira held her 4-year-old child in one arm and gripped her coffee in the other as she stood on her green lawn overlooking the runners passing her home.

For Chavira and her family, watching the L.A. Marathon every year outside their home is a tradition that they look forward to. They brought out small chairs and had bagels for breakfast and this year they invited their friend to come watch.

"Last year I was pregnant with my other kid, and seeing it this year is making me nostalgic," she said. "We woke up at 3 a.m because of the noise of the people setting up, but we didn't mind," she said.

Watching the marathon, Chavira said, makes them feel like they are part of the Los Angeles community.

As a former runner, Kimberly Froggett knows how difficult it is to run marathons — especially for women.

"It's one more thing to balance, as a mom or family," she said.

She's out here today with her 2-year-old son, Jack. As more runners appeared on 14th and San Vicente, Froggett stood up and clapped.

"Good job, ladies," she shouted. "You got this!"

Froggett, 45, comes out every year to watch the race near the finish line because she said, at that point, it's a mental struggle to finish.

"I miss running,” she said. “You get a rush and feel accomplished. You don't feel good about yourself like that in daily life," she said.

Maddi Whitworth, left, and Kasia Pandyra cheer on a co-worker and other runners at Hollywood Boulevard and Western Avenue early Sunday. (Emily Alpert Reyes / Los Angeles Times)


Cooler weather helps LA Marathon runners on ‘Stadium to the Sea Course’

As dawn turned into day, a massive sea of runners began crossing the starting line of the Los Angeles Marathon at Dodger Stadium amid cheers and shrieks shortly before 7 a.m. Sunday.

The 2017 Skechers Performance L.A. Marathon kicked off with wheelchair competitors around the crack of dawn, followed by handcyclists, elite women, elite men and the rest of the field, some 24,000 participants from more than 60 countries.

Among them was Felisa Orozco, who lives in San Francisco and ran her first marathon there last year.

“I loved the experience, loved being able to go through the city the way you do,” the 39-year-old sales representative said at Dodger Stadium early Sunday. “(LA) is my hometown, so I wanted the experience” here as well.

Also at the starting line was Ron Smith, 53, who brought his son Will, 19, from Iowa to participate in the marathon.

It was Ron Smith’s fourth marathon — but his first in L.A. — and his son’s first.

“We’ve talked about (running together) for years, and I’m getting older so I said, ‘We gotta go get it done now or never,’ ” Smith said near the starting line.

Will Smith, a sophomore at the University of Iowa, said before the race that he didn’t get in as much training as he would have liked but was “feeling good.”

“I’m in L.A. and California,” he said. “It’s pretty cool to be a part of this and be able to run with my dad.”

The Stadium to the Sea Course turns south toward downtown before heading back on a 26.2-mile course through Silver Lake, Hollywood, Beverly Hills, Brentwood and Santa Monica. It finishes just north of Santa Monica Pier at Ocean and California avenues.

“Take the neighborhoods in,” Los Angeles Mayor Eric Garcetti told participants at the starting line. “Breathe in this amazing city. We have the most incredible face of diversity of this world today and this nation tomorrow.”

The participants included more than 160 “Legacy runners” who had run all previous 31 L.A. Marathons before.

Also among the field of runners were a couple of men dressed as Elvis, a man holding a “God Bless America” sign, a few people in Native American garb and more than 1,000 participants from Student Run LA.

Raquel Asencio was at the starting line as the runners whizzed by, hoping to glimpse sight of her 22-year-old son Ernesto, who lives in the city of San Fernando, but had no luck. It was her son’s first marathon, she said, and she was a bit concerned because he suffers from asthma, though it’s greatly improved since he started running.

“I’m going to be going to different stations (along the route) ... to see if I could see him,” Asencio said.

As of 2:30 p.m., 101 patients had been medically evaluated by first responders, said Jaime Moore, battalion chief of the Joint Information Center known as Unified LA.

Sixteen were taken to local hospitals, including two in immediate need, he said. However, none of the patients had life-threatening situations, he said.

“It’s been great weather for the runners,” Moore said midday. “It’s 62 degrees at the finish line now and 73 percent humidity, and we got a nice westerly wind coming in at the finish line.”

The weather seemed to be helping to reduce cramping and heat-related emergencies “that we normally have seen in the past,” he said.

The temperatures at the start of the race at Dodger Stadium were about 56 degrees on Sunday while temperatures at the finish line in Santa Monica were expected to reach the upper 60s, said Stuart Ceto, weather specialist with the National Weather Service.


The L.A. Marathon is Sunday. Here's what you need to know

More than 24,000 runners are expected to participate in the Los Angeles Marathon this Sunday.

The race starts at 6:30 a.m., with the 26.2-mile "Stadium to the Sea" route beginning at Dodger Stadium and ending at Ocean and California avenues in Santa Monica.

Streets and some freeway ramps along the race route will close between 3 a.m. and 4:45 a.m. and reopen between 9:10 a.m. and 2:15 p.m., depending on the location. Delays and traffic congestion should be expected in those areas, according to the Los Angeles Department of Transportation, which has a detailed traffic management plan here.

Race participants are encouraged to use complimentary shuttles to travel to the start line. Reservations can be made through the marathon’s website.

Metro will enhance service along its Expo Line to Santa Monica to accommodate an expected spike in riders traveling toward the finish line.

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