The LA Marathon is going to be massive. On March 18, I will run 26.2 miles once more.
But that's not what excites me the most about that race. It will be the culmination of a lot of hard work on the part of my pace group. In particular, I'm excited for the first-timers who will run their first marathon that day.
One of the runners from my group, though, got a bit ahead of himself. He signed up for the Surf City Marathon and will run his first 26.2-miler on Sunday. I'm actually excited for him. He's been one of the strongest runners and has torn apart the training. And I'm honored to have played a role, albeit a minor one, in his quest to become a marathoner.
Like most newcomers, I wasn't sure back in August which of the runners in the my pace group would stick around and which ones wouldn't. But Dean was different. Right away he was asking me about running a half marathon. He had already signed up for Las Vegas (Dec. 3) but wanted to run the Mission Inn Half Marathon (Nov. 14). I told him then that I would run Mission Inn with him, that I'd pace him to the finish of his first half marathon if he wanted.
We churned through the mileage early on, running five, six, seven miles every Sunday. It got more and more until we reached double digits and stayed there. Dean did well, transitioned into the higher mileage without many problems, and by the time Mission Inn rolled around, I knew he was going to smash it. Had it not been for the unfortunate shortened-accidentally course, he would have gotten around a 1:52 for his first time out. He ran Vegas and finished in under 1:50. Since then, he's run two more half marathons, setting a PR at 1:44 in Irvine in early January. The day after that, he ran 18 miles.
I know Dean is going to excel on Sunday. I tried to stress to him that this race is not about a time but about finishing, that he will go on and run other marathons and then he can worry about time (he's already registered for LA). I didn't tell him though that I think he will probably finish in under four hours as long as he keeps it easy at the beginning. He's a strong runner and I know if he does not go out too fast too early, he will have enough energy to push through the wall and run the last six miles at a strong pace. A sub-four is possible, a sub-4:10 is likely, a sub-4:20 is almost a guarantee.
But time does not matter. If he takes five hours to run it, I will be happy for him. If he runs it in three-and-change, that's great too. What matters most is that he will run it, he will have the medal hanging around his neck and I'll have played a role in that.
So my excitement for Sunday and for the LA Marathon is fueled by my desire to see others succeed. It's quite motivating and exhilarating to see a first-timer accomplish things they may not have thought possible.
I was there before and I know how good it felt to do things for the first time, and now I'm enjoying it from the other end. And I love it.