By Lon Levin
Three years ago, I faced major surgery. I wondered if I’d ever be able to exercise vigorously and live the way I had before or be confined to light workouts, walking on a treadmill, or worse for the rest of my life. That question was forever put to bed Sunday when I crossed the finish line at the Rock N’ Roll half-marathon in downtown LA.
The morning started around 5:45 for me. It was still dark when I buckled into my car and I kept thinking how crazy I was to do this. I tried to come up with a viable reason not to do it but none arose. Driving through the empty streets, all I could do was wonder what the race would be like.
As I arrived in the South West parking lot I began to change into my running gear and I feverishly attached my bib number. The bib was the only way to identify me if I collapse during the race, which was of little comfort as I kept wondering if I should have told my wife I was running. I reasoned with myself that it was too late and I headed for LA Live to connect with the BTS Marathon team and my crew: Josh Silver and Justin Rosenberg.
Finding them was harder than I thought. Thousands of runners in gear and Halloween outfits crowded the streets. All ages, all types—men and women ready to do their thing. I briefly connected with Josh and told him I meet him with the team near the start. As I lined up with my corral #11, I could see how many people were crazy enough to abuse their bodies for 13.1 miles and it blew my mind. There were men and women dressed up as ballerinas, Wonder Woman, zombies, Smurfs, digital icons and all sorts of other strange characters. Running 13.1 miles is hard enough but running in a banana suit? C’mon.
Before I had a chance to think we were off. The first three miles went by rather quickly. There were cheerleaders and rock music at every mile checkpoint to keep everyone’s spirits flying high. For the next six miles I felt as if my head and body were separate entities. I was moving well yet I still had all these thoughts swimming around my head like “Where are the Beit T’Shuvah runners?’ “Can I run a twelve minute mile pace?” “Why did I do this?” “Will I be able to finish?” “Am I going to be sore tomorrow?” and on and on. I smiled at all the grade school cheerleaders yelling on the sidewalks. “Keep Running Runners!” When I reached the nine-mile marker it seems like we would turn around in front of the Spring Street Bridge and head back but that was not what happened. The course took us right up the bridge and over to the other side. I started to feel my legs getting heavy and I thought now might be a good time to walk a little and conserve my strength. So yes, I walked. I wasn’t happy to walk but I did.
So I walked and jogged all the up the span of the bridge until I reached the top of the bridge and the eleven mile marker. Once I hit mile twelve I ready to push towards the last leg. As I turned around to head home I was now facing downtown and the skyscrapers rising out of a tangle of smaller buildings. It was a beautiful sight and I could now see how far I had come and how close I was to finishing. The closer I came to the finish line the louder the music and the announcer became, urging everyone onward. I finished with a slight kick making it just under three hours. I saw Justin at the finish line taking shots as I cruised past. I grabbed the first bottle of water I could find and doused myself with it. My fears about dropping dead or not finishing were gone and I realized I had achieved a “bucket list” event in my life. Later on the “Shuv” team gathered in the parking lot near LA Live and sat down to swap stories. It was a great achievement for us all.